Eighteen-year-old Liobhan is a powerful singer and an expert whistle player. Her brother has a voice to melt the hardest heart, and 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 mysteriously missing. If the instrument is not played at the upcoming coronation, the candidate will not be accepted and the people could revolt. 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 is faced with a heartbreaking choice…
Review of The Harp of Kings
I absolutely loved The Harp of Kings. If you have read any of Juliet Marillier’s books, you know that she is natural storyteller.
Tears are shed and heartstrings are pulled as you read the story told from the alternating veiwpoints of of Liobhan, Brocc and Dau while they take on their first and hopefully not last mission for Swan Island. In each character’s narration, they reveal the hopes and fears that magically transfer from the character to the reader. All three are young, but family and experience have given them wisdom beyond their years.
Although the story takes place in a different part of Erin than Marillier’s Blackthorn and Grim series, the atmosphere is the same. References to people and places of that series will delight fans. A wisewoman, a ruler that needs help, a bit of mysticism and people becoming friends are also familiar themes.
As the book blurb describes, the Crown Prince is a boor. Nobody believes he will make a good ruler, but there is no alternative. And our three heroes are tasked with finding the harp so the coronation can occur. Up until the very end, I was not sure how that part of the story would play out, but I was happy with the rightful ending.
Details of various character’s lives, especially Dau, Brocc and the child Aislinn are revealed throughout the book. Surprisingly, Liobhan’s background is the sparsest, even though she is the strongest character. The lovely cover by Mélanie Delon does a nice job of depicting Liobhan. This lack of detail may be deliberate, but in the meantime, I was drawn to Dau, who’s tragic background had me cheering for him all the way! As an animal lover, he gets extra points too!
After finishing the story, I did a little research and read that the harp is significant in Irish history and mythology. So it is no wonder that it now inspires such a magical story. While the instrument itself may be just a plain harp, the effects of the music that springs are mystical. Take that as you like, but when Brocc plays his plain bard’s harp, listeners can’t help but dance or laugh or weep. Does the Harp of Kings have such magic? The myth surrounding it would have you believe so. And reading the book proves that magic does exist!
I am so in love with this story that I needed more than 5 stars to rate it. Full of dreams, youth, wisdom, and music, The Harp of Kings is heartbreaking, beautiful, hopeful and magical.
Through Netgalley, the publisher provided a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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