The Harp of Kings

The Harp of Kings

by Juliet Marillier


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A young woman is both a bard—and a warrior—in this thrilling historical fantasy from the author of the Sevenwaters novels.

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. 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 missing. If the instrument is not played at the upcoming coronation, the candidate will not be accepted and the kingdom will be thrown into disarray. 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 the consequences may break her heart.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780451492784
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/03/2019
Series: Warrior Bards Series , #1
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 34,700
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Juliet Marillier is a member of the druid order OBOD and is the author of the Blackthorn & Grim novels and the Sevenwaters series. Her historical fantasy novels and short stories are published internationally and have won a number of awards.

Read an Excerpt

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***

Copyright © 2019 Juliet Marillier




A pox on Archu! Why must we fight in a wretched downpour? I hook my left leg around Brocc’s right and throw my full weight backward, toppling us both to the ground. We roll, coating ourselves with mud. Shit! Who would want to do this for the rest of their life? I must be crazy.

The wind gusts in, straight off the northern sea, driving the rain sideways. Brocc curses. There’s a little catch in his breath. I’ve almost got him.

“Go for his nuts!” someone shouts.

“Grab her hair!” yells someone else. Dau, I’m guessing. He likes to see me lose.

There’s no need to look at Archu, even if I could turn my head. I know what he’s thinking: This isn’t some brawl behind the drinking hall, it’s training for the real thing. You’ve got advantages. Use them.

Superior height, I tell myself as Brocc fights his way up onto one knee and, for a moment, loosens his hold on my right arm. Stronger will to win. Sheer bloody-mindedness. I claw up a handful of mud and throw it in his face. He swears, releases his hold, puts his hands up to his eyes. I twist onto my knees and deliver a well-calculated punch to his jaw. And he’s down.

“Cease.” Archu lifts his hand. “Bout goes to Liobhan.”

It’s over, thank the gods of wind and weather. There’s a scattering of applause from our drenched comrades, who are required to observe all bouts, no matter what the weather. Archu believes there’s always something to learn, especially from watching people make mistakes. I hold out a hand to Brocc and haul him to his feet.

“Should’ve seen that coming,” he mumbles, swiping at his face with his mud-soaked sleeve.

What can I say? We’ve been sparring together since we were children. He knows I’ll use dirty tricks to win if that’s what it takes. More often than not I do win against Brocc; he’s too honorable for his own good.

“Untidy bout,” says Archu. “Brocc, you had the advantage there briefly, but you let it go. Don’t let your thoughts drift off, especially in these conditions. Sharpen your eyes, sharpen your ears, feel what’s going on in every part of your body. Even as you counter her move, you should be anticipating her next. If she catches you unprepared, you’re gone. Make an error like that in a real situation and you might be dead. Which would be less than useful to whoever’s paying for your services. Here.” He fishes a disreputable cloth from some hidden corner of his voluminous fur cloak—the garment is almost legendary—and passes it over. “Wipe that stuff off your face.” He turns toward me. “Liobhan, quick thinking there. I hope you haven’t done your brother any damage. There are cleaner ways you could have ended that. Tell me some.”

I’ve been running over the fight in my mind, since Archu always asks this. “If I’d been quicker after we both went down, I could have thrown my full weight across him. Or earlier on, when I did the lock-and-throw move, if I’d placed my feet wider I could have blocked him from doing that spring back up.”

“The spring was well executed.” Archu’s hard gaze goes to Brocc, and he gives a brief nod of approval. “You’re nimble, no doubt of that.”

“He’s cut out to be a strolling player.” Dau again, supercilious bastard. “A man of many talents: singing, harping, tumbling, and tricks.”

I clench my teeth over the withering retort this comment deserves. Self-restraint is part of the Swan Island code, and Archu is present—Archu, who will in time help decide which of us trainees become permanent members of the warrior band and which are dispatched home with the weight of failure on their shoulders. As for Brocc, he says not a word.

“You’d be surprised,” Archu observes, “what talents a Swan Island warrior can use to strategic advantage. Some of them, you might not think of as combat skills. Should any of you be fortunate enough to stay the course and find a long-term place on the island, you’ll find that the services we offer are diverse. It’s not all heading out festooned with shiny weapons and killing the other fellow before he kills you. Though you need to learn that as well. Anyone else have any observations?”

