Thursday, August 29, 2019

ARC Review: The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier

The Harp of Kings
Author: Juliet Marillier
Series: Warrior Bards (Book 1)
Publication: Ace (September 3, 2019)

Description: A young woman is both a bard—and a warrior—in this thrilling historical fantasy from the author of the Sevenwaters novels.

Eighteen-year-old Liobhan is a powerful singer and an expert whistle player. Her brother has a voice to melt the hardest heart, and is a rare talent on the harp. But Liobhan's burning ambition is to join the elite warrior band on Swan Island. She and her brother train there to compete for places, and find themselves joining a mission while still candidates. Their unusual blend of skills makes them ideal for this particular job, which requires going undercover as traveling minstrels. For Swan Island trains both warriors and spies.

Their mission: to find and retrieve a precious harp, an ancient symbol of kingship, which has gone missing. If the instrument is not played at the upcoming coronation, the candidate will not be accepted and the kingdom will be thrown into disarray. Faced with plotting courtiers and tight-lipped druids, an insightful storyteller, and a boorish Crown Prince, Liobhan soon realizes an Otherworld power may be meddling in the affairs of the kingdom. When ambition clashes with conscience, Liobhan must make a bold decision—and the consequences may break her heart.

My Thoughts: This is a pretty standard start to an epic fantasy well-told by a master of the genre. It takes three young people - Liobhan, Brocc, and Dau - who are students at an elite academy where they are training in weaponry and other skills in the hopes of being chosen to join the company. Liobhan is a warrior who also has skills and a musician and singer. She is talented and tricky. Her brother Brocc is the more gifted musician but is also a smart and skilled warrior. Dau is their competitive rival who is determined to be the finest warrior so that he will be chosen to stay with the company.

The three are chosen to go along with two elders to find a missing harp that is needed for the coronation of the new king of Breifne. They will be going undercover, complete with new, fabricated identities, to locate the harp and restore it before midsummer when the coronation will be held. All of the roles are difficult but Liobhan, who has to become shy and diffident, and Dau, who has to play the role of a mute stable hand, have the hardest time.

They learn rather quickly that the presumed heir - Rodan - is a cowardly bully who feels entitled to whatever he wants when he wants it. He has been abusive to his younger sister and his sister's nursemaid. When his attempted assault on Liobhan is thwarted, she is the one who is forced to make a public apology. Worst of all, Rodan will make a terrible king because he doesn't have any respect for the Fair Folk who also inhabit his land. In fact, he doesn't believe in them.

Each chapter is the story is told from the viewpoint of one of the three young people. In each we not only advance the plot but learn about each one's past and the reasons for their behavior. It was an enjoyable story that is the first in a new series.

Favorite Quote:
I've taught myself to joke about such matters -- the lusts of the flesh, the games men and women play -- in order to be accepted as a man among men. But the future I plan for myself has no room for such things. The forbidden door must stay closed. Locked and bolted forever. I learned my lesson early. To open your heart is to invite pain. It is to lose yourself. 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

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