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The Harp of Kings

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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 a rare talent on the harp. But Liobhan's burning ambition is to join the elite warrior band on Swan Island. She and her 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 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. . . .


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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 a rare talent on the harp. But Liobhan's burning ambition is to join the elite warrior band on Swan Island. She and her 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 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. . . .

30 review for The Harp of Kings

  1. 5 out of 5

    Chaima ✨ شيماء

    Considering starting The Harp of Kings Diet, which is basically just red wine and my own burning disappointment in this book. I could pull out a comically long scroll listing everything that's aggravated me about this novel but I wanna have a nice day and be in a good mood. So, full review to come later. I just wanna say that I had to double check that this book was indeed released in the year 2019. Maybe it's just me. I just no longer have patience for books that traffic in overly misogynistic Considering starting The Harp of Kings Diet, which is basically just red wine and my own burning disappointment in this book. I could pull out a comically long scroll listing everything that's aggravated me about this novel but I wanna have a nice day and be in a good mood. So, full review to come later. I just wanna say that I had to double check that this book was indeed released in the year 2019. Maybe it's just me. I just no longer have patience for books that traffic in overly misogynistic and extremely heteronormative settings. Swinging my reading-pendulum from Samantha Shannon's audaciously subversive The Priory of the Orange Tree to Margaret Rogerson's brilliant Sorcery of Thorns has set the bar for what fantasy can and should strive for, and personally, I thought this book had a lot of catching up to do.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    Thank you Netgalley!! I love this author soooo much I love Juliet Marillier so much! I was so stoked when I saw she had another book coming out and in the same world as some of her other books. You don't have to have read them first though. This book is told through three POV's. Liobhan, Brocc and Dau. Liobhan and Brocc are brother and sister and they are fighters and singers. Dau just wants to be the best warrior. But, Liobhan is the best warrior! Girl power! Well, some things happen and the Thank you Netgalley!! I love this author soooo much 😫 I love Juliet Marillier so much! I was so stoked when I saw she had another book coming out and in the same world as some of her other books. You don't have to have read them first though. This book is told through three POV's. Liobhan, Brocc and Dau. Liobhan and Brocc are brother and sister and they are fighters and singers. Dau just wants to be the best warrior. But, Liobhan is the best warrior! Girl power! Well, some things happen and the group has to go out and try to find the Harp of Kings which is used for the new king. The new king isn't a nice guy anyway so I think it serves him right. There are different creatures in the book and it's just awesome in my opinion! I truly look forward to these new books from Juliet! She's the best! Happy Reading! Mel ♥ **Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for a digital copy of this book!** Amazon Review

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jessica ❁ ➳ Silverbow ➳ ❁ Rabid Reads-no-more

    The day I stop getting excited about something new from Juliet Marillier is the day I start burning books. I KNOW HOW TO SPELL HER LAST NAME. From MEMORY.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Robin (Bridge Four)

    Release Day!!! 4.5 Sing Me a Song My Bard Stars Juliet Marillier builds fantastic fairytales with subtle magic, complicated characters and wondrous worlds. Harp of Kings is no exception to that. Set years after the Blackthorn and Grim stories, this tale follows some of the next generation including Liobhan and Brocc, two of the three children Blackthorn and Grimm raised. Harp of Kings is the first book of a new series. It is set in the same world as the Blackthorn and Grimm series, but you don’t Release Day!!! 4.5 Sing Me a Song My Bard Stars Juliet Marillier builds fantastic fairytales with subtle magic, complicated characters and wondrous worlds. Harp of Kings is no exception to that. Set years after the Blackthorn and Grim stories, this tale follows some of the next generation including Liobhan and Brocc, two of the three children Blackthorn and Grimm raised. Harp of Kings is the first book of a new series. It is set in the same world as the Blackthorn and Grimm series, but you don’t need to have read those to enjoy this book. Liobhan, Brocc and Dau are trainees for Swan Island, an elite school for warriors. There is a fierce competition between Dau and Liobhan as each wants the top spot in the class. Brocc loves his sister dearly and is there for training but also to make sure she is safe. When a secret mission comes up Brocc and Liobhan are chosen due to their skill in instrumentation and singing. Dau is also chosen to be on the secondary team, partially as a test and partially because he has some skill with horses. Each person in the group will have to live as a different person for the extent of this mission and it will test them. “Maybe,” my brother says, “what they told us was only half the truth. Maybe this is not so much a mission as a test.” “Of what?” “Whatever each of us most needs to learn.” The Harp of Kings has gone missing, it has been used for the coronation of a new king for thousands of years and is steeped in lore. A new king is to be coronated in a month and the team is supposed to find the Harp and restore it to the druids before anyone realizes that it is missing. The only problem with that is that there do not seem to be any clues to where it has gone and the man who would be king is not suited for the position at all. The only thing making this even more complicated for the team is that the Fae seem to be involved and Liobhan and Brocc are given some very hard tasks to complete if they want to get the Harp in time. Juliet Marillier has a timeless quality to her stories and I think she is for the patient reader that likes hints of magic and very character driven stories. She writes people well and I felt the change in both Liobhan and Dau’s attitude toward each other over time developed in a natural and understandable way. Dau didn’t know what to make of the dichotomy that is Liohban “I do wonder why a woman would spend her days learning more effective ways to kill,” Dau says, “and her evenings singing love songs. Wouldn’t that mean she could not put her whole heart into either activity?” I really like an adversary to friend to possibly lovers trope and I’m really hoping this is the direction the overall series will take. There are fae folk, crow people, druids and hearth witches in this tale and I have a feeling we are only at the tip of the iceberg for the stories to come in this series. Another wonderful dream of a tale, told in a beautiful fashion but a fantastic storyteller. Thank you to Netgalley and Berkley publishing for the ARC for review pre-review: A book featuring not only Swan Island but Blackthorn and Grim's kids

