Book Review: The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier
Publishing Date: September 2019
Publisher’s Description: 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.
Review: I was reticent in requesting this novel, mainly because the description included the passage. “breaking her heart”. Fug. Anyhoo, I gave this a chance and am certainly glad I did. Not jumping up and down like Bill Clinton when he thought Hilary had won kind of giddy, just mildly pleased in places.
Besides the ghastly cover art, this was a novel rich in movement and varied in approach. Liobahn as a believable character, is not. I know, the author wants a strong female lead that carries all the tropes in one package…. “Red hair that is a match to her fiery heart and determined nature….blah, blah, blah. tougher than all the dudes except one that is obviously going to be her boner. Oh but she hates him, right? All the boys are interested in her, she loves little children, is a warrior, a healer (oxymoron?) an expert thatcher, cattleman (person?), farmer, spy and musician.” Whats not to love?
Brocc really carries the novel and would have been just fine on his own without dummay, er Liobahn flouncing around in all her perfection. Dau is intentionally myopic with regards to life and this gives him all the breadth to grow into a solid character. The trek through the countryside is too short and truncates the movement that would have built Dau to a greater degree. The good news is that Dau is built from the ground up while embracing constant movement.
This novel and the style of writing will grow on you. I think I re-wrote this review a few times as I was developing it throughout the read. It went from disappointment through to “meh” and finished at “wow”.
I want more of this world without Liobahn as she is a patterned character with all the commonalities. Make her a short, scarred up, feisty lesbian with a penchant for mushrooms and perhaps I will tune back in.