Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Juliet Marillier

Juliet Marillier was born in Dunedin, New Zealand, a town with strong Scottish roots. She graduated from the University of Otago with degrees in languages and music, and has had a varied career that includes teaching and performing music as well as working in government agencies. Marillier now lives in a hundred-year-old cottage near the river in Perth, Western Australia, where she writes full-time. She is a member of the druid order OBOD. She shares her home with a small pack of waifs and strays. Her historical fantasy novels and short stories are published internationally and have won a number of awards.

Marillier's Blackthorn & Grim novels are Dreamer’s Pool and Tower of Thorns.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Right now I am working towards a tight deadline for my current project, the third novel in the Blackthorn & Grim series, and that means I have to curtail my reading for pleasure as it gobbles up too much time. On my bedside table there’s a pile of reference material – books about trees, mythology, medieval building methods, all relevant to my current writing. But I have allowed myself time to read new novels by a couple of favourite authors.

I just finished Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith, third installment in the Cormoran Strike series of mysteries featuring this unusual private detective and his sidekick, Robin Ellacott. Robert Galbraith is, of course, none other than J. K. Rowling under another name. While I didn’t enjoy her first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, I’m impressed by the Cormoran Strike series, which I think is getting stronger with each book. I stayed up very late to finish Career of Evil.

The Comroran Strike novels are stand-alone mysteries. The volatile relationship between disabled war veteran turned private eye Strike and his assistant Robin, who has career ambitions and a needy fiancé, runs through the series. Both Strike and Robin are complex, damaged individuals whom the author brings to convincing life on the page. The secondary characters in Career of Evil are also very well drawn, an element that was a little lacking in the earlier books of the series.

The story opens with Robin opening the office mail to find a severed human leg in a parcel addressed to her. Strike identifies four people from his past who may have sent this out of malice. The police seem fixed on one particular suspect, so Strike and Robin start their own investigation into the other three. As more crimes occur, the two are drawn down some very dark paths. Before the end, each faces deadly danger. The novel’s conclusion is satisfying on all counts and will leave readers waiting impatiently for the next installment.

I’ve also read After You, a contemporary novel by well-known UK writer JoJo Moyes. After You is a sequel to Me Before You, which is being made into a feature film to be released in 2016. JoJo Moyes is one of my favourite writers. She has a deft touch with voice and her female protagonists are remarkably real women, with convincing strengths and flaws. We cheer their triumphs and groan at their sometimes misguided choices. Moyes’s stories are compelling, believable, funny and tragic. I think her contemporary novels are her strongest – she’s written many historicals as well – and After You is no exception.

It’s hard to say much about the story without including spoilers for Me Before You. The protagonist of both novels is Lou Clark, who in the new book is trying to put herself together after the events of Me Before You (this story takes place eighteen months later.) Lou hasn’t kept a promise she made to her beloved Will. She’s working in a dead-end job, feeling alone, and wondering if she’ll ever be prepared to take a risk again. Then she does, and everything changes.

For those unfamiliar with this author’s work, I’d suggest you start with Me Before You (read it before you see the film, in case they ruin it by changing the ending) or the lighter but equally wonderful The One Plus One, which was a Sunday Times bestseller. They are engaging, thought-provoking novels that don’t shy away from tackling serious issues.
Visit Juliet Marillier's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Juliet Marillier & Pippa, Gretel, and Sara.

--Marshal Zeringue