  5. 5 out of 5

    Celeste

    Actual rating: 4.5 stars I received a copy of this book from the publisher (Ace) in exchange for an honest review. “A person can never hear too many tales. Tales are like honey cakes. Once you have tasted one, you want another, and another, and always more.” This was my first encounter with Juliet Marillier, but it certainly won’t be the last. I can see her becoming one of those authors I turn to when I’ve just had enough of the darkness, and need something bright and pretty in my life. The Harp of Actual rating: 4.5 stars I received a copy of this book from the publisher (Ace) in exchange for an honest review. “A person can never hear too many tales. Tales are like honey cakes. Once you have tasted one, you want another, and another, and always more.” This was my first encounter with Juliet Marillier, but it certainly won’t be the last. I can see her becoming one of those authors I turn to when I’ve just had enough of the darkness, and need something bright and pretty in my life. The Harp of Kings is lovely and lush and bright, a wonderful change from the grimdark that populates the fantasy genre. And from what I gather, that’s par for the course with Marillier’s work. While there are stakes here, it’s still a quiet story, inviting and soothing and somehow peaceful even when the events of the story are not. I found it to be a story that calls one to meander along instead of racing ahead. This book is the first in a new series of standalones, set in a world that will already be familiar to Marillier’s fans. But even if you’ve never read any of her work before (like me), this is a great starting point. I never felt lost in the least, though I am now definitely more curious about her various other series. Also, even thought this book is the first in a new series, it stands on its own perfectly well, with a plot that feels self contained and completely finished. “Magic is real. It may not come in just the way you want, or exactly when you want it, because it’s tricky and unpredictably and…difficult. And sometimes it’s hard to believe it’s possible. But what about all those old stories? And the songs we sing every night? They are full of magic.” I must confess that what drew me to this book was the title, of both this book in particular and its series. With names like The Harp of Kings and Warrior Bards, I knew that music would surely be a central theme. And it was! My favorite micro-genre of fantasy, if that’s even a thing, is musical fantasy. Whether the main character is a musician, or a song is at the core of something, or music just makes frequent appearances, I’ll always have a soft spot for books where music has some importance. The Name of the Wind, Bloody Rose, and The Troupe are among my favorite books of all time, and music is an important part of all three. Happily, The Harp of Kings scratched that itch, giving me a book with musicians serving as two of the three perspectives, a hunt for a mystical instrument that has mysteriously disappeared, and songs themselves even being used as weapons at one point. “Thank the gods for music. The harp is my map and my lodestone, my balm and my comfort. It quiets my circling thoughts like nothing else can. I sing and play every night. Even when I am fighting, my mind teems with tunes and verses.” The Harp of Kings is the story of three young warriors training in hopes of becoming Swan Island warriors, a renowned group with a strenuous selection process. Liobhan is hoping to join the even more elite group of female Swan Island warriors. She’s highly skilled and strong and fiercely determined, with a temper as fiery as her hair. She knows her mind and often acts or speaks before she thinks, though she’s working on that. Her brother Brocc is gifted and quietly charismatic, but lacks the drive that fuels Liobhan. Both siblings are talented musicians, but Brocc’s talent runs deeper, as does his passion for music. He can’t breathe without it. And while he wants to help his sister attain her goal, he would rather write and sing and play the harp than fight. Rounding out the trio is Dau, a stiff and unbending warrior who thinks that both Brocc and Liobhan are unworthy to become Swan Island warriors, Brocc because he would obviously rather be a musician, and Liobhan because she has the nerve to be female. “…To be the best, you must give body, heart, and spirit… You have to put all of yourself into whatever you chose to do. That means one vocation and one only; if you’re the best, there’s nothing left to give.” While there is no love lost between Dau and Liobhan, the each have to admit that the other is their greatest competition for one of the few slots open to new Swan Island recruits. Before their training is even complete, the three trainees are sent on a mission to recover the Harp of Kings, a mystical instrument that must be played at the coronation of a new king. Liobhan, Brocc, and Dau must become a team and find the lost harp before Midsummer, or the kingdom will have to wait another year for their king to be crowned. Throughout their journey, all three characters grow by leaps and bounds. Dau, who I had little liking for early on, proved to be the deepest, strongest character and ended up being my favorite of the three perspectives. His backstory was given piece by heartbreaking piece, and every new tidbit of information made me love him more. I hope to see a lot more of him, as well as the other two perspective characters, in future installments. There were also some wonderful supporting characters, my favorite of whom was Mistress Juniper. And Marillier did a wonderful job of making animals feel vitally important and alive, especially through Dau’s eyes. “Music opens doors, yes; but only if those who live behind those doors want visitors.” This story is told in present tense from three first person perspectives. I’m not usually the biggest fan of first person present tense, but it works well here. Marillier made the voice of each perspective different enough to be convincing. I found that this choice in storytelling style also kept the book from feeling too formal, giving it a freshness it might not have otherwise had. “And there is a great magic; a power that comes from the very land we tread, from ocean and forest, from the deepest cavern to the high pathways of sun and moon. When the path ahead seems dark and difficult, when you cannot find the right way, call on that power to guid you, for within each of us, even the smallest, there is a spark of that great fire.” While I enjoyed the characters, and the fact that the story had music as such a central, important theme, my favorite element of this book was the setting. It felt very Irish, and I think Irish folklore has much to offer the fantasy world. I loved the presence of druids, and the composition and variety of the Folk, Fae-like beings who share this world but keep their presence hidden from most. There was a beauty to this mystical setting that felt both classic and timeless. I cannot come with you wherever you go, And I cannot stay by you in joy and in woe, But I’ll be beside you, though gone from your sight, I’ll love you and guard you till we meet in the light. The Harp of Kings is not a book I consumed quickly over a handful of sittings. I sipped on this book for nearly two weeks, which seems like a long time for such a small book. But I very much enjoyed having something so pretty and different to metaphorically snack on after a long day, and I wanted to prolong that enjoyment for as long as I could. I thoroughly enjoyed The Harp of Kings, and will definitely be making periodic forays into Marillier’s backlog while I eagerly away the next installment in this series. You can find this review and more at Novel Notions.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sherwood Smith

    Juliet Marillier has been writing historical fantasy for long enough that she is clearly comfortable in that world, working in all the little details that delight readers who want to sink into a world. I believe this is the beginning of a new series, and if I'm right, that would explain the sustained sense to the pacing--a change from some of the breakneck paced, often extremely violent fantasies out there that trade superhero-level fighting with snark. And I enjoy those! But I also enjoy a slower Juliet Marillier has been writing historical fantasy for long enough that she is clearly comfortable in that world, working in all the little details that delight readers who want to sink into a world. I believe this is the beginning of a new series, and if I'm right, that would explain the sustained sense to the pacing--a change from some of the breakneck paced, often extremely violent fantasies out there that trade superhero-level fighting with snark. And I enjoy those! But I also enjoy a slower tale such as this. The book is told in three voices, Liobhan the warrior bard, Brocc another warrior bard but whose true genius is music, and Dau, whose spiky personality hides a past he has no intention of revealing. My favorite voice was Liobhan's--though I was most interested in Brocc's arc. I really love stories that mix music and magic, and this one works that angle very nicely as we get into overlapping worlds. The three embark on a mission that cannot fail Or Else, and the pacing gradually picks up, establishing them, the world, and the arc. Copy provided by NetGalley

  7. 4 out of 5

    Melissa (Mel’s Bookshelf)

    There is something about Juliet Marillier’s writing. She grips you from the start with a mixture of magical Celtic atmosphere, gripping storyline, slow-burning romance and humour. As soon as I heard that she was releasing another series, I WAS IN! I have enjoyed every single book of Marillier’s that I have read and this one is another gem to add to the collection! The Story Liobhan and Brocc are brother and sister, and are training to be in a group of elite Celtic warriors. Because of their There is something about Juliet Marillier’s writing. She grips you from the start with a mixture of magical Celtic atmosphere, gripping storyline, slow-burning romance and humour. As soon as I heard that she was releasing another series, I WAS IN! I have enjoyed every single book of Marillier’s that I have read and this one is another gem to add to the collection! The Story Liobhan and Brocc are brother and sister, and are training to be in a group of elite Celtic warriors. Because of their musical talent, they are called upon to go undercover to undertake a secret mission – To find the magical Harp of Kings that has been stolen and return it so that the new King can be coronated. However, getting it back will be no easy feat! My Thoughts I really enjoy how she carries on the stories and arcs from previous books. This is the next generation of Blackthorn and Grim, and I love how she subtly weaves in aspects of these stories and characters. I’m looking forward to see where she takes the stories in books to come, and if we see some old friends. However, you don’t need to know anything about her prior books to fully appreciate this new series. It’s just a nice homage to her prior characters for the long term fans. In typical Marillier style, the characters are complex and intriguing, especially Dau and Brocc who both have absorbing back-stories. Strong women are again at the forefront – with Liobhan just as kick-ass as the men in the group! I love her! This book felt like an old friend. I savoured it, took my time and enjoyed and revelled in each comforting page. This novel tended to move at a measured pace – but for a purpose. I never feel like it was dragging on. The scene is gradually set up and the characters slowly unravel and it is marvellous! There wasn’t enough romance as I’d like, but her romances tend to take time to build up, she establishes the characters first – and there was still enough to keep me satisfied. I loved the little side stories, the beautiful detail, the relationship development and twists and turns. Would I recommend The Harp of Kings? Absolutely! I thoroughly enjoyed it! No doubt I will read it again and anxiously wait for the next one. If you are interested in Celtic fantasy and gorgeous writing, and of course if you have enjoyed any of her previous work, you are sure to enjoy this one. So many thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for an advanced copy of The Harp of Kings to review, and for inviting me on the blog tour! For more reviews check out my: Blog Instagram Twitter Facebook

