The Harp of Kings, the first book in a new historical fantasy series by Juliet Marillier, follows a brother and sister amidst magic, music and their own grand ambitions.
Sibling bards Liobhan and Brocc are fighting to earn a place amongst a famous band of warriors and spies on Swan Island. When the warrior band learns that the Harp of Kings, an instrument of lore that has been used in the coronation of royalty, has gone missing, Liobhan and Brocc’s musical skills make them the ideal candidates for retrieving the harp. Though they’re still trainees, they embark on a mission to locate the instrument while disguised as traveling minstrels.
With every great fantasy quest comes a whole host of complications. Liobhan’s fellow trainee and rival, Dau, is desperate to beat her for the top spot in their class. The threat of political upheaval hangs over the mission should it fail. And, of course, schemes and deadly machinations are ever present.
Though Liobhan is a fearsome and admirable protagonist, Marillier rounds out her world by adding a slew of interesting secondary characters. Brocc is the protective and caring brother. Dau is the ambitious frenemy. There are mysterious witches and druids who know way more than they let on. Though the setting is fantastical, the characters are complex and reminiscent of all the wonderful and weird personalities we’d encounter in ordinary life.
To say both Marillier’s writing and Liobhan’s journey to becoming a warrior are magical feels too cliché—but it really is the perfect adjective. Liobhan’s dedication to achieve her dreams, to preserve the bond she has with her brother and to uphold what is right in the face of many conflicting forces is a joy to behold.
The Harp of Kings is set in the same world, though years ahead, of Marillier’s equally wonderful Blackthorn and Grimm series. While readers familiar with those books will enjoy discovering lovely Easter eggs, new readers should have no issues acclimating themselves to the environment. Quite frankly, I’m envious of readers who get to experience Marillier for the first time. If you’re unsure about where to begin with her body of work, The Harp of Kings is a fantastic place to start. It has all the hallmarks of a lush and epic high fantasy tale, as well as a dynamic, ambitious heroine.
Marillier's enchanting characters, immersive details and truly stunning prose have all helped crown her an undisputed queen of the fantasy genre. The Harp of Kings is no different; readers new and returning will be undoubtedly captivated by Marillier’s newest tale.
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