Title: A Dance with Fate (Warrior Bards Book 2)
Author: Juliet Marillier
Publisher: Ace-Berkley Publishing Group
Publication date: September 1, 2020
Summary: On Swan Island, Liobhan and Dau are about to become Swan Island warriors, but, in their last display bout, Dau is accidentally blinded. Unable to tell the extent of the damage, the leaders of Swan Island call for Dau’s estranged family, unaware of the dark past of the family Dau fled. His family blames Liobhan for Dau’s blindness and demands she spend a year with them as a bond servant. To protect her friend, she agrees, but both are unprepared for the dark secrets lurking around Oakhill and the danger they stumble into. Meanwhile, Brocc has settled into life with the Fair Folk, protecting them from the Crow Folk. But, when they discover the Crow Folk being cruelly tortured and murdered, Brocc suspects something greater, leading him into danger.
Don’t worry; I read the first book first this time! The Harp of Kings was a surprise approval on Netgalley for me, and I thoroughly loved it. I had no doubt I would love the second book as well, so was excited to be approved for A Dance with Fate and couldn’t wait to return to Swan Island and the lives of Liobhan, Brocc, and Dau, as well as the formerly acrimonious relationship between Liobhan and Dau that had begun to evolve.
The Plot: About a Family
This is really the story of a family being set right. After years of pain, horrors, lies, and secrets, the family is given a chance to heal, if only Liobhan and Dau can uncover what’s been going on and seek the real truth.
It all started during a display bout right before they were to become full-fledged Swan Island warriors. It was an accident that Dau was blinded, but his family decided to lay the blame on Liobhan, forcing her to become a bond servant for a year. It was heartbreaking to see their dreams ripped away from them, to see the friends potentially heading in different directions once Liobhan’s year at Oakhill was over.
But Liobhan is Liobhan. Headstrong and protective to a fault, she somehow manages to become a companion and nursemaid to Dau, whether he wants her around or not. It felt a little too easy and made the whole story somehow less difficult for the characters, but it was also heartwarming to see them get to know each other in a more intimate way.
Meanwhile Brocc is in the Otherworld with his bride Eirne. The Crow Folk are still a menace and seriously wound True, one of the Fair Folk, forcing the two to travel on a journey in search of a cure. Curiously, the Crow Folk are absent from Oakhill even though they’ve been found brutally mutilated and tortured near the border with the Otherworld. It doesn’t take long for Liobhan to incite the ire and cruel nature of Dau’s older brother Seanan, and to simultaneously discover the answers her brother has been asking while unlocking the secrets in Dau’s family. But, of course, nothing is ever easy for Liobhan.
In comparison to the first book, A Dance with Fate seemed far more straightforward and not as full of danger and machinations. At it’s heart, it was about finding redemption for a family while also moving the overarching story to the series along. It moved along at a decent pace, but I also felt it took a little too long sometimes and I couldn’t help but feel a little impatient. I did like that the relationships deepened and changed, but the story felt a little lackluster.
The Characters: Exactly as I Left Them
I loved the characters in The Harp of Kings. Liobhan was so head strong, so stubborn, so fierce. I loved everything about her. Brocc, the harpist, was softer compared to his sister. Though a fierce warrior, he has some Otherworld blood in him, making him a masterful musician with a magical song. Dau was cocky and almost off-putting, but he evolved so much during the first book that I became sympathetic towards him as Liobhan and the reader come to understand him. He’s talented and dutiful with a fierce loyalty to those he cares about. I couldn’t wait to return to them all in A Dance with Fate.
The characters were all as I remembered them. They were wonderfully fun and fierce. Liobhan was fiery as usual, and too curious for her own good. But she really has a soft spot for those she cares about and I loved that she was willing to go the distance to do what was right. She has a strong backbone, but it often got her into trouble. There were times when I felt like cringing at her actions, but I still loved that she was unflinchingly herself. Dau was a little more complicated, though he still managed to show he was every inch a Swan Island warrior even while blind. It was heartbreaking to see him blinded and having to come to grips with his entire world and life changing. I wasn’t a fan of how he wanted to give up so easily and his resolve to keep going because of a promise to Liobhan felt a little thin, but I also saw him be fiercely loyal to his friend and compatriot, and it definitely painted him in a much better light. I was a little sad to not see much of Brocc, and was quite curious to see how his story line would converge with Liobhan and Dau’s. However, I felt a little torn to see Brocc pulled by two different loyalties, making me constantly wonder if he was making the right choices.
At the end of The Harp of Kings, Liobhan and Dau’s relationship evolved for the better. I was delighted to see more forward progress in the book. It was definitely more of a slow burn, taking tiny steps forward. It felt beautiful and natural, though I did feel Dau’s feelings came on a little too strong in an interesting contrast to the first book. For most of the book, I delighted in their relationship, but then it seemed to hit double fast forward by the end and it just lost me. Now, though, I’m wondering how they’ll progress in the next book.
The Setting: Dau’s Family Home
Since Dau is injured early on, most of the book takes place at Oakhill, Dau’s family home. His father is a chieftain, so the grounds and the family home are large and expansive with a number of servants moving about. It did make me think of a medieval holding, with a number of different areas to it, like the gardens and stables.
Oakhill itself seemed like a perfectly normal, bustling estate, but there was also something sinister about it, not so much in how it looked, but in how the people behaved. It felt like whispers were everywhere, secrets hiding around every corner. It held a mysterious air that made it feel unwelcoming. I think the people definitely made the setting, though Oakhill itself felt clear in my mind.
Overall: Great for Relationship Progression
I loved that the characters were the same. They were exactly as I liked them and exactly as they had been left off after the first book. It was fun to see their relationships grow and evolve, but it also felt like that was the entire point of the book. Since it takes place at Dau’s family home and is about repairing his family, it felt like something of an aside to the greater story, not that I know what that is, but it was quite different from the first book where the story revolved around a Swan Island mission. Still, this was a fun book, if only for the character development and the progression of their relationships. I adored Liobhan and Dau together, but was sorely missing Brocc.
Great if you enjoy: the first book (The Harp of Kings), strong characters, fae/fair folk/otherworld, magical solutions, light romance
Not great if you’re looking for: plot-driven stories, violence in fantasy, action-packed stories, traditional roles
How many cups of tea will you need?
4 cups should do nicely
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Thank you to Netgalley and Ace-Berkley Publishing Group for a free e-copy. All opinions expressed are my own.