Title: The Harp of Kings (Warrior Bards #1)
Author: Juliet Marillier
Publication Date: 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 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.
Why This Book
Ace will always stand out to me as the publisher of one of my favorite fantasy trilogies, which I read all the way back in high school, and it was published well before then. When I saw The Harp of Kings (which completely drew me in because I actually play the harp and own one), I was a little terrified of requesting it on NetGalley. I was still relatively new, so had been avoiding books published by the big publishing houses, and, honestly, a publisher as old as Ace? Well, I could try, couldn’t I? I remember I was just about to wake up my toddler so we could go pick up her big brother from school when I received the approval email. It was maybe a week or so before the publication date, but I didn’t care. Since then, I’ve received almost every book I’ve requested from Ace/Berkley, and could not be more thankful.
My review: “The characters were interesting, complex, and showed real growth as individuals and as a team. The setting was hauntingly beautiful and was the perfect backdrop for the questionable crowning of an unwilling prince. The story was interesting and well-told through the eyes of young adults who had seen much in their short lives, but still needed to see more. I loved the mystery aspect of what happened to the harp, but, in the end, this was more a story of making things right and working towards peace.”
The BiblioSanctum gave this 3.5 stars, saying “I felt that the pacing of The Harp of Kings was terribly unbalanced, especially after the first quarter where I felt no overall progress was being made and our characters were spinning their wheels with inconsequential side-plots that added little development to the overall story. At one point, we got so off-track that I even forgot they were supposed to be looking for a harp.”
History From a Woman’s Perspective gave this a 2.5, saying “Overall, this novel is full of courtly intrigue, music, and politics. Mrs. Marillier has always excelled in writing gorgeous prose and this is no different. The world-building is well-crafted. However, the story is not as magical as her previous works. The story is simple and slow moving. It is not a character-driven story because they do not have hardly any depth to them.”
Way Too Fantasy gave this a 5 out of 5, saying “I enjoyed the plot and thought it moved along nicely. Sometimes it felt like it was stalling, but those slower moments where it seemed like nothing was happening, well, everything became relevant in the end. I loved the way things came together, how little bits of the puzzle were revealed over time and how sometimes you didn’t realize that something was even part of the puzzle until later.”
Novel Notions gave this a 4.5, saying “While there are stakes here, it’s still a quiet story, inviting and soothing and somehow peaceful even when the events of the story are not. I found it to be a story that calls one to meander along instead of racing ahead”
Tinted Edges said “I have to say that of the three point of view characters, I was probably invested in Brocc’s story the least. I think this is possibly due to him being the most passive character in the book. While this does make sense given the plot, I did find myself looking forward to Liobhan and Dau’s chapters much more.”
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Check out all the other books featured this month on The Curated Bookshelf.
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