I quite enjoyed the first volume of this series and so it made sense to request the sequel as soon as it was available.
So, thanks to the author, as well as Ace via NetGalley for the review copy.
The young warrior and bard Liobhan has lost her brother to the Otherworld. Even more determined to gain a place as an elite fighter, she returns to Swan Island to continue her training. But Liobhan is devastated when her comrade Dau is injured and loses his sight in their final display bout. Blamed by Dau’s family for the accident, she agrees to go to Dau’s home as a bond servant for the span of one year.
There, she soon learns that Oakhill is a place of dark secrets. The vicious Crow Folk still threaten both worlds. And Dau, battling the demon of despair, is not an easy man to help.
When Liobhan and Dau start to expose the rot at the center of Oakhill, they place themselves in deadly danger. For their enemy wields great power and will stop at nothing to get his way. It will take all the skills of a Swan Island warrior and a touch of the uncanny to give them a hope of survival. . . .
Liobhan, Brocc, and Dau are back. Well… I mean Brocc is in the Otherworld, because of things that happened in the last book, which I won’t spoil. Things happened… in and around and slightly adjacent to the Otherworld.
Liobhan and Dau are still on Swan Island training as warriors. One day, in a display fight against Liobhan, Dau is injured accidentally, costing him his vision. His family blames Liobhan for the injury, and so she agrees to go back to his family home with him as a bond servant for a year. Luckily, Liobhan has some experience with nursing, since her mother is a healer/wisewoman.
Meanwhile Brocc is living his best life in the Otherworld, where the Crow Folk have been attacking his people. He’s found a few mutilated remains of Crow Folk in the forest surrounding his home, and is very curious what is attacking the folk that his people are so frightened of.
I loved this book, definitely more than the first, but good gods it jostled my feels. I’ve come to really care for these characters, most specifically Liobhan and Dau, and they do not really have a good time at Dau’s ancestral home. Dau’s brother Seanan spent most of their childhood being beyond awful, and as comes with zero surprise at all, he’s still awful as an adult. He makes Dau and Liobhan’s lives as difficult as he can. Seanan is one of those antagonists that you just… hate. There are just no redeeming qualities. You spend the entire book hoping that he will get his comeuppance in as many ways as possible.
Even with the emotional rollercoaster this book put me on, I absolutely could not put it down. I had to know what happened next. I read this book until 4am one night, because I needed to know what happened. We see this story mainly from three POVs (with one or two exceptions) – that of Liobhan, Dau, and Brocc. They’re told in first person, and so we get to see this action with their eyes, and that served to make my attachment to these characters even stronger. I remember not liking Dau at all in book one. Welp, that’s changed.
There is a bit of romance in this one, and it is simmery slow, and quite sweet. The thing I loved most about it is that they both sort of just… fall in love. There’s no real confession of love or anything. They both realize they’re in love with each other and that it’s a thing that they need to probably talk about at some point, but with so much going on… well, things just move forward as usual until there comes a time when they can have that talk. Liobhan is very much like her mother in that respect. Blackthorn and Grim only took like… two and a half books to have that talk, and that was one of the things that kept me reading that series until the wee hours. 😀
So, all told, if you liked the first book in the series, you are almost certain to like this one as well, as it is largely more of the same. If you liked Blackthorn and Grim, you’d probably like this. If you liked Sevenwaters, you’d probably like this. Another win from Juliet Marillier! 5/5 stars!~