Official Synopsis from Goodreads: 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. . .
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Setting: Ancient Breifne (in Ancient Ireland)
***I received an eARC copy of The Harp of Kings from the publisher, Ace, via NetGalley***
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Review: An enjoyable read with compelling characters! The Harp of Kings is the first in a new series by Juliet Marillier. I’m a huge fan of Marillier’s Sevenwaters series, and I was so excited to see this title was coming out! This book did not disappoint. We are thrust back into the world of Ancient Ireland, bards and druids, fey and wise women, warriors and kings.
While the official synopsis just talks about Liobhan, The Harp of Kings is actually told from three different point of view characters. We’ve got Liobhan, an opinionated warrior in training, Brocc, Liobhan’s brother who plays the harp very well and is also in warrior training, and Dau, a strong and quiet trainee who joins their mission to recover a lost harp.
I loved all three of the main characters. I loved Liobhan’s strength and cleverness, Brocc’s kindness and pull between two worlds, and Dau’s silence and journey. All three voices were unique, and I was easily able to tell whose narrative I was reading. I also loved the relationships between the three main characters. Brocc and Liobhan are brother and sister, and Dau becomes their friend. I enjoyed the hint at romance between Dau and Liobhan, and I loved how when Dau first starts to really notice Liobhan it’s because of her strength and capability. Not because of how she looks. He’s drawn to who she is as a person.
While the beginning and middle of the book was all about plot, the ending felt to me all about the characters. So, it lost a bit of steam towards the end, as the main mystery of the book (Where did the harp go?) was solved and we had to deal with the fallout and the characters. This felt like a setup for future books in the series, and I’m content to let a bit of slowness at the end slide, as this will be a series that will continue to get better as it goes along, and we get to spend more time with the characters. The Harp of Kings has a lovely, magical setting and characters that come to life on the page! I can’t wait for the next book!
Bottom Line: Transporting historical fantasy with great characters!