★★★ Crocuses and Blackbirds is the first book in The Golden Path Quintet, a series of romance novels written by Margaret Montrose. This story, totalling almost a thousand pages, portrays the journey of a troubled young girl named Julie, who is searching for her place in the mysterious mess of life. When she comes upon the Cathedral, things start to finally fall into place for her, as she is led towards the perplexing Ellen MacAlister, who reveals the kinds of secrets that Julie has never known. Although the novel starts out with Julie being described as a mixed-up teenager, as the story progresses she finds inner strength and her true sense of self. She inspires others and shows them how to reach milestones and successes they never thought possible. As the story winds down and Julie finds her white knight, another journey seems likely imminent as the new world is changing and transforming into something reflective of what was once old.
While it is clear that Montrose is a very talented writer, this book would be better if it was scaled down, as its immense page length can be rather overwhelming to readers new to her work. Her metaphors and similes are often beautiful, and the tale she has to tell is a remarkable one, but at times it is almost as if she is trying to accomplish too much with this first book in her planned five-book series. The best quality of this book is its characters, all of whom are strong and interesting, their very foundations carrying the narrative along in page-turning fashion. The world that Montrose develops is richly accented in lush tones and hues, which fully immerse the reader within the realm where the action takes place. All in all, Crocuses and Blackbirds is a highly imaginative tale, but it could have been enhanced if its grand scope had been limited to a more manageable focal point.