by Juliet Marillier
A few months back, myself and my fellow co-bloggers decided to get organized. One of the first things I did was make a spreadsheet of all the ARCs (advanced reader copies) we had, sorted by date of release.
I felt terrible while making it.
Being granted ARCs is a privilege. We’re located in the U.S., which means that for some odd reason, publishers give us priority with digital and physical ARCs. The fact that we had such a large, unread backlog of them made me feel guilty AF and ungrateful to boot.
So, my goal going forward was to work through our backlog of them before either buying or requesting new books. The Harp of Kings is one of the first ones on the list, and lemme tell you, if I felt like an asshole before reading it, I feel even worse now. We got this ARC almost a year ago and I sort of hate myself for not immediately diving into it.
Because it was so freaking good.
This is a fantasy series with three main characters: Brocc, Liobhan, and Dau. Brocc and Liobhan are siblings, Dau is the son of a chieftan (kind of like a nobleman). All three of them are training to become elite soldiers in a place called Swan Island.
They’ve spent the past several years learning swordplay, hand-to-hand combat, spying, and deception. As they close in on their final trials, a chance comes along for them to put their fledgling skills to the test.
In the country of Breifne, kings are chosen based on an ancient ritual, one that was forged between mankind and the uncanny (a sort of fae-like folk that few people still believe in). During it, The Harp of Kings is played. If it’s not, no king can be chosen, which is why it’s such a big deal when it goes missing just before a new king is supposed to be crowned. The regeant of Breifne, terrified that it won’t be found in time, sends a desperate request to the warriors of Swan Island for aid.
Brocc and Liobhan are both musically talented. Their part of the mission is to slip into the high court as traveling minstrels and try to find the harp before the day of the ritual. Dau is there because of his skill. He’s a big sonofagun, and handsome to boot. He’s also prideful, so when he’s tasked with playing a mute stablehand, it’s understandable that he chafes at the role.
This book is told in three first-person POVs, through Brocc, Liobhan, and Dau, and it is done really well. Each have their own, unique voices. Even without the chapter headings, you’d know immediately whose perspective you were reading. What I especially enjoyed was that they all had their own storylines and demons to battle (both inner and outer), paired with the fact that each of them uncovered clues of their own as to what was really going on, and only by working together could they figure it out.
This is more than just a story about a missing harp. Woven beneath that is a subplot of good vs evil, magic vs fear, and humanity vs the uncanny. It’s also about personal growth, centered around that special time in our lives between youth and adulthood, when we realize that eventually we need to grow up, own our actions, and find our voices.
There are also two romantic subplots that I am really excited to read about as the series progresses, which is part of why I bought the next one the second I finished this.
If you’re into older YA fantasy that stands out from the pack, you should definitely add this one to your TBR.