  8. 4 out of 5

    Hollis

    A Marillier almost put me into a book slump. A Marillier. What even is life. This was one of my top top anticipated reads of the year and yet.. I don't know what happened? Maybe this was a me thing, I don't know, but this just wasn't working me until the last 20%. I fully finished this with tears on my face so, like, what even? There are plenty of lovely easter eggs for fans of the author's Blackthorn and Grim series and that was a delight. But the story itself, the plot, I just didn't find A Marillier almost put me into a book slump. A Marillier. What even is life. This was one of my top top anticipated reads of the year and yet.. I don't know what happened? Maybe this was a me thing, I don't know, but this just wasn't working me until the last 20%. I fully finished this with tears on my face so, like, what even? There are plenty of lovely easter eggs for fans of the author's Blackthorn and Grim series and that was a delight. But the story itself, the plot, I just didn't find interesting at all. I even struggled with the characters. The one thing the author never fails to succeed at though is the chemistry, and connection, the relationships. Not necessarily romantic (and in this case, not remotely), but still. The emotion woven through is excellent. This just wasn't a story that worked for me. Or at least.. didn't work right now. I am still looking forward to more from this new series. And I may just have to console myself with a Sevenwaters reread in the meantime. Because I'm sad about this one. This might look like a shiny three star rating but I'm definitely rounding up. ** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

  9. 5 out of 5

    Krystal

    This was a little slower than I'd have liked but I did eventually get through it. It's a pretty light on fantasy about music, nature and Fair Folk with a mild dose of court behaviour. Slightly too bland for my tastes, if I'm honest. The plot: On Swan Island, brother Brocc and sister Liobhan are training to become warriors. They also play music. They're given a mission - along with a fellow trainee, Dau, and two trainers - to journey to a kingdom nearby that's lost a super special harp that's of This was a little slower than I'd have liked but I did eventually get through it. It's a pretty light on fantasy about music, nature and Fair Folk with a mild dose of court behaviour. Slightly too bland for my tastes, if I'm honest. The plot: On Swan Island, brother Brocc and sister Liobhan are training to become warriors. They also play music. They're given a mission - along with a fellow trainee, Dau, and two trainers - to journey to a kingdom nearby that's lost a super special harp that's of vital importance to the upcoming coronation. It's kind of a secret mission so they're all under cover but the cover is them being musicians so PHEW. Also fiery Liobhan has to control her temper to match her more submissive character. Sad face. Honestly, the whole premise was a bit weak for me, and as much as I love music, its importance in this story wore a little thin. I think maybe the world building just wasn't there and I never really got a decent feel for the kingdom or its inhabitants. It was a bit scarce on details so I had a hard time losing myself in the story. Added to that, the characters were subdued and didn't really do anything particularly exciting. I did like the 'Otherworld' stuff when it finally came up but even that was more 'cutesy to look at' rather than any kind of connection. Liobhan was a fiery, spirited sort but because her fake character wasn't she was a bit dull. Brocc was a bit off with the fairies (LOL) and then Dau became an entirely different person with little explanation, so even though I liked him I kinda resented that. The court stuff was all pretty shallow, and it just felt like there was no depth to story, world or characters. It was an okay read, but I never felt sucked in or even invested in what might happen. Things travelled along fairly slowly, and there was never any ominous sort of threat or villain to increase the pressure. I mean, the crow things were pretty underwhelming. I liked the idea of this story but the delivery was too slow and shallow for me. I need more action, whereas this is definitely a slow burn fantasy and likely setting up for a more extravagant series. I'm told this is fairly typical of this author, though, so if you've enjoyed her previous work this one is likely to still be a hit. With thanks to Macmillan for a complimentary copy to read and review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I'm even more excited about this one after seeing this from Juliet Marillier in answer to a question about whether she'll write more Blackthorn & Grim stories: The publishers didn't want a continuation of the series, but my new series, Warrior Bards, features the same setting and some of the same characters one generation on, so readers will find out what happened next for Blackthorn and Grim. The first book in the new series is The Harp of Kings, which comes out some time in 2019. Read the I'm even more excited about this one after seeing this from Juliet Marillier in answer to a question about whether she'll write more Blackthorn & Grim stories: The publishers didn't want a continuation of the series, but my new series, Warrior Bards, features the same setting and some of the same characters one generation on, so readers will find out what happened next for Blackthorn and Grim. The first book in the new series is The Harp of Kings, which comes out some time in 2019. Read the full Q&A here

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    Yay! I just got approved for the NetGalley ARC!! *throws confetti in air*

  12. 4 out of 5

    Justine

    4.5 stars Exactly what I was expecting from Juliet Marillier in terms of quality. I loved the story, and getting some idea of how things went for Blackthorn and Grim after their story came to a close was an extra bonus. Since it is Marillier, of course there were some emotional and tear-inducing parts. All around, so wonderful, and I'm already pining for another installment.

  13. 5 out of 5

    ʙᴇʟʟᴀ.: ☾**:.☆*.:。.

    Juliet Marillier my favorite writer of all time is writing a novel with a WARRIOR WOMAN as protagonist???!!!! OMG, my dream came true...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nia •ShadesOfPaper•

    You can find this review on my blog Shades of Paper. “To be the best, you must give body, heart and soul.” The Harp of Kings was my first dive into Juliet Marillier’s fantasy world, and I was so excited. I’ve been hearing amazing things about this book lately, and the premise sounded absolutely fantastic, so I went into it with such high expectations, and overall I ended up really enjoying this book, though I had some issues with certain elements of the story. Something that actually surprised You can find this review on my blog Shades of Paper. “To be the best, you must give body, heart and soul.” The Harp of Kings was my first dive into Juliet Marillier’s fantasy world, and I was so excited. I’ve been hearing amazing things about this book lately, and the premise sounded absolutely fantastic, so I went into it with such high expectations, and overall I ended up really enjoying this book, though I had some issues with certain elements of the story. Something that actually surprised me was how easy it was for me to get into this world. I was a bit intimidated by the length and the author, and was expecting the world building and the writing to be much harder, but I had no issue whatsoever getting into he story. I also enjoyed how the first few chapter set the tone of the story and made the reader intrigued to know what was going to happen. When it comes to the world and the magic, I have to say I was pretty impressed. I loved how we got to know the society and the world and creatures as we stepped farther into the novel, and how complex the world was. I would say that I found certain elements of the magic system a bit unexplained, and that made me feel that some of the things that happened and had something to do with that magic were a bit conveniently done, but for the most part, I was so pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed The Harp of Kings. “Who would not want to excel? Who would not want a chance to change the course of battles, or to influence the minds of the powerful?” My main issue with this novel had to do with the pacing. Though it was a pretty fast paced book given all the information given to us, I struggled a lot with it. It had such a slow burning plot, and because of that there were times where nothing was actually happening and I became a bit bored. I feel it dragged a bit in certain parts, and the ending was a bit rushed. There were other things that seemed a bit unnecessary and didn’t add much to the story, and made me feel a bit disconnected to what was going on. My other problem with The Harp of King regarded the characters. First of all, I have to say that I overall really enjoyed the cast of characters and the dynamics they shared throughout the story, and I think they all had their own individual growth. However, given the fact that I was so enamored with this book before reaching the half mark, I was a bit disappointed by how disconnected I became in the second half of the story. Maybe it was because nothing was actually going on and it was more focused on their everyday lives while being undercover, but I was expecting much more from them. I really enjoyed some of the relationships formed within the story, and think that the interactions between the characters were really well done and made sense in my head, but since this book is told in three different POVs, I found myself not as interesting in one of the perspectives as in the other two. Overall, I think The Harp of Kings was a solid book and I will definitely be picking up more by Juliet Marillier in the future. It’s true that I had some issues with the pacing and the characters, but the plot was super interesting and the relationships that bloomed throughout the story were pretty complex and interesting. I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This doesn’t change my opinion whatsoever. All thoughts are my own. “I’m about to promise I’ll stay out of trouble, but I stop myself. Promises have a habit of coming back to bite you.” Actual rating: 3.5 ★ Thank you Berkley and Ace for the ARC. Blog | Twitter | Instagram | BlogLovin’