They do, of course. Our group has been on the island for two turnings of the moon, and the training’s been intense. We work every day and often nights as well. We need to be capable under all conditions. Archu is chief combat trainer on Swan Island, but others also teach us. There are experts in swordsmanship, archery, fighting with staves and with bare hands, as you’d expect at a school of war-craft. We learn the best way to scale rock faces, and what to do if someone gets stuck or falls, and how to fight off attackers when you’re halfway up a cliff and hanging on for dear life. We’re taught the care and maintenance of our equipment, from weapons to boots. Checks occur at irregular intervals, and if one of us is found with an ill-cleaned knife or muddy footwear, we all pay the price. A mouse-like woman named Eabha teaches us how to open locked doors and to hide effectively right under folk’s noses. That is harder for a tall, sturdily built person than a slight one, as I have cause to know. The color of my hair—a vivid red—doesn’t help.

One skill we can’t learn on the island is mounted combat. Horses can’t be kept here—there’s not much level ground, and all of it’s taken up by the training facilities and living quarters. The remainder of the island—steep rises, sudden dips, sheer cliffs—is given over to sheep, seals, and puffins. Swan Island has a fleet of small boats, some for fishing, some to transfer people and supplies between island and mainland, and some, as we’ve discovered, kept so we can practice fighting on a shifting deck without falling overboard. Our trainer for that is Haki, a giant Norseman.

We never forget that we’re on trial here. Exercises to test us can happen at any time of the day or night. And all the time, our tutors are watching us. Who is the best, the strongest, the most promising? No point in asking who wants it most. All of us do, or we wouldn’t be putting ourselves through this. Brocc and I prepared for months to win places in the training course, from which maybe two or three out of the twenty will be chosen to stay as permanent members of the Swan Island force. Nobody wants to be sent home.

If I was doing the choosing, I’d pick Dau. He may be the least likable of the trainees, but he excels in all the physical tasks, and he’s clever at solving puzzles and devising strategies. Brocc isn’t the strongest fighter in the group, but he has other skills that might prove to be assets to Swan Island. It seems to me our trainers recognize his unusual talents, though none of them says anything. My brother has a remarkable ability for keeping other people calm under testing conditions. And he has a way of using his senses that goes beyond the ordinary, not just when he’s playing music, but all the time. As for me, I know I’m good enough. But although there are quite a few women working and living in the Swan Island community, and several female tutors, the elite fighting group has only two female members. That’s two out of a force of more than fifty. And in this group of trainees I’m the only woman. The odds are not in my favor. But I will prove myself. I didn’t come here to fail.

“If you want my opinion,” Dau says now, “Brocc goes easy on Liobhan because she’s a female. He’s hardly going to pinch her breast or dig an elbow in her privates. And he’d never stand by while someone else attacked his sister. The expression on his face right now proves it.”

I manage not to look at Brocc, though I know how he must be feeling. Wretched Dau! Along with his other talents comes an unerring ability to find and exploit a person’s weak spot. I can see how that might come in useful, but I’d prefer him not to exercise it on the rest of us.

No comment from Archu. He’s biding his time. Letting us hang ourselves with our own rope.

“That’s bollocks, Dau.” This is our Norse trainee, Hrothgar, a big, bearded man. I get on well with Hrothgar. He’s told me how it was where he grew up, how the women can be leaders and fighters and heads of the household if there is a need, and how they are respected for whatever they do. His sister wanted to come with him to Swan Island, but she’s only thirteen; five years younger than me. “Brocc’s a fine fighter,” Hrothgar goes on. “How do you think Liobhan got so good? By practicing with him for years, that’s how. He’s got his own style, that’s all. As for standing by while someone attacked one of your comrades, male or female, would you do that?”

“There might be a time when I had to,” Dau says. “What if we were on a mission under cover, and defending my comrade would mean destroying that cover? Haven’t we been told that fulfilling the mission must always come first?” He glances at Archu, but if our trainer replies, his words are drowned by a sudden, violent increase in the rain. It roars across the island, blotting out everything in sight and making an abrupt end to conversation. Archu points in the general direction of the nearest building, and we sprint for shelter.

