TITLE: The Blade of Fortriu (The Bridei Chronicles #2)
AUTHOR: Juliet Marillier
PUBLICATION: 2006 by Tor
Five Winters have passed since young king Bridei ascended the throne of Fortriu. Five years, in which the people have felt a contentment unknown for generations.
But the security of a people can vanish in a heartbeat, for wolves are often drawn to fields filled with fattened sheep. Bridei is determined to drive the Gaelic invaders from his lands once and for all. And so, with his land secure and his house in order, he prepares for war.
One of Bridei’s plans to win the war to come involves the beautiful young Ana. A princess of the Light Isles, she has dwelt as a hostage at the court of Fortriu for most of her young life. Despite being a pawn of fortune, she has bewitched all at court and is dearly loved by Bridei and his queen. But Ana understands her duty. And so she will travel north, to make a strategic marriage with a chieftain she has never seen, in the hopes of gaining an ally on whom Bridei’s victory relies.
For secrecy’s sake, Ana must travel at a soldier’s pace, with a small band led by the enigmatic spymaster Faolan. Bridei implores Ana to trust him and see the good in Faolan…but Ana cannot see beyond his cold competence and killer’s eyes.
Then, when she arrives at the chieftain Alpin’s stronghold in the mysterious Briar Woods, her discomfort and unease increase tenfold, for this is a place of full of secrets and her betrothed is an enigma himself. The more Ana tries to uncover the truth of her new life, the more she discovers a maze of polite diversions that mask deadly lies. She fears Faolan, but he may prove to be the truest thing in her world.
Or her doom.
WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT . . .
I had money on Borders gift cards that I received for my birthday and Christmas last year that I spend some of what was left on them to get books 2 and 3 in this series. After my disappointment with the first installment I hoped that I wouldn’t be forced to give up without finishing.
Thankfully I could say I liked this book much better than The Dark Mirror within the first forty pages. This mostly has to do with the fact that Faolan is a much more prominent character in the story, and I must confess that I did like the idea of Ana for the heroine of this tale. Bridei and Tuala are present in the narrative, but not as strongly as the first book in the Chronicles. So I was excited to see what was to become of characters that I particularly liked. I confess that I skimmed the battle scenes because I honestly did not find them of particular interest, but there weren’t a whole lot of those and mostly toward the end.
Most of Ms. Marillier’s books I’ve read are pretty predictable as far as romances go. Daughter of the Forest was the only one that threw me as I expected Sorcha to end up with Red’s brother. The concept of brothers enters again into this novel. From the summary posted in the book’s description you would imagine that Ana bears a secret love for Faolan and him alone. Not true. Marillier has introduced a love triangle aspect that I did not anticipate. Faolan loves Ana, Ana loves Drustan who is the strange brother of her husband-to-be, and naturally Drustan loves Ana. I rather liked the tender feelings developing between Faolan and Ana until Ana loses her heart to the first exceedingly handsome man whom crosses her path. At least that’s the way it seemed to me with her instant attraction mode for Drustan and it kind of made me not like her quite as much. I think part of her insistence on believing in his innocent was the lure of a pretty face and denial that it could be capable of any vial act, or would it be wrong to presume such a thing of a fantasy heroine to be somewhat shallow?
I still like Faolan best in these books, I believe. His truthful outlook on life probably endears him to me.
The climactic episode of Alpin seemed over too quickly. He’s built up as this monster of a man to be reckoned with and he’s dispatched so quickly. It seemed like the whole incident should have taken longer. And to be honest I’m surprised that he didn’t bed Ana after the event during the evening before the wedding was set to transpire.
As before I feel like this book wasn’t clicking with me as it should after awhile. When it seemed that Faolan wasn’t going to be getting the only woman he ever loved, it kind of lost it’s appeal for me. This is a totally biased view because he’s my favorite character. I reckon this would click with some fantasy fans yet it fell short for me again.