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tien

    All I knew was that it's a new book by Juliet Marillier. I. Must. Read. It. I didn't really bother finding out what the book was about so you can just imagine my pleasure to find out when I started reading that it's set in the same universe as that of Blackthorn & Grimm's because I really loved that trilogy. The opening scene was exciting with a fight in the rain and being told from the perspective of Liobhan, it was easy to fall into the story & liking her. When perspective changed All I knew was that it's a new book by Juliet Marillier. I. Must. Read. It. I didn't really bother finding out what the book was about so you can just imagine my pleasure to find out when I started reading that it's set in the same universe as that of Blackthorn & Grimm's because I really loved that trilogy. The opening scene was exciting with a fight in the rain and being told from the perspective of Liobhan, it was easy to fall into the story & liking her. When perspective changed (there are 2 others, Brocc & Dau), I wasn't quite sure whether I was keen on the other 2 povs so it became a bit slow because I was reluctant to read these 2 but impatient to get on onto the next Liobhan's chapters. I think you all know this struggle with multiple povs. You find a favourite and tend to stick with them. There are some novels that I just can't get used to multiple povs but this isn't one of them. Even as I struggle with uncertainties with multiple characters, the tale itself progresses rather quickly and in the end, it was a rather fast read because I found that I could barely put it down. I enjoyed the dynamics between these 3 characters, Liobhan being the centre piece but I love how close the siblings are (Liobhan & Brocc) and the development of Dau's character and therefore, his relationship with Liobhan.  The Harp of Kings is really a comfort read for me so I've really enjoyed it. Points taken off only because I didn't feel the pull right from the beginning and one particular incident in the novel that I just didn't click with. Otherwise, I love this Otherwordly tale. I adore these Celtic infused stories by Marillier. I love how she combines my love for historical fantasy and mystery so this was a perfect read for me. If you loved Marillier's recent works, you'll enjoy this read too. This new series, Warrior Bards, promises to be one full of music, many stories, and intriguing mysteries. My thanks to MacMillan Australia for having me on this tour and  paperback copy of book in exchange of honest review

  16. 5 out of 5

    Carol (StarAngel's Reviews) Allen

    Book – The Harp of Kings Author – Juliet Marillier Series – Warrior Bards #1 Cliffhanger? - Yes Publication Date – September 3, 2019 Genre – Fantasy Type – Multiple POV (Liobhan, Brocc, Dau) Rating – 4.5 out of 5 Stars Complimentary copy generously provided by the author through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My Thoughts - Story Ms. Marillier always has such a talent at building such a fantastical world with amazing creatures and perfectly developed characters. Like take for instance… Book – The Harp of Kings Author – Juliet Marillier Series – Warrior Bards #1 Cliffhanger? - Yes Publication Date – September 3, 2019 Genre – Fantasy Type – Multiple POV (Liobhan, Brocc, Dau) Rating – 4.5 out of 5 Stars Complimentary copy generously provided by the author through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My Thoughts - Story Ms. Marillier always has such a talent at building such a fantastical world with amazing creatures and perfectly developed characters. Like take for instance…Liobhan and Dau – the way that they start out as competitors/enemies but their relationship doesn’t bloom overnight…it builds slowly throughout the book where lessons are learned and growing up is done. Re-Cap Liobhan and Brocc are brother and sister (not by blood) and they along with Dau are part of the training island of Swan Island. Liobhan and Brocc are also entertainers. They are chosen to go along on a mission to find out what happened to the stolen Harp of Kings. This is their adventure on finding out who has it and trying to weave through so many obstacles magical and non-magical – This is how they mature, learn lessons, and grow closer together. I’m not going to go into the story because I wouldn’t be able to do it justice. Reason for Reading – NetGalley Review Story – 5 out of 5 Stars Steam – 4 out of 5 Stars Angst – 5 out of 5 Stars Writing – 5 out of 5 Stars Content Flow – 5 out of 5 Stars Would Read More from Author? Definitely Recommend To – Fantasy lovers who like female protagonists

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lata

    4.5 harps. A terrific beginning to a new series by Juliet Marillier. The character work was great, as usual, with complicated motivations and emotions at work amongst the three PoV warrior-trainees. I haven’t read this author’s Blackthorn and Grim series yet, and thankfully it’s not necessary to fully enjoy this book.There are connections to Marillier’s Sevenwaters series also, though again familiarity with that series is not critical to this story’s action. I love Marillier's writing style, and 4.5 harps. A terrific beginning to a new series by Juliet Marillier. The character work was great, as usual, with complicated motivations and emotions at work amongst the three PoV warrior-trainees. I haven’t read this author’s Blackthorn and Grim series yet, and thankfully it’s not necessary to fully enjoy this book. There are connections to Marillier’s Sevenwaters series also, though again familiarity with that series is not critical to this story’s action. I love Marillier's writing style, and this book was a welcome return for me to her version of Ireland. I loved the interactions between the characters, their emotional growth, and the references to her other series, and now just want to get on book two, which, darn it, isn't out till next year.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lorena