The rain is still bucketing down outside hours later, as we sit in the hall after supper. This is the time when the whole community comes together to enjoy food and drink and good fellowship. Tales are told before the hearth fire, jugs of mead or ale are passed around, and those of us who can play or sing provide musical entertainment. Brocc and I both love music. At home, our band was in demand for village weddings and festivals. We even played for some grand gatherings in the household of Dalriada’s crown prince, which is not far from our family home. The Swan Island community soon learned we were musicians—the arrival of Brocc with his harp strapped to his back made it pretty plain.

Archu is a musician, too. The man’s arms are all muscle; he handles the bodhran as he handles the sword, as if it’s an extension of himself. You can hear the warrior’s marching feet and beating heart in his playing, and the sounds of the island’s natural world: the great wings of the albatross, the dive and twist of a seal, the thrum of wind in thatch. He’s as much a master of drumming as he is of just about every form of combat. Archu doesn’t talk about his life before the island, or where and how he developed those skills. And we don’t ask. But I’d like to hear his story one day.

On the evening after that bout in the mud, Haki tells a story of his time as an ulfhednar, a Wolfskin. The role of these peerless warriors is to leap from the prow of the longship as it comes in to shore, setting terror into the hearts of their enemies. They’re god-sworn and, from the sound of it, more than half crazy. This particular tale concerns an ax that was blessed by the gods, which for a long time brought good fortune to the man who wielded it. But when it fell into the hands of another, everything changed. We’re all captivated by this story, and I can see from my brother’s intense concentration that he’s already making it into a song.

“And on the night Brynjolf breathed his last breath”—Haki’s voice has dropped to a near whisper—“the men who sat vigil over him swore that although the ax rested beside him on his bier, they could hear its voice in the air above him, singing the true song of a fine blade: Home, my faithful one, come home now to the hall of the gods! And to the one who stole me from you, I say: A curse upon you for your betrayal of a friend! May your sword be blunt and your arm be weak, and may your enemies laugh in your face until the day you die!”

It’s a fine story. Who cares if it’s true or not? Next it’s our turn to entertain: a makeshift band made up of me, Brocc, Archu, and Eimear, a girl who’s good on the whistle. I’m capable on the whistle, too—in a band, the more things you can turn your hand to the better. Eimear and I are performing a reel as question and answer, taking eight measures in turn and gradually speeding up. By the end, the would-be dancers are falling over their own feet and breathless with laughter. It all feels oddly right. Swan Island’s warriors are the best of the best in combat, and their deeds are spoken of in hushed tones all over Erin, forming the stuff of fireside tales. Yet at times like this, they’re a big, warm family.

