What: The Harp of Kings (Warrior Bards #1) by Juliet Marillier
Who: Macmillan Australia
When: August 27th 2019
How: A copy of this novel was provided by Pan Macmillan Australia for review.
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. 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. If the instrument is not played at the upcoming coronation, the candidate will not be accepted. Faced with plotting courtiers, secretive druids, an insightful storyteller and a boorish Crown Prince, Liobhan soon realises an Otherworld power may be meddling in the affairs of the kingdom. When ambition clashes with conscience, Liobhan must make a bold decision and a heartbreaking choice. . .
Not gonna lie, it took me a while to get into The Harp of Kings. The build up was incredibly slow, and the writing felt very dry at times. This shocked me because I absolutely adore Juliet Marillier’s books – she wrote my favourite book, Wildwood Dancing – so I was super confused as to why I wasn’t keen. At first I thought maybe because it was an adult/YA crossover and therefore had that bogged-down-ness that some adult fantasies have, but then I LOVED Marillier’s adult novel Heart’s Blood. To be honest I’m still not sure as to why it took so long for The Harp of Kings to really get going. Maybe it was just a slow burn of a story, who knows? But I’m glad I didn’t give up on it because the latter 50% of the novel was great.
The Harp of Kings follows three POV characters: brother and sister, Brocc and Liobhan, and outcast Dau. I thought that Liobhan was going to be my favourite character because the story does generally feel like hers, and from the blurb I thought she was going to be a badass. And while she was pretty badass and I certainly liked her, Dau surprised me by becoming my favourite character. The growth of his character throughout the novel is on point. As a reader you see him change from this arrogant, sexist pig to someone that you realise is struggling to find his place in the world, and finally to a boy is pretty darn brave. Dau absolutely loves dogs (and animals in general) and it was so damn pure my heart ached for him.
There was a bit too much court politics for me, especially since it was very male-based and sexist. These were the parts of the novel I was most bored in because the prince was a total douchebag and I just wanted everyone to stop excusing his vile behaviour. I get super sick of the “he’s the prince” BS that every fantasy novel pulls when the prince is, in fact, a fuckface. There is a scene where he sexually assaults Liobhan and to be honest the novel could have done without that scene. The prince’s abhorrent behaviour was demonstrated in a range of other areas, and fantasy novels can miss me with female characters being sexually assaulted.
Even though I struggled with The Harp of Kings, I did end up liking it. The fantasy elements that came in towards the end were lovely, and I really wish there had been more of them throughout the novel because I think I would have enjoyed it more. Marillier writes fae so beautifully; it is really her best attribute as a writer. Everything just feels so real when she writes about magic and fae and all the other little fantastical creatures she thinks up. I really hope that the next book/s in the series feature this element more heavily because then I know I will be back for more.
If you are a die-hard fantasy fan who doesn’t mind slow burn stories, loves traditional royal politics, and fae interfering in their subtle ways then the The Harp of Kings might just be the book for you.
© 2019, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.
trigger warning reference to domestic violence, death of pet, sexual assault/attempted rape, ableism, use of ableist language, child abuse, physical assault, fire, death
reference to domestic violence, death of pet, sexual assault/attempted rape, ableism, use of ableist language, child abuse, physical assault, fire, death