    I have been a long-time fan of Juliet Marillier's writing and the worlds she has created, but this effort felt a little flat to me. There was still action and adventure and spying, in the human world and among the fae, but we didn't spend enough time with the three main characters or their backstories to really care about them deeply. Instead, this felt like a sketch for what should have been a longer book. I was happy to revisit some of the places and people from previous Marillier books (and I have been a long-time fan of Juliet Marillier's writing and the worlds she has created, but this effort felt a little flat to me. There was still action and adventure and spying, in the human world and among the fae, but we didn't spend enough time with the three main characters or their backstories to really care about them deeply. Instead, this felt like a sketch for what should have been a longer book. I was happy to revisit some of the places and people from previous Marillier books (and their descendants), but I found myself longing for the slower and more dreamy pacing of her earlier works.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    This return to Marillier's ancient Ireland introduces three young trainees for the elite warrior society of Swan Island and has them sent on a mission to find the missing Harp of Kings. There are Liobhan, a powerful warrior and musician, her brother Brocc who's talent for music is even greater and Dau, a prince who considers himself their rival. The Harp of Kings is required for the upcoming coronation of the new King of Breifne and must be found for the people to accept him. But there's a This return to Marillier's ancient Ireland introduces three young trainees for the elite warrior society of Swan Island and has them sent on a mission to find the missing Harp of Kings. There are Liobhan, a powerful warrior and musician, her brother Brocc who's talent for music is even greater and Dau, a prince who considers himself their rival. The Harp of Kings is required for the upcoming coronation of the new King of Breifne and must be found for the people to accept him. But there's a mystery, because the Harp has gone missing from a place it should not have been able to do so, and who had motive or ability to take it? Liobhan and Brocc are related to characters from earlier books in this universe, and the Swan Island they're training at should be familiar from the Sevenwaters books. Even so, this book doesn't require knowledge of earlier works. Unfortunately, I felt this wasn't this author at her best. While Liobhan and Dau are excellent characters and are both stretched in this book, I don't think either of them are as compelling as Blackthorn and Grim were. (Brocc is good too, but his contribution is slighter.) On top of that, I felt that the actual mystery here only really works because people aren't talking about things that they'd believably be talking about, and that a certain person in the books is more close-mouthed than she needed to be. Still characterization is where this author has always shone in my opinion, and that's at full force here. Not every character can be Mistress Blackthorn.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Review from Tenacious Reader: http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2019/0... After reading the Blackthorn and Grim series by Marillier, I just knew I had to read more of her work. While I’ve not yet made time for backlist books, this start to a new series was irresistible. It also had a double whammy for expectations. First, I loved her other books so much, that my standards for Marillier are pretty high. Second, I found the premise of this series a must read no matter who the author was. The Review from Tenacious Reader: http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2019/0... After reading the Blackthorn and Grim series by Marillier, I just knew I had to read more of her work. While I’ve not yet made time for backlist books, this start to a new series was irresistible. It also had a double whammy for expectations. First, I loved her other books so much, that my standards for Marillier are pretty high. Second, I found the premise of this series a must read no matter who the author was. The protagonist is a women who is both a warrior and a bard, a real a bad-ass female lead. Seriously? Can you fit all those things I love into one character? Yep. Marillier nailed it. Liobhan and her brother are training and going through trials to become members of an elite warrior team, trained on Swan Island. From a physical standpoint, she is fierce. She will use any advantage she can when facing an opponent, which is probably a necessity when she’s fighting men who are much larger than she is. But she is also more than just a physical fighter When her and her brother are chosen for a real mission before they have even completed their training, they find out it is not just their fighting ability, but also their musical ability that landed them the spots on the team. I love how their talent as musicians allows them to serve as spies. We get to see and learn more about them as people and their personalities during the mission. The book really shows the characters grow and learn in the area of trust as well as realizing that they can’t take everything at face value. They learn to work with a team that includes at least one member that was not kind or likeable during their training. I enjoyed seeing the characters relationships grow as they were around each other more and learn to appreciate qualities in each other that they initially did not see. In the way of romance, there’s not much. Yet. There does seem to be a very slow burn romance being set up for the series, but it is slow enough that there is nothing to speak of for the main characters from book one other than speculation and hints. I always find romances like this much more satisfying in the series as a whole, so I am really looking forward to finding out what happens for sure. There is another romance feature that comes on somewhat quickly, but it worked well and did not detract from the overall story. Honestly, that romance made sense to me. So overall, this was another amazing book from Marillier. I really can’t recommend her books enough (and I can’t wait for the next installment in this series).

  21. 4 out of 5

    Katie Gallagher

    For more fun bookish stuff, check out my blog! Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. The Harp of Kings debuted September 3rd. I have a lot of respect for Juliet Marillier for writing the Sevenwaters trilogy. It’s been years since I read the first Sevenwaters book, but I remember it being absolutely fantastic. I also read Wildwood Dancing last year, which I loved, and I’m looking forward to reading the For more fun bookish stuff, check out my blog! Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. The Harp of Kings debuted September 3rd. I have a lot of respect for Juliet Marillier for writing the Sevenwaters trilogy. It’s been years since I read the first Sevenwaters book, but I remember it being absolutely fantastic. I also read Wildwood Dancing last year, which I loved, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel. So knowing that Marillier is an industry heavyweight and a fantastic writer, I couldn’t request an ARC of The Harp of Kings fast enough. This is the start of a new series, with three books already listed on Goodreads, and the premise seemed great: a shadowy fantasy organization that gets contracted for missions (basically a fantasy CIA), whose latest quest is to recover a stolen harp that is crucial to a coronation ceremony. The three young main characters on the mission are vying to be fully inducted into the organization; this mission will be their proving ground. Cool, right? So with all this said, you can’t imagine how disappointed I was to read this book and have a difficult time connecting with it. Many of the characters, and especially the dialogue, felt wooden, like it was missing some spark of life. Much of the action also felt too unrealistic for my taste. To give an example, the female MC has an encounter with the detestable heir-to-throne, where he tries to rape her and she shoves him, causing him to fall and hit his head hard. Through the eyes of characters in a medieval setting, this is understandably seen as her attacking the heir. The fall-out from the incident, however, was less than serious; after a bit of politicking, all she needs to do is give him a formal apology and the incident is more or less in the past. This punishment-not-punishment is meted out by the heir’s advisors; despite the fact that he is a man about to take the throne, he’s essentially not able to follow through on his now hatred for the female MC. The whole thing just felt extremely unrealistic to me; I have a very tough time believing that there weren’t more serious consequences for the female MC. (Please understand that I’m not taking the side of the heir, but just questioning the logic of the narrative choices.) I also had a very tough time with the ending. Spoiler incoming in: 3… 2… 1… There is a literal hand-of-God moment where the question about who should be the true king is decided by a celestial presence on high shining a light on the one they favor. It was a textbook definition of a deus ex machina. This then followed by a denouement that featured more wooden dialogue, with all the flair of an HR exit interview. “What part of this mission gave you the most satisfaction?” This surprising question comes from Illann. Dau catches my eye and we both grin. Neither of us is going to mention that escapade at the wall. “To be honest,” he says, “I spent most of our stay at Breifne feeling anything but satisfaction. I was pleased when Liobhan got Brocc out of that place. And I was pleased when the harp ended up in the right hands.” “And you, Liobhan?” “Working as a team. We got better at that. We learned as we went along. Only… without Brocc we’re not so much of a team. Sorry.” Do you see what I mean? This is a book that has a great, interesting premise, but fell short in the execution. If you are a diehard Marillier fan then by all means check it out (I’m pretty sure it has some Easter eggs in there for her fans), but sadly I won’t be continuing with this series unless I hear very different things about the second book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Clephiro (The Book Coven)

    Liobhan and her brother Brocc are training on a warrior island. They are sent along with Dau on a mission to recover the Harp of Kings in time for the new king to be crowned. Of course, being a story from Marillier, supernatural things abound. It's full of Marillier's classic writing, and the characters are amazing, especially Liobhan. My only gripe is that I wish that Liobhan had more fight scenes, but Marillier has always been a bit more about the feelings.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sophie

    This is not a perfect book. The plot is thin and I don't find this story super memorable. That being said, I adored the writing and the characters, and reading it just made me feel so happy and absorbed in the story. I love Juliet's writing so much. I just wanted to take my time and read this forever. My favorite character was Dau, which was surprising, I can't wait to read more about him in future books. And hopefully the plot will be something that will improve as well. I'd definitely This is not a perfect book. The plot is thin and I don't find this story super memorable. That being said, I adored the writing and the characters, and reading it just made me feel so happy and absorbed in the story. I love Juliet's writing so much. I just wanted to take my time and read this forever. My favorite character was Dau, which was surprising, I can't wait to read more about him in future books. And hopefully the plot will be something that will improve as well. I'd definitely recommend some of her other books over this one.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sydney Smith

