Book Review: The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier

Monday, September 2, 2019

Title: The Harp of Kings
Author: Juliet Marillier
Series: Warrior Bards #1
Publication Date: 27th August 2019

Synopsis: "Eighteen-year-old Liobhan is a powerful singer and an expert whistle player. Her brother is a rare talent on the harp. They are both training for the elite warrior band on Swan Island when they are asked to join a mission that requires posing as travelling minstrels. Their task is to find and retrieve a precious harp, an ancient symbol of kingship, which has mysteriously vanished.

Intrigue. Plotting. Secretive druids. An evil Crown Prince.

When ambition clashes with conscience, Liobhan must make a bold decision and a heartbreaking choice..."

My thoughts: I've mentioned it many times before, but Juliet Marillier is my favourite author. So we're just going to move swiftly on into my review.

The tale starts with Liobhan and her brother Brocc in training on Swan Island - we get to know the characters quickly through a bout between the two and then discussion with others about what could have been done more effectively. Marillier does a wonderful job of setting us on our feet and directing our gaze, so that we quickly pick up who our main characters are going to be, and learn what direction the story is heading in. When Liobhan, Brocc, and another trainee, Dau, receive their assignment, things start to feel a little different. Like you're not on solid ground anymore, and all you have are questions and more questions, with nary an answer in sight.

During the course of the book, I found myself growing closer and closer with the characters, and really feeling their dilemma between wanting to win a permanent place on Swan Island and doing what feels right to them. Liobhan is firey, and has trouble not acting like the warrior she is. Dau has his own personal demons start to visit him with more frequency, and we begin to learn some of his sad tale. And Brocc? I felt more kinship with Brocc than any other character, if I'm honest, and his own secrets begin to come to the fore, too. The mission and path they've been set upon not only challenges them with their information-gathering and espionage skills, but also with their own pasts and preconceived notions.

Marillier does such a wonderful job of creating atmosphere - her writing feels dreamy and otherworldly at times, and then gives you a sharp little tap and points you at serious issues to be considered. As always, I loved her melding of fairy tale and real-world problems, and I don't think I will ever tire of her writing style. I did have a little bit of an issue getting into this one to start with, but that eventually dissolved away and left me just with love for these characters and a serious desire to know what would happen next.

I would absolutely recommend The Harp of Kings to anyone, but particularly to those who have read the Blackthorn & Grim books, as there are a few spoilers in here for that series.

{I received an advanced review copy of this book from Pan Macmillan in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!}

You would like this book if: You're a fan of Juliet Marillier and have read her Blackthorn & Grim series; you enjoy fantasy stories with spies, druids, Fae, and intrigue.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Something made by hand and with consideration, if possible. Perhaps make your own herbal blend - I am partial to a mix of rose, chamomile, and a touch of lavender. Maybe some fresh mint tea!

Rating:  8.5/10

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