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The Harp of Kings 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Gwendalyn_books_ 6 months ago
This book was received from the Author, in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own The Harp of Kings The Harp of Kings was one of my most anticipated reads of the year for me. Juliet Marillier’s new novel The Harp of Kings marks the promising beginning to an entirely new series focused on warrior bards in an ancient Ireland. Though some of the main characters have ties to her previous Blackthorn & Grim series. This work is first installment in a new Warrior Bard Series Juliet Marillier’s writing style grips you from the start with a mixture of magical Celtic atmosphere, gripping storyline, slow-burning romance. A young woman is both a bard–and a warrior–in this thrilling historical fantasy 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. 18-year-old girl Liobhan who is attending Swan Island to learn how to fight and spy. Swan Island is an organization of warriors for hire. Liobhan hopes to join their ranks if she can prove her skills exceptional. Her training gets interrupted when she is asked to go on a mission to locate a missing item. This is a trial and Liobhan along with her comrades must prove to the Swan Island Elders they have what it takes to get the job done. Liobhan ends up uncovering many truths in her journey along with the fact the Otherworld The books intriguing storyline with characters that are complex and intriguing, Strong fearless women are again at the forefront – with Liobhan just as kick-ass And definitely holds her own. Juliet Marillier’s new book, The Harp of Kings is superb Celtic fantasy blended with sweating historical magical realism. The book is Captivating with rich gorgeous writing. Her book are so enjoyable they have become rereads for me.
Anonymous 11 days ago
Having devoured Daughter of the Forest when it first was published, I jumped at the chance to read an electronic ARC of The Harp of Kings. One chapter in, I wondered what rock I'd been hiding under to miss All. The. Books. Juliet Marillier has written in the past 20 years. Every bit as enchanting and enchanted as the world of Sevenwaters, this new series focused on the warriors of Swan Island wraps the reader in a Celtic mist of bards and poetry, warriors and kings. Beautifully and surprisingly sketched characters populate the quest to recover the Harp of Kings, while twists and turns of both plot and pathways leave the reader wondering how anything good could possibly arise from the muddled knot which Liobhan, her brother Brocc, and their warrior-classmate Dau are tasked with unraveling. But unravel it they do, with minutes to spare, leading to a resolution that is full of wisdom and justice, though not without tears.
Anonymous 29 days ago
great adventure, and loved the reference to favorite chacters from earler book.
CJ8 3 months ago
Harp of Kings had all the necessary ingredients for a fine fantasy tale—layered characters to root for, a mystery involving a missing, magical harp, a spy mission, druids and the fair folk, and a kingdom on the verge of cracking. I absolutely loved all the main characters. They were so different from each other, often in conflict while trying their best to earn a spot in the revered ranks of the Swan Island warriors by solving the mystery of the missing harp and returning it in time for the king’s coronation. While all the characters were great, Dau was my favorite (nothing like a broken character!) and I loved watching him overcome his past. The wisps of magic kept the mundane life at the castle from becoming too slow, and there were several unexpected twists. The one complaint I had were the supernatural crows and their presence—the mystery felt unresolved, so perhaps there is a sequel on the way. If so, I’d definitely read on to see what other adventures these characters might take me.
JReppy 3 months ago
he story centers around three teenagers who are training to be Swan Island warriors -- sister and brother Liobhan (Ciara) and Brocc (Donal) and one of the strongest rivals for a spot, Dau (Nessan) -- who, much to their surprise, are chosen to go on a mission while still in training. Their mission is to help locate the Harp of Kings, a magical instrument that must be played at the coronation of the king of Breifne in order for the king to be accepted as the rightful ruler. Adding to the pressure is that the coronation can only occur on Midsummer's Day. Liobhan and Brocc are chosen for their musical talents and will be part of a three-person minstrel group with Archu, the chief combat trainer on Swan Island (and a musician). Dau will be part of the back-up team, serving as a farrier's assistant. Their roles will allow them to be in the company of nobles (performing for them or assisting in care of the horses) and the palace staff so they can attempt to find clues to the disappearance and location of the harp. The earlier part of the story is decent but made me wonder if the book was going to be a run-of-the-mill fantasy book or something special. Thankfully as the story gets farther into the search for the Harp of Kings and the reader learns more of the backstories of Liobhan, Brocc, and Dau, it becomes a great book. I particularly like that each of the characters, especially Liobhan and Dau, are given roles in the mission that, while suited to their skills, also require them to control/suppress certain aspects of themselves that would spoil the mission, forcing them to confront some of their weaknesses and build up other skills. All three of them have strong reasons for wanting to be chosen as Swan Island warriors and so they have to try to follow the rules of the mission and make it a successful mission, but yet events force them into situations that potentially put the mission at risk and force them to make