The Well of Shades by Juliet Marillier
Book III of the Bridei Chronicles from Juliet Marillier begins with the trusted bodyguard/assassin of White Hill—Faolan—already well on his journey into the land of the Gaels to reconcile with the family he fled more than a decade before, to carry a dead friend's final words to the next of kin, and to spy on the Christian leaders in that region for Bridei, the king of Fortriu. On the back cover of the novel, a marketing person has described the young lady that Faolan finds at his friend's “home” while on his threefold mission as “the lovely young woman Eile, whose beauty shines forth despite her tragic circumstances.” I won't deny that Eile's circumstances are tragic, and the actions she takes to free herself of them gave her some worth in my eyes, but I never grew to like the snappish, churlish girl. I ended up rooting for her for Faolan's sake, as many of the characters do. Despite Eile's unlikeability (for me), this novel sang with both familiar and new characters to Bridei's main storyline.
As I hint here, the May-December romance between the sixteen-year-old Eile and her father's friend Faolan is only one plotline that develops along the path to another plotline in The Well of Shades. Faolan gathers information for King Bridei while out and about, and brings back news of a Christian missionary's movements and influence. What readers may find most intriguing about this storyline is its foundation in historical fact. As with her first two novels in the series, Marillier pulls from the sparse history of the picts, weaving a fiction story among the bits of facts researchers know and “good guesses” scholars and writers can make. She mixes in a worried druid in search of answers and absolution; a toddler mage with powers neither he nor his parents truly know how to control; a devious, bored princess; and some settings in juxtaposition to each other (such as Eile's experience with the “noble” lady, Aine, at Blackthorn Rise in contrast to her experience with the queen, Tuala, at White Hill). What Marillier ends up with is a tale with many layers that feed into one another wonderfully. As with her first two novels in the series, her descriptions may seem tedious at times, but they give a reader a very deep feel for nuances of the world these characters live in. Something I did not notice in the first two novels, but found distracting in The Well of Shades, was Marillier's use of repetition. She reviewed material often enough that it stood out and bothered me. It reminded me of later Terry Goodkind narratives.
Overall I enjoyed The Well of Shades immensely and was pleased with the way Marillier brought families together, tied up the story of Tuala and her parentage, gave insidious characters their due, etc., but I feel I must give new readers a warning. While the relationship between Tuala and Bridei bordered on “unease” for me at first due to their close upbringing as almost brother and sister, it is something the reader can get past pretty easily. But in this third novel, the underlying theme of incest nagged at the back of my mind. Sensitive readers may be uncomfortable if they can't get past a sixteen-year-old girl being abused by her uncle, Bridei and Tuala having a second child, or Tuala sharing/reliving with her father a vision in which he performs the sexual act in which she was conceived. While none of the sex scenes in this novel are explicit, the “unconventional” ones could turn off sensitive readers. I would like to point out that Marillier's use of them is sparse and essential to the plot(s). Fantasy readers should be so delighted with her world and her fiction that the minor discomfort, if noticed at all, will be shortlived.
This The Well of Shades book review was written by Sandy Lender
All reviews for: Bridei Chronicles
The Dark Mirror
Bridei Chronicles: Book 1
When Bridei arrives at Pitnochie as a four-year-old, Juliet Marillier lets the reader see the unsure thoughts of the druid Broichan who will mentor and educate him. We get ...
Blade of Fortriu
Bridei Chronicles: Book 2
The kingdom of Fortriu has enjoyed five years of peace since Bridei came to the throne. Now the king is preparing for the long-awaited war that he hopes will see the Gaelic...
The Well of Shades
Bridei Chronicles: Book 3
Sent home to Ireland on a secret mission for King Bridei of Fortriu, Faolan must first deliver the news of a brave warrior's death. Unexpectedly Bridei's chief assa...
Have you read The Well of Shades?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
The Well of Shades reader reviews
Megan from Western Australia
I deeply enjoyed reading the Well of Shadows but feel that the end is not complete. I am hoping for a fourth book.
9/10 from 2 reviews
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
A Brightness Long Ago
Guy Gavriel Kay
International bestselling author Guy Gavriel Kay's latest work is set in a world evoking early Renaissance Italy and offers an extraordinary cast of characters whose li...
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Two magicians shall appear in England. The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, a...
Guy Gavriel Kay
For two years Shen Tai has mourned his father, living like a hermit beyond the borders of the Kitan Empire, by a mountain lake where terrible battles have long been fought ...
The Yiddish Policemen's Union
What if, as Franklin Roosevelt once proposed, Alaska - and not Israel - had become the homeland for the Jews after World War II? In Michael Chabon's Yiddish-speaking ...
Hats off to Brandenburg
London, 1815 – The Roxy Playhouse is in trouble! The Roxy Playhouse Irregulars, those libertine artists and dreamers, are up to their necks in debt – “Pay...
The Master and Margarita
Moscow, 1929: a city that has lost its way amid corruption and fear, inhabited by people who have abandoned their morals and forsaken spirituality. But when a mysterious st...
Catherynne M Valente
Child of the revolution, maiden of myth, bride of darkness. A handsome young man arrives in St Petersburg at the house of Marya Morevna. He is Koschei, the Tsar of Life, an...
The Gamehouse is an unusual institution. Many know it as the place where fortunes can be made and lost through games of Chess, Backgammon - every game under the sun. But a ...
Nights at the Circus
Is Sophie Fevvers, toast of Europe's capitals, part swan... or all fake? Courted by the Prince of Wales and painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, she is an aerialiste extraordin...
Great fantasy books published in 2008
Toll the Hounds
In Darujhistan, the city of blue fire, it is said that love and death shall arrive dancing. It is summer and the heat is oppressive, but for the small round man in the fade...
The Hero of Ages
Tricked into releasing the evil spirit Ruin while attempting to close the Well of Ascension, new emperor Elend Venture and his wife, the assassin Vin, are now hard-pressed ...
On the day the world ends... Mau is on his way home from the Boys' Island. Soon he will be a man. And then the wave comes - a huge wave, dragging black night behind it ...
Stick Man lives in the family tree. With his Stick Lady Love and their stick children three. But it's dangerous being a Stick Man. A dog wants to play with him, a swan ...
The Graveyard Book
When a baby escapes a murderer intent on killing the entire family, who would have thought it would find safety and security in the local graveyard? Brought up by the resid...
The Spook's Mistake
As danger increases in the Country, Tom is sent north by his master to be trained by Bill Arkwright, another spook. Arkwright lives in a haunted mill on the edge if a treac...
The Ten Thousand
10,000 elite mercenaries of a legendary race known as the Macht are hired by an Empire exile to take the throne by force. But when their employer is killed, and they are su...
Liga raises her two daughters in the safe haven of an alternative reality, a personal heaven granted by magic as a refuge from her earthly suffering. But the real world can...
The Two Pearls of Wisdom
Under the harsh regime of an ambitious master, candidate Eon is training to become a Dragoneye - a powerful Lord able to master wind and water to protect the land. But Eon ...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages: