Review: Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier
Also by this author: Dreamer's Pool
Published by Ace Books on September 3, 2019
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 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 mysteriously missing. If the instrument is not played at the upcoming coronation, the candidate will not be accepted and the people could revolt. 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 is faced with a heartbreaking choice. . .
After reading the Blackthorn and Grim series by Marillier, I just knew I had to read more of her work. While I’ve not yet made time for backlist books, this start to a new series was irresistible. It also had a double whammy for expectations. First, I loved her other books so much, that my standards for Marillier are pretty high. Second, I found the premise of this series a must read no matter who the author was.
The protagonist is a women who is both a warrior and a bard, a real a bad-ass female lead. Seriously? Can you fit all those things I love into one character? Yep. Marillier nailed it.
Liobhan and her brother are training and going through trials to become members of an elite warrior team, trained on Swan Island. From a physical standpoint, she is fierce. She will use any advantage she can when facing an opponent, which is probably a necessity when she’s fighting men who are much larger than she is. But she is also more than just a physical fighter
When her and her brother are chosen for a real mission before they have even completed their training, they find out it is not just their fighting ability, but also their musical ability that landed them the spots on the team. I love how their talent as musicians allows them to serve as spies. We get to see and learn more about them as people and their personalities during the mission.
The book really shows the characters grow and learn in the area of trust as well as realizing that they can’t take everything at face value. They learn to work with a team that includes at least one member that was not kind or likeable during their training. I enjoyed seeing the characters relationships grow as they were around each other more and learn to appreciate qualities in each other that they initially did not see.
In the way of romance, there’s not much. Yet. There does seem to be a very slow burn romance being set up for the series, but it is slow enough that there is nothing to speak of for the main characters from book one other than speculation and hints. I always find romances like this much more satisfying in the series as a whole, so I am really looking forward to finding out what happens for sure. There is another romance feature that comes on somewhat quickly, but it worked well and did not detract from the overall story. Honestly, that romance made sense to me.
So overall, this was another amazing book from Marillier. I really can’t recommend her books enough (and I can’t wait for the next installment in this series).