decisions or take actions that they suspect or know the leaders will not approve it. The author does a great job of portraying the internal dilemmas the characters face as they try to walk the tightrope of following the rules of the mission and doing what they believe is right, especially as the king-to-be, Rodan, is a particularly unpleasant individual. I especially enjoyed the sections with Brocc in the Otherworld, the interactions between the three main characters and Mistress Juniper, and I enjoyed the way the author weaves Celtic/druidic lore and practices into the storyline. Liobhan, Brocc, and Dau are all great characters in their own different ways. The author has also created a great cast of supporting characters. The story has plenty of action and drama, along with some funny and some sad parts. This book is well worth the read. I received a copy via NetGalley in exchange for a review.
Need_Tea 3 months ago
Juliet Marilier's newest release comes with all that you expect from her; whimsical storytelling, light-hearted stories, and well fleshed out characters. If you were tired of reading all those dark, grim, and gruesome books then this would be a nice change. You can't really ever go wrong with a Juliet Marilier book. They all have beautiful writing that makes you feel that you're in a fairy tale. The three main characters: Brocc, Dau, and Liobhan are all very distinct from each other with their own story arcs. I really loved the relationship Liobhan has with her brothers, it's very healthy, protective, and loyal. Dau is a gruff, moody boy, but he tries hard and is understanding. You really got up in their singular tasks and wonder if they'll be able to complete them. Faeries are also present here but they're more sort of the older traditional type that are creatures of the forest that are tricky but not nefarious. If you were looking for the high drama and tension of the court politics you won't find that in here. They're pretty low key compared to all the recent emulations. However, the plot really lacked some tension in that there wasn't really any obstacles beset upon our characters I didn't have any real enthralled reading moments. Also, the ending seemed to lack much tension. There's nothing really wrong with the plot as a whole but it lacked some oomph. Juliet Marilier never fails with her beautiful writing and world building but the story was lacking.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Juliet Marillier always has the ability to spin a story into something timeless and exciting, even if you feel like you know exactly where the book is going. The Harp of Kings follows the Blackthorn and Grim series (though it stands on its own) and I think that was the main thing letting it down; it had to follow up such a wonderful and unforgettable series. The Harp of Kings is missing and our three main characters are seeking it, all of whom are playing a role vastly different to their own personalities. There is one standout here; the character of Dau. He's far and away the most memorable character in this book, with the other POV characters fighting for second string. Searching for the harp proves to be a test for Dau and the other main characters, brother and sister team Brocc and Liobhan. A lot about this novel is incredibly rewarding for fans of Juliet Marillier's other novels. We visit some locations we haven't seen in a while and hear of a few characters. For me, this is one of the weakest books I've read by Juliet Marillier. Some of that is due to it coming on the legs of Blackthorn and Grim, which is one of her strongest series. Some is due to the character work here, which I found a bit lacking when compared with her previous work. Still, I must say that a middling book from Juliet Marillier is better than other authors' best. My thanks to Netgalley and Berkley Publishing Group for an early review copy!
HollyLovesBooks4Us 4 months ago
This is likely to be an unpopular opinion... This was my first time reading a Juliet Marillier book so from what I had heard and read, I had high expectations. Unfortunately, I don't think it quite lived up to this level of hype but it was maybe an okay start to a series. I was not in love with the development of the characters. I expected to care more about them and I really didn't by the end. Maybe continuing into the series will change that. #TheHarpofKings #NetGalley #berkleypublishinggroup #Ace
OldDoggyWalker 4 months ago
A novel by Juliet Marillier In Liobhan's world, three elements predominate; her music, her passion for mayhem, and her love for her brother Brocc. Together the two of them have taken training at Swan Island in hope of becoming part of that most famous warrior clan. But fate has a part to play here. Just as they are nearing completion of their battle drills Liobhan, Brocc and the sour-faced Dau are tapped to join a secret mission. The Swan Island Warriors have been hired by the Regent of Breifne to find the fey enchanted Harp of Kings which has mysteriously vanished. Further, they must do so without the common folk learning that it is missing. Led by their chief trainer, Archu, Liobhan, and Brocc will travel to Breifne disguised as musicians. Separately, Dau and another Swan Island veteran will ride there posing as a farrier and his mute assistant. It is a long and dangerous journey. Before them, a haunted wood, encounters with fey folk, a mystery wrapped in magic and a Crown Prince not worthy of the name. Can they unravel the mystery of the harp's disappearance before summers eve? The days to do so are few. Author Juliet Marillier, in "The Harp of Kings," has given us a winning story of war, mystery, magic, music, melancholy and romance. Particularly noteworthy was the interplay between Eirne, Queen of the Fey Folk and Brocc, which had a bit of magic to it. Less stellar was the growing, like mold on a muffin, attraction between Liobhan and Dau. Both were more interesting as competitors. I sincerely think that the story could be significantly improved if Liobhan humbled the stiff at least once. That said, I recommend this novel to anyone who loves YA tales with a bit of Irish magic. My thanks to ACE, Berkley, Penguin Random House LLC, and NetGalley for the uncorrected ebook file upon which I based this review.