    PLOT: 4 stars, CHARACTERS: 4 stars, WRITING STYLE: 3 stars, CREATIVITY: 4 stars, FIRST HALF ENJOYMENT: 2.5 stars, SECOND HALF ENJOYMENT: 4 stars, ENDING: 5 stars I am so glad I didn’t read the Goodreads summary before I read the book. Basically spoils the first half of the book. If you want to be surprised, you probably won’t be reading reviews either, so my warning might not save anyone, but just in case. Also, I wrote most of this review while reading, so I’m going to give an overall-enjoyment PLOT: 4 stars, CHARACTERS: 4 stars, WRITING STYLE: 3 stars, CREATIVITY: 4 stars, FIRST HALF ENJOYMENT: 2.5 stars, SECOND HALF ENJOYMENT: 4 stars, ENDING: 5 stars I am so glad I didn’t read the Goodreads summary before I read the book. Basically spoils the first half of the book. If you want to be surprised, you probably won’t be reading reviews either, so my warning might not save anyone, but just in case. Also, I wrote most of this review while reading, so I’m going to give an overall-enjoyment paragraph here first. I really enjoyed this book after reaching the halfway point. The first half was constantly up and down, from interesting to boring, back and forth. It took me a while to be fully invested in the story, but if you don’t mind a slow first 200 pages, the last half is truly wonderful, and the ending is perfect. There’s a cliffhanger, but it’s an obvious and necessary one that makes me curse reading this so early and having to wait forever for the next book. Along the way, there are some heart wrenching, tearjerker moments, a very small amount of romance (barely enough to even note, more of a hint at a romance, but it’s so well done), interesting friendships, exciting action (later in the book), and some unexpected reveals. The writing style wasn’t to my liking, but it didn’t have too great of an impact on my rating. I knew Marillier’s writing style going into this so I had an idea of what to expect. Ok, now onto the specifics. The Harp of Kings is so much better than Wildwood Dancing, the other Juliet Marillier book I’ve read. The Harp of Kings is more mature and much less frustrating/infuriating. A tale about minstrel warriors is certainly a unique one, and there isn’t any of the bizarre incestual romance stuff in this one. Unfortunately, it seems either Marillier has a thing for writing characters who are insufferable bullies, or I just happen to have read the two books with those type characters. (view spoiler)[There are two main ones in this story, and although one of the bullies has a “change of heart” in a way, it’s still not super interesting to read about an idiot bully verbally or physically attacking innocent characters. I’m sure there’s a way to write them, but I don’t think Marillier does it very well. I’ve read worse, but I can’t pretend I was happy with the way some of Marillier’s bully scenes were transcribed. (hide spoiler)] CHARACTERS: I like that it was a first-person present narrative where the person narrating changed each chapter. We see through the eyes of Liobhan, our badass and multitalented leading lady, Brocc, her sweet but combat capable brother, and Dau, a somewhat mysterious guy in combat training with Liobhan and Brocc. Dau and Brocc’s chapters are a little tight sounding, like they don’t like to use contractions or something, and it seems that even their thoughts are formal. I don’t hate it, it’s just different. I do prefer Liobhan’s chapters for the first half of the book, but Dau’s change after that and become much better. Dau is the most interesting character and my favorite, although Liobhan is a close second. She makes this book a perfect addition to my Girl Power shelf and I loved reading her chapters, but Dau has the most development. I thought I would hate him, but he just got more and more interesting as the story progresses. (view spoiler)[ Poor, poor Dau. There are quite a few mentions of abuse in this book, towards more than one character. Dau’s story doesn’t seem like a cheap trick to me, but I can't say it's unexpected. (hide spoiler)] I like the brother/sister relationship, especially since I can’t remember the last time I’ve read a book that had one. I admit I found most of Brocc’s chapters to be boring and dull, but I trudged through them since they’re important to the story. I think it was partly because Brocc is a calm dude so his thoughts aren’t super entertaining, but the druids also take a long time to get interesting. A good bit of Brocc’s chapters concern druids. Fortunately, Brocc has the least number of chapters in the book. We also have Archu and Illann, two of the Swan Island trainers who teaches Liobhan, Brocc, and Dau. I think it was an interesting choice to make two of the main characters older. Most of the time in books like this everyone is around the same age, usually no older than 18. Archu and Illann are great characters, as are the other older people in this book (druids, councilors, seamstresses, the regent, etc.) It works. I’m surprised to see that the minor characters have quite a bit of depth to them. More so than you’d imagine, especially for those who rarely have dialogue. I don’t want to name all of them because you may want to go into your reading without knowing who will be important. I was impressed with the way Marillier managed to give such complexity to these side characters. I’m not a big fan of any of the lesser characters in Brocc’s chapters, (view spoiler)[all of those in the Otherworld, (hide spoiler)] and they probably have the least depth, in my opinion, but most everyone else in this story is well-rounded. There’s a surprisingly large amount of diversity in personalities and motivations. I love that there’s a character list at the front of the book, but the pronunciations versus the spellings of some of the names is ridiculous. Liobhan being pronounced LEE-vaun makes sense because of how Siobhan is pronounced. It’s an Irish name, and I assume this book is supposed to take place in a fantasy world similar to Ireland, or maybe it really is Ireland, just a very ancient version. Anyway, I get Liobhan. But Brigid (Breed), Ciara (KEE-ra), Cathra (Ko-hra), Odhar (Ohr), Eithne (EH-nyeh), Iomhar (EE-var), and Cliodhna (KLEE-en-a), to name a few, threw me. Maybe I’m just not very worldly, but it was confusing, at least initially. I wasn’t crazy about having to look back at the pronunciations page whenever a new character was mentioned and I had to catch myself before I formed a pronunciation in my head of that character and make sure it was accurate. That’s a bratty complaint for me to make, but I want to give every thought I had in case someone who reads this is put off by that. It wasn’t a big deal at all the further into the book I got, and by the halfway point I was over it completely, I just felt like it was unnecessarily tedious for a YA novel. Is it really a YA novel though? I don’t know. So, on that note, this book has some trouble deciding if it’s young adult or adult/epic fantasy. There are some mature situations but sometimes they’re put to the page in an immature way. One example that kind of set the tone for me was on the very first page: Shit! Who would want to do this for the rest of their life? I must be crazy. “Go for his nuts!” someone shouts. Liobhan is 18 years old, so I guess if you look at this book on the surface, that makes it a young adult book. It’s on the line for me though. Some parts in the beginning are annoying and immature, other parts are decidedly more mature. It gets off to a weird start but after a while I started to forget I was reading a book that’s supposedly YA fantasy. It just didn’t feel like it fit that category. There’s a lot more to it than you usually find in that group. DETAILS: The plot, when condensed down to the main plot points, was one of the best things about The Harp of Kings. I can’t remember a book I’ve read that had two names for characters. Since this is an espionage/mystery/who-dun-it story, it made things more interesting that our main characters had code names. As I mentioned before, the whole minstrel warrior thing is also a creative touch. I love it when badass characters are more than just walking weapons. There’s a lot of minor characters that come in and a lot of gossip our characters listen to, and these sections could be tedious. I didn’t really care about a lot of it. I also didn’t really care about half of the insane details in the first half of this story. I don’t know about you, but if someone gives me a play-by-play of grooming a horse and then a play-by-play of grabbing a basin afterwards, filling it with water, washing themselves, blah blah blah, I’m going to skim those paragraphs. I just can’t do it more than a few times and this book is full of these descriptive paragraphs. If you’re into that, you will love this book, and I don’t mean to knock that kind of writing style if that’s your thing. It just isn’t mine. I want to know the details of what a character’s jail cell looks/smells/sounds like, or everything about a character’s appearance, the city’s layout, even what the imaginary food looks and tastes like if it’s not familiar. But I don’t care how someone cleans a horse, or every single nook and cranny of a cave dwelling that has no importance to the story whatsoever and will never be mentioned again, or the excruciating details of the exact moves of 20 different exercises someone is doing before class. Just tell me they did a warmup of a jog and some pushups, then get back to the plot please. The writing style, even outside the descriptions, wasn’t my thing. It didn’t flow well and half the time the sentences were awkward to read in my head. There were a lot of clipped and disjointed sentences that didn’t feel right. I got used to it eventually and I’m sure if you make it to the halfway point you will too. Maybe I’m just being too picky. I did love the writing in Liobhan’s chapters, and Dau’s got better with time. MAGIC SYSTEM? I initially thought this would be a fantasy book only in setting (and I guess the whole warrior spy thing is fantastical). Turns out there are elements of magic too, once you get far enough into the story. There’s mention of druidic magic, Fair Folk (like faeries), strange creatures like the Crow Folk, and portals to a place called the Otherworld. It’s weird though because some people in this world don’t believe in magical stuff at all. One specific character repeatedly and angrily denies all things “uncanny” as “superstitions” and there are many who agree with him. I guess they’re like people who claim climate change is “fake news” and I should accept that there are ignorant fools in every world. It did bother me though, because at times we were told about magical things that were just dropped in our laps as if we should have expected it, and other times when I think we were supposed to question if any of it was real. I was worried the ending would be one of those “and it was all a crazy dream” copouts. In the first half of the book there were things that I think were supposed to be “surprise twists” in the story. I felt like they were more of a “here, take this thingamabob. What do you mean you don’t know what to do with it? Everyone knows how to use thingamabobs!” There are a few of Brocc’s chapters that just lay something down without explaining the purpose. I basically learned to shrug and move on, but the good thing is that it does get better eventually. The first 1/4th of the book was how I’d imagine a stakeout would feel. Just sitting around waiting for something to happen. Thankfully, the wait leads to something pretty great. You just have to hold out for longer than I’d have liked. You get some great twists in the last 1/4th of the book. Obviously I’m not going to spoil them, but they made it worth reading The Harp of Kings. I’ll definitely read the next book in this series! I guess I should check out the Blackthorn & Grim series now since I've heard it features the parents of two of the characters.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mel (Daily Prophecy)

