Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier

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TW – Rape, sex-shaming

Let me put it bluntly, okay? Sometimes we must face the facts, as unpleasant as they are : Nothing in Dreamer’s Pool brought me enjoyment. Nothing. That’s why, no matter how skilled Juliet Marillier might be with her words, I cannot rate this book anything else than 1 star.

*This review will contain BIG spoilers, read at your own risk*

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Yet it all started so promisingly. Indeed the first two chapters (out of 41) awoke my interest : Blackthorn and Grim, prisoners and driven with vengeance, touched me with their hopelessness and I couldn’t wait to know what their future would hold.

That is, until that fae dude came in the picture. I’m sure the guy has reasons to act the way he does, but so far his motivations remain in the shadows and I can’t wrap my head around the idiocy of it all. This is not a feeling I enjoy. Deus-ex-machina at its finest.

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Truth is, 15% in and I already knew that something was amiss – unfortunately it did not get better. The whole thing is boring and filled with pages and pages of countryside random life nonsense like,

“I talked to some farmers about a troublesome patch of boggy ground and the need to dig a drainage ditch. They could not agree on its position. I suggested they consider a compromise that would not encroach too severely on either man’s farm, and told them to bring it to the council if they had not reached agreement by then.”

And it goes on, and on, and on… Blackthorn says it better than I could :

“There was some discussion. The two fellows set out their arguments, which had to do with rights of way and wandering cattle. My mind was wandering too, away from a matter that was of little interest to me…

EXACTLY. I do not care about any of this.

Which brings me to : What is the fucking point of this book?! I would say, to resolve a mystery…

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… But how in the world can I call this a mystery when I guessed EVERYTHING at 30%? It doesn’t make me proud, but it just shows how obvious the plot “twists” (can we really talk about twists at this point, that I do not know) were. The strings were so flashy and unavoidable that it annoyed me to no end to wait for the characters to finally get it. As far as plot resolution goes, Dreamer’s Pool is a big fail for me. This said, even predictable, some books manage to keep my interest because of their wonderful characters.

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Dreamer’s Pool is not one of those books. Where are the complex and fleshed-out characters? Because I saw none. On the contrary they felt one-dimensional to me : having a tortured past doesn’t make you layered. If you act like a robot and that I, as a reader, can guess everything you’ll do/say, you are not complex. Neither Blackthorn or Grim are, and I just didn’t care about what could happen to them whatsoever. Not that they actually did something during most of the book, mind you. They honestly seemed as perplexed as I was about their role in the story. And don’t get me started about Oran, the naive Prince waiting for his true love. What a brat, really.

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Finally, I am so very mad at the way sexuality is portrayed and how the boundaries between good and evil are linked to it. I genuinely thought that we were past shaming women for sex, and using it as a main characterization point, but it seems that I was wrong. In this world, if you want to find the Evil Women, just look at those who have sex. As for the others, they’re most likely going to be raped.

This way, the only consensual sex is in fact a manipulation, and it doesn’t sit well with me.

It doesn’t help that this book contains one of my BIGGEST pet peeves, that is to say, the false accusation of rape : it makes me rage so hard every time this crap is used. EVERY TIME – which led to some idiotic and rage-inducing drama. One might say that the villain’s wrongs do not stop at sex, but see, it is not my problem here. What maddens me is the fact that sexual behavior is what brings awareness on the flaws of a character. Indeed, sex is supposed to convince me that Ciar is the villain. NOPE. Screw this and these double standards.

“She fixed me with her gaze. “Prince Oran can attest to that; he wasn’t exactly reluctant.”
“That’s enough!” snapped Donagan. “You’ll speak to the prince with due respect!”

I agree. Why would Oran not be as responsible as she is? Blackthorn acknowledges this, but Ciar stays the only one to pay for it, while Oran gets his happily ever after with his untouched and pure bride. Fuck this. Ciar didn’t deserve that fate.“She fixed me with her gaze. “Prince Oran can attest to that; he wasn’t exactly reluctant.”
“That’s enough!” snapped Donagan. “You’ll speak to the prince with due respect!”

I agree. Why would Oran not be as responsible as she is? Blackthorn acknowledges this, but Ciar stays the only one to pay for it, while Oran gets his happily ever after with his untouched and pure bride. Fuck this. Ciar didn’t deserve that fate.

I can already see the arguments telling me that at this period of time, women were often categorized as such with the “whores” (who have sex before marriage) and the “good girls” (who wait and do everything in their power to stay virgins). Excuse me but, WHAT PERIOD OF TIME?!

1) No matter how medieval the world is pictured, this is Fantasy, not Historical fiction. We could wonder why medieval settings are so often used in Fantasy, actually, especially because with them come so many sexist stereotypes.

2) This book has been written in 2014. If I would be more lenient with a Medieval author, this is not the case here. Why do contemporary authors feel the need to picture worlds where women’s sexuality is treated with such shame and Manichaeism? Nobody forces them to do so, and this is the authors’ choice. I am so very tired of this choice.

Fuck this.

Of course Blackthorn doesn’t agree with the sex shaming and I really appreciated the way she defended women from these numerous sexist remarks (often from the villains, yes, but the “Good Girls don’t” speeches are still way too present for my taste).

But in the end, because of the way the plot is built, it doesn’t change anything. I am not happy with the ending which I found awfully unfair.

Dreamer’s Pool might be loved by many readers, yet I cannot recommend it, as it was such an utter fail for me.

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