Cynthia_G 4 months ago
Gee, this book is terrific! I couldn't wait to find out what came next so I stayed up way too late. I kept telling myself just one more chapter then I'll go to bed but then I would need to find out just one more thing, next thing I know it is getting light outside. That is the sign of a good book. The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier is obviously well written as the dark circles under my eyes can attest. The characters are varied and interesting. The plot is engaging. I like the mixture of adventure, mystery, fantasy and mythological lore. There is a list of characters along with how to pronounce their names which is useful. In a nutshell, the story begins on Swan Island, a training facility for warriors. Our focus is on a group of potential warriors which includes a brother and sister among other candidates. They are chosen along with another young man to join two teacher/warriors on a mission to find the missing Harp of Kings needed for a coronation. They will travel in two groups, in disguise, to locate the harp. If they do not complete their mission successfully the coronation will not happen and a king will not be crowned. During this mission we are given a fascinating peek into the otherwordly. I recommend this book to those of us who enjoy reading of far off lands with strange and wonderful creatures, fey folk, druids, chieftains , etc. On the strength of this book, I plan on reading other books by this talented author.
moondove 4 months ago
This book is a really good starting novel to a new series. I really enjoyed it. Thank you Netgalley for this ARC. I loved the characters - both good and - bad. I loved the world building.
Book_and_recipe_Examiner 4 months ago
Liobhan is a warrior in training beside her brother Brocc at the elite training camp—Swan Island. As one of the few girls and also a musician who entertains the group in the evenings, she feels she has something to prove, though her large stature does help give her an advantage. She and her brother are asked to go on a discrete assignment, posing as traveling bards, along with another competitor to a kingdom who has lost an important object needed for the coronation if their new king: the Harp of Kings. This object was protected by druids wielding magic, and their recovery mission is secret, so much that the trio are given new, separate identities and personalities, each with their own unique challenges. But the quest for the harp will lead each of them into pasts they thought they'd left behind, to a world of fey in danger of evil creatures, and to answers they've been seeking their entire lives. Told from three contrasting narratives, in perspectives that give the reader slow-building clues as to who might have taken the harp and why, as well as insight into a land of magic where music has great power to lead, to inspire, and to remind humans to tread gently. The Harp of Kings is a creative magical adventure about duty, music, the bond between worlds, and the importance of tales.
jsshrimp 4 months ago
Before I start, I would like to thank Ace publishing and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC of this novel in exchange for a review in my own words and of my own volition. Being Irish gave me the desire to read this and I'm very glad I did. Meeting Liobhan, Brocc and Dau was a new experience for me since I've never read any of Juliet Marillier's books. She builds very convincing characters that are easy to like, or dislike, and that is one of the first things that will make a difference to me. We got to watch each character grow in ways unexpected, and were allowed to know their backstories which gave them extra depth. I came out liking Dau more than I expected to, which was very well done. Second is the world building. I felt like I was in old Ireland, and that's somewhere I would have loved to have been alive to visit. And third is I thoroughly enjoyed the multiple POV of the book. I liked hearing it all from each of their views. Made for a much richer story. With bards and warriors and missing swords, this novel has it all. Knowing this is just book one is also exciting because that means there will be more.. And after reading this, I now know I need to go back and read her previous series. She has a style I enjoy, and I really want to know more about this world and its people. So, thank you Ace Publishing and NetGalley. I may never have looked at this book without you, and now I'm very grateful that I have.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Difficult review because I love the author and most of her books. This one is a good story that was really great in some spots and dragged a bit in others. Definitely seems room for additional books, and I liked the tie-in to the Sevenwaters and Blackthorn series. Overall a solid offering, if not a favorite for me.
bunkielisa 4 months ago