    *crying* Do you see these tears? HAPPY TEARS. I will never stop being excited about a new Marillier book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn Speckels (Metaphors and Miscellanea)

    Prior to winning this book in a Goodreads Giveaway, I had not heard of Juliet Marillier. Apparently, her most popular books came out when I was still a little too young to read them, but after skimming some of her info on Goodreads, I realized she has quite a devoted fanbase. Now, having read The Harp of Kings, I can see why. Brimming with Celtic mythology, fierce warriors, passionate musicians, and memorable characters, this book feels like a classic quest fantasy in all the best ways. So, let’s Prior to winning this book in a Goodreads Giveaway, I had not heard of Juliet Marillier. Apparently, her most popular books came out when I was still a little too young to read them, but after skimming some of her info on Goodreads, I realized she has quite a devoted fanbase. Now, having read The Harp of Kings, I can see why. Brimming with Celtic mythology, fierce warriors, passionate musicians, and memorable characters, this book feels like a classic quest fantasy in all the best ways. So, let’s start with the main characters. I love them all, and they’re possibly the biggest thing I love about this book. They’re fully developed, and the book rotates nicely between their three points of view, each with a distinct voice (which, you know, can be a really hard thing for an author to pull off well). Here’s a snapshot of each of them: Liobhan: tough warrior girl, talented whistle player, loyal sister, general badass with some impulse control issues. She’s our primary narrator, and, in keeping with a theme in recent books I’ve been reading, she’s exactly the sort of protagonist I like to root for. She is fiercely dedicated to her brother, Brocc, and she is determined to prove herself worthy at all costs—even though that sometimes involves breaking the rules and/or speaking out when she probably shouldn’t. Love this girl, and would totally be her friend, want to see more of her. Brocc: sensitive soul, can hold his own in a fight, an unparalleled harpist and singer, has more than a few secrets. I had mixed feelings about Brocc early on in the book, but as time passed and some of his backstory came to life, he became the most intriguing of the characters, if not always the most interesting to read about. That’s not his fault—he gets pulled away from the main quest after a while, so his chapters have a bit less action and a bit more thinking. Still, he’s a smart cookie, and I love how his thoughts are often interspersed with sudden flashes of inspiration on songs he wants to write about where he’s going. He is truly a musician, first and foremost, even if he’s training to be a warrior/spy. Dau: outwardly tough but inwardly broken, running from a horrible past, slow to trust, a fighter like no other, as dedicated as it is humanly possible to be. He’s my favorite, for sure (but then, I love characters with complex and traumatic histories, especially when you can just tell that they have a heart of gold under their prickly exterior). I don’t want to spoil too much about him, because his character evolves the most over the course of the story, and I don’t want you to go in with any false preconceived notions, but…man, I would take a bullet for this guy. I don’t love the plot description that the publisher gives, so here’s my brief synopsis (no spoilers, of course): the kingdom of Breifne is in trouble. Prince Rodan is nearing his eighteenth birthday, when he is set to inherit the throne, which is currently being held by the regent Lord Cathra. There are just two problems: first, the Harp of Kings—a ceremonial instrument used to show divine favor for each new monarch—has gone missing. And second, Rodan is not really the sort of guy you want to be king. Enter the people of Swan Island, where warriors are trained for the most important of missions. Three of the island’s students (Liobhan, Brocc, and Dau), along with two of their instructors, set out for Breifne, disguised as traveling minstrels, a farrier, and a mute apprentice, to search for the harp and try to retrieve it before the coronation. Espionage is not always easy, though, and it soon becomes apparent that the problem is much bigger than just some malcontents opposed to the royal family. There are druids, fairies, wise-women, and court members, all conspiring and quarrelling in secret, while the lives and happiness of others are caught in the balance. I already gave you a rundown of things I loved about the main characters, so I won’t reiterate those, but I did love how their three very separate stories became increasingly more closely connected, especially as the individual clues they found gradually came together to resolve the mystery of where the harp went, and why. By the end of the book, the switching points of view were no longer jumps to different scenes; they were just different perspectives on the same narrative line, depending on whose insight was most relevant. The side characters they interacted with were vivid as well, from the innocent young Aislinn to the gentle-yet-respected Faelan to the mysterious-yet-helpful Mistress Juniper the downright awful Prince Rodan himself. Speaking of the awful Prince Rodan, I should note that Marillier does not shy away from difficult topics in this one. The characters have been through some awful experiences, especially Dau, and those experiences don’t just magically disappear; they creep back into the characters’ thoughts and influence their future decisions. Dealing with difficult life situations also drives the choices of some of the side characters, which in turn shapes the path the main characters have to take. A few more notes that don’t really fit anywhere: -Marillier is a masterful worldbuilder. The history and politics of Breifne are well-developed, with complex family histories and mythologies that have evolved over time, as well as traditions whose roots are forgotten and groups who have been sidelined and are less-than-happy about it. The whole world really sprang from the page. - There is not much romance in this book. Not that there wasn’t any, but it was subtle, and it was mostly buildup toward what I hope will be further explored in the rest of the series. I, for one, was pretty happy with that choice; it let us focus on the plot and characters, not just who we wanted to ship with whom. I could keep going for ages, but it would probably just turn into an extended rant about things I loved about this book, so I’ll leave it at this: if you want a good old-fashioned fantasy with a beating heart and vibrant world, this is a great pick. 5/5 stars, would definitely recommend. Trigger/content warnings: child abuse, sexual assault, mention of suicide, torture/killing of an animal. All handled very well, and none are too graphic, but they are not shied away from either. I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher through a Goodreads giveaway (thank you!). This has not influenced my rating in any way.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Taneika