An excellent start to a new series! I have long been a fan of Juliet Marillier's work. I was very excited to have the opportunity to read Harp of Kings. Liobhan and Brocc are brother and sister. They are in training, hoping to join the elite warriors of Swan Island. Both have musical talent, but Brocc is the more compelling musician. Liobhan is a warrior through and through. Dau is also competing for a spot on Swan Island. When the story opens, he is at odds with Brocc and Liobhan. He thinks Liobhan doesn't deserve a place there, because she has the audacity to be female, and so that must mean her attentions will be divided somehow. And Brocc doesn't deserve a spot because of that musical talent he's got. The three trainees are sent on a mission to the kingdom of Breifne. On Midsummer Day, a new king will be crowned, and the legendary Harp of Kings must be part of the ritual. Problem is, the Harp of Kings is missing. Those in power are trying to keep this hush-hush, and the Swan Island team is going in undercover, their mission to retrieve the harp before the coronation. The story is compelling, yet not necessarily fast-paced. The world Marillier creates is a Celtic world, with druids and fae and uncanny creatures, and it has a bit of a dreamlike quality, even when the events in the story are action-packed. We see our three main characters face challenges through the course of the story, and we learn more of their backstory. Liobhan in particular wrestles with the fitness of Rodan, the crown prince, to become king. She sees in him a disaster for the future of Breifne, and in her mind, fulfilling the mission, returning the Harp of Kings to allow him to be crowned, seems an awful lot like failure. Brocc - let's just say there's more to him than meets the eye. He must decide what direction his future will take. Will he return to Swan Island and pursue the path of the warrior, or is he better suited for another role? And Dau's backstory is just heartbreaking. It was good to see hints of the man he can yet become. At the end of the book, I felt like I was saying goodbye to friends. I look forward to reading more in the series. Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book through NetGalley. All opinions here are mine, and I don't say nice things about books I don't like.
DiiFL 5 months ago
Young warriors, still in their training receive an assignment far beyond their positions. THE HARP OF KINGS is missing and the new king cannot be crowned without it. Siblings, Liobhan and Brocc, both musicians, must travel undercover with fellow student, Dau, on a journey of discovery and magic. And. They. Cannot. Fail. Juliet Marillier tells her tale with intermingled points of view, bouncing back and forth between the three main characters. Although each strand fits wonderfully within the fabric of this tale, I felt I was being told everything. High on feelings, low on action, this is definitely not a fantasy of physical adventure as much as a fantasy of personal growth. All told, I found my interest waning when I felt things should be moving along just a little quicker or perhaps have a deeper plot, although the writing is beautiful, just not what I was hoping for after reading the blurb. I received a complimentary ARC edition from ACE! This is my honest and voluntary review.
thegeekishbrunette 5 months ago
I absolutely adore this cover! One of the reasons I decided to read it and also because the synopsis has a way of drawing you in. Although I had a couple issues with the book, it didn't stop me from really enjoying everything this book had to offer. The characters in this book are different from each other, flawed, and a couple have quite the character development! The three main characters each have their own point of view and so the chapters are broken up into those. I enjoyed reading through the eyes of Liobhan, Brocc, and Dau. At the beginning we are introduced to all three as they are learning what it takes to become warriors on an island called Swan Island. Dau isn't really a fan of either, especially when it comes to Liobhan. He makes it pretty clear they are not equals because she is a woman. I didn't realize at first he would be give his own chapters and was pretty annoyed by his behavior. Honestly though, I am so glad I was open to his own story because as he shedded his layers he became my favorite of all. He has the most character development and also the hardest job of the mission as he has to pretend to be mute. I mean that takes skill! We learn about his feelings and eventually learn more about his background which is tragic. I felt for him. I would say more but I don't want to give anything away! Liobhan and Brocc are brother and sister and that kind of makes them inseparable. Liobhan is strong willed and described as a woman with a big build. I did like that she was different in that aspect. For her role on the mission, she is to be a bard who is shy and intimidated by men of power. Clearly this becomes a problem for her because of her personality and also the fact that she is training to be a warrior. Her mouth and temper, at times, does cause some issues which adds to the plot and makes for some interesting outcomes! I enjoyed getting to know her throughout each chapter. As for her brother Brocc, he does play a role for the mission but for some of the book he has gone to the Otherworld. If you are a fan of Fae then you would be happy to know that is where they leave. I will say no more than that! Brocc doesn't have much character development but he does help to finish the mission and is part of such a sad cliffhanger at the end. When it came to the plot, it was a little slow at first and I would have liked more action but I like how this book was more character driven and you really get to understand the characters and feel for what they have to do. There may be signs of two relationships blooming but nothing ever happens and hopefully we will see more from each in the next book. I wouldn't say there is really a villain either. There are crow folk that are mentioned and seen a couple times and one guy that is not the greatest who you will dislike but other than that they aren't really a driving force for the plot. There are a couple plot twists that weren't surprising but I didn't mind. The world building was lacking but I found myself not caring so much as the characters really shined throughout each page. Overall, I liked this book more the farther I got into it and then found it quite hard to put down. If you prefer more action then this book may not be for you but the characters are well written and I am looking forward to seeing where this series takes us! eARC provided by publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