    CW: Sexual assault, physical abuse. Until this, I had never picked up a Juliet Marillier book. Now, I think I'm going to have to binge read more from her. Long story short, this book was ADDICTIVE. This story follows Liobhan and Brocc, who are brother and sister and in training on Swan Island to become part of an elite group of warriors. The pair both love music and due to their talent, they are selected to go on a secret mission disguised as travelling musicians to retrieve a harp that has been CW: Sexual assault, physical abuse. Until this, I had never picked up a Juliet Marillier book. Now, I think I'm going to have to binge read more from her. Long story short, this book was ADDICTIVE.  This story follows Liobhan and Brocc, who are brother and sister and in training on Swan Island to become part of an elite group of warriors. The pair both love music and due to their talent, they are selected to go on a secret mission disguised as travelling musicians to retrieve a harp that has been stolen before it needs to be used in the new King's coronation ritual. This story is told from three different perspectives and I loved each and every one. Of course there were times where I wish a perspective didn't end, but each perspective bought so much more to the story and the world, that I was equally attached to all of them. Liobhan is intelligent, physically strong, stubborn and ambitious and I absolutely adored her. She has a love and talent for music, however she is equally as passionate about fighting and training to become a warrior. Brocc, her brother is also training to become a warrior, however his passion for music is even more intense and he is extraordinarily talented and his love for stories and lore was so great to read about. The third perspective is from Dau. At first I didn't really like Dau and thought he was a bit of a sexist wanker tbh but I eventually warmed up to him when he continued to grow as a character. Dau had a very traumatic childhood and doesn't want to become friends with his fellow trainees on Swan Island, but he eventually begins to warm to the idea. I ended up liking Dau as much as I liked Liobhan and Brocc which I did NOT expect when I first read from his perspective! I absolutely adored the worldbuilding! Juliet Marillier manages to somehow create vivid imagery and a detailed world without having great long descriptions. There are fae realms, kingdoms and forrests with terrifying creatures, all of which I could picture super vividly and I think it's a testament to how great her writing is. Speaking of writing, Marillier's writing is EXCELLENT. It's pretty and fanciful, but easy to read. The plot was fast paced, exciting and I found myself constantly saying "Okay, just ONE more chapter" (and then I continued to read several more). My absolute favourite part of this book were the character relationships. The protectiveness and love between Liobhan and Brocc was really well done, I LOVED how the relationship between Dau and Liobhan developed too (Dau's character development was just A+ in general, okay). There were loads of other interactions and relationships I loved, but I absolutely adored when Liobhan made friends with a little girl at court and taught her the whistle <3 I did find myself a little frustrated at times due to the blatant sexist attitudes towards Every Woman Ever in this book, but Liobhan felt these frustrations too and if anything, it made me want to cheer her on even more. Overall, this has quickly become one of my new favourite fantasy novels. The Harp of Kings is full of wonderful details, beautiful writing, well developed characters and an addictive plot and it'll definitely leave you wanting more. I recently discovered that Marillier has another series which is directly related to this one, so I definitely know what I'm going to pick up soon!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    This begins terribly. It’s stilted. It’s almost - rusty, in a way - painstakingly put together, but it still squeaks. Despite the deliberate quality to the writing, the pacing is uneven, and the backstory is dispensed with awkward stinginess. The point of view jumps feel unnecessary and the voices aren’t clearly distinguishable. The dialogue is inconsistent and shifts in tone, sometimes in a single conversation, and the plot begins with a series of events that feel trite and unimportant, strung This begins terribly. It’s stilted. It’s almost - rusty, in a way - painstakingly put together, but it still squeaks. Despite the deliberate quality to the writing, the pacing is uneven, and the backstory is dispensed with awkward stinginess. The point of view jumps feel unnecessary and the voices aren’t clearly distinguishable. The dialogue is inconsistent and shifts in tone, sometimes in a single conversation, and the plot begins with a series of events that feel trite and unimportant, strung together unevenly and with no regard to establishing a setting. I really, really disliked the first seventy-five pages of this book. And then something strange happened: I bought into it. It became more fey, which helped. It became more self-aware, which helped. It specifically became more aware of its own fey quality, its own myths, which suggests to me that Marillier’s strengths aren’t in Tamora Pierce Lite but in precisely this sort of writing: small-scale quiet epics with big choices, decent people, and various degrees of loss and heartbreak. It’s not perfect, that last two-thirds. There are too many slip-ups that go consequence-free. Characters are involved in incomprehensible plot points. The politics are convoluted in a way that’s never fully resolved. The ending is more Tamora Pierce Lite than I would have liked. But it’s quiet and assured and just a touch surprising in a way that becomes compelling.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Karina Webster

    Juliet Marillier does it again. What a wonderful adventure in the world of the fae & Medieval Ireland. I would just like to preface this review with a little context of where this novel sits in the Marillier-verse. It’s set after the Blackthorn & Grim series and starts in a place created / introduced in the Sevenwaters series. There is also a very brief mention of a warrior that was a ‘Wolfskin’ and considering she has a a book called Wolfskin, I would say they’re all set in the same Juliet Marillier does it again. What a wonderful adventure in the world of the fae & Medieval Ireland. I would just like to preface this review with a little context of where this novel sits in the Marillier-verse. It’s set after the Blackthorn & Grim series and starts in a place created / introduced in the Sevenwaters series. There is also a very brief mention of a warrior that was a ‘Wolfskin’ and considering she has a a book called Wolfskin, I would say they’re all set in the same time & world. I haven’t finished Sevenwaters yet ( read 1 - 4) nor finished Blackthorn & Grim and I don’t think it affected my enjoyment or understanding of these characters or story. I do kinda regret not having read the B&G trilogy though, as I do think I’d have understood a bit more of Brocc & Liobhan’s backstory if I had. If you’re a bit of a completionist, I would recommend reading those first. ANYWAY. The Harp of Kings was really fun. We follow Liobhan, Brocc and Dau as they fight for a place at the legendary Swan Island and are sent on a very important undercover mission to retrieve The Harp of Kings by Midsummer’s Day or a certain kingdom will fall into chaos and ruin. Unlike some of Marillier’s stories, The Harp of Kings is quite fast paced and follows a standard quest based plot. It is not like the early Sevenwaters stories where we have slow, character focussed journeys and really grow to know and love a cast of characters. That’s not to say I didn’t connect with Liobhan & co., I really did, but the cast is much smaller and the story focusses more on plot than character development. In fact, the character development was quite unsubtle at times and perhaps a little trope-y. However, Marillier’s writing is beautiful as always and I enjoyed the song lyrics created by the true bard of the piece, Brocc. Especially the one at the end. It may haunt me. I find 4 star reviews quite hard to write as there is nothing wrong with this story, I very much enjoyed it and will continue to read everything Juliet Marillier ever writes, but something was missing. It’s hard to pinpoint: perhaps I just miss the romance element that normally shines quite strongly in her work, or perhaps I would have preferred it to have been a little longer so we could have really got stuck into the characters. Ultimately, I think it’s because I just didn’t enjoy it as much as Son of the Shadows. Overall though, I loved it, I will definitely reread it & it was worth the wait! Bring on book two, and please oh please still be following Liobhan et al. I need to know more!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Allyce Cameron

    ”I cannot come with you wherever you go, And I cannot stay by you in joy and in woe, But I’ll be beside you, though gone from your sight, I’ll love you and guard you till we meet in the light.” And this is why Juliet Marillier is one of my favourite authors of all time. I loved this book. LOVED IT. I laughed, I cried and I just want more. I need to know what happens next. Sure, it’s somewhat predictable and has some classic tropes we all know. But they’re the ones I love, the ones I fall for every ”I cannot come with you wherever you go, And I cannot stay by you in joy and in woe, But I’ll be beside you, though gone from your sight, I’ll love you and guard you till we meet in the light.” And this is why Juliet Marillier is one of my favourite authors of all time. I loved this book. LOVED IT. I laughed, I cried and I just want more. I need to know what happens next. Sure, it’s somewhat predictable and has some classic tropes we all know. But they’re the ones I love, the ones I fall for every damn time. And it’s just so beautifully written, but not flowery so that it takes away from the fast paced action going on. Lyrical and wonderful, it makes me believe in magic. Highly, highly recommend.

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