Anonymous 6 months ago
The Harp of Kings: an interesting start to a Young Adult series. The short of it: I would consider it to be more of a 3.5/3.75 star rating. I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of The Harp of Kings and was thrilled when it arrived (I mean, just look at that cover: it and the synopsis pulled me right in). It took a while to get sucked into it, but once I did, I fell in love with the world and the story. It follows Liobhan, Brocc, and Dau (if you’re worried about being able to pronounce the names, don’t be – there’s a pronunciation guide for all the characters) as they are tasked with recovering an important artefact needed for the upcoming coronation of a new king. Along the way, uncanny phenomena surface in ways that are hard for them to understand and may influence the mission in ways unforeseen. My Favourite Bits: BIG. TALL. STRONG. FEMALE. CHARACTERS. That’s all I have to say. Secret missions and competitions to remain in an elusive and exclusive community of spies: who doesn’t love a good secret mission, especially when characters are desperate to come out on top? The character development is so subtly done that you almost don’t register it until the end, despite the depths of change. This was one of my favourite aspects of the book. The pronunciation guide was my saviour. I like to think that I’m pretty good at pronouncing Gaelic names, but some of them had me completely lost. Fortunately, the pronunciation guide in the beginning is easy to follow and very helpful. The Long of it: The thing about this book is: I could not, for the life of me, get into it to start off with. I really didn’t like the narrative voices (first person is my absolute least favourite POV and I find present tense can be grating; those are just my personal preferences though, so it’s nothing really against the book itself) despite the fact that I was super intrigued by the story. It took about 75 pages for me to really get pulled in and it wasn’t until halfway that I started to really speed through it. It took me almost 7 weeks to read the first half of the book, and then just another 4 or 5 days to finish it. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for it to start off with, maybe I was just reading super slowly. But it took me a long time to read it. Overall, I think this is a good start to what could be a really great young adult fantasy series. I would consider it to be a bit on the younger side of YA (though, I will warn of a scene involving sexual assault) but I’m interested to see where the story goes in future books and I’ll most definitely be continuing the series. (Please note that while I received an advanced copy of this book for free from the publisher in a giveaway, this has in no way influenced by opinion.) Follow me on Instagram at @novelandink! I promise scintillating commentary and pretty photos.
TPulyer 6 months ago
Never has a fantasy story touched me so profoundly that I was brought to tears not once but twice. The Harp of Kings is a moving tale of love lost, the power of family, and the qualities needed to be a hero among men. The story takes you on a journey that never slows and never disappoints. What I Like: The Harp of Kings is story-driven but could easily have been character-driven as Liobhan, Dau, and Brocc touch our hearts with their individual stories, goals, and choices. The tale is masterfully written so that it pulls you in much as a night of live music does with its ability to lift hearts and bring forth memories that touch your soul. The setting is historical from a time and place that spurs the imagination. Scottish and Irish mysticism is well documented, and the stories are numerous, such as the story of Merlin and King Arthur. This tale keeps that tradition alive and elicits similar feelings of it being “a land of myth and time of magic.” The descriptions are so detailed that I could imagine my own ancestors as they walked, lived, and played in Scotland and Ireland long ago. Liobhan is a strong female character and, as always, I love a strong heroine. She has that spunk and fire that pulls me into a story. Dau starts out as the typical male lead but grows and changes along the way into a more profound and full-fledged hero - one that you end up rooting for by the end. What I Wish This is usually the place where I gently complain when a book is written in shifting perspectives. As a reader, I find that often this device breaks up the flow of a story to a point where it negatively impacts my enjoyment of reading it, but that is NOT the case with The Harp of Kings. The device was used in such a way that it enhanced the story. The reader would have lost out had it not been used. To Read or Not to Read If you want a fantasy tale that will touch your heart and entertain your mind, The Harp of Kings is the right choice for you! Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous 6 months ago
The Harp of Kings is an adult fantasy novel and start of a new series by Juliet Marillier. I haven't read any of her previous work, but I think this is a sort of spin-off from another series. Regardless, it works just fine on it's own. I usually tend to read the more gritty, grimdark fantasies and this has a much more classic fantasy feel to it. The Harp of Kings is more Narnia than Westeros and was a refreshing change. The characters are likeable, the problems are solvable, and all ends up well. It left me feeling less personally invested in the story, but more light-hearted than I usually am at the end of a book, by far. The Harp of Kings is a fun adventure fantasy and I look forward to the next installment!