THE HARP OF KINGS - Juliet Marillier 
Warrior Bards  - Book 1
ISBN-13: 978-0451492784 (paperback)
ISBN-13: 978-0451492791 (ebook)
September 2019

Medieval Erin (Ireland)

Swan Island is where warrior spies are trained, some of whom possess other talents to assist their investigation and cover as spies. Liobhan (Lee-vaun) and her brother Brocc, along with another late-teen young man, Dau, go through training and testing for positions, each determined to be among the top three trainees selected to stay as permanent Swan Island warriors. Archu is the group's combat trainer. Something unexpected happens. The island leader takes Liobhan and Brocc, who are both good musicians and singers, from their training and sends them on a special mission with Archu. Another island warrior, Illann, along with Dau, will form a backup team. They will leave all identifiable belongings behind, including their names. It seems the King of Breifne's (Bref-neh) coronation is always confirmed on midsummer's day by the playing of the Harp of Kings, an ancient instrument kept safely protected and hidden in a cave of a nearby Druid sanctuary. But the harp has disappeared. The regent of Breifne has asked the Swan Island spy-warriors to come to court and find the harp before the coronation takes place and to find out who took it and why. Each of the team members will take on a new name and position for the mission. Liobhan becomes Ciara, her brother Brocc becomes Donal. They will become minstrels with their leader Archu, who becomes Art. The backup team is Illann, who becomes the farrier Eoan along with Dau who becomes Nesson as an assistant farrier. 

Forthright Liobhan, a very capable woman fighter and musician, finds her mission hampered by her dislike of the soon to be king, Prince Rodan, who is a bully and never thinks of the consequences of his actions. 

Her brother Brocc is an excellent harpist musician and singer who also writes songs. He is a good fighter, but he is a dreamer with a vivid imagination and a curiosity that leads him into trouble.

At first, Dau is a difficult character to like as he seems driven to achieve his goal no matter the cost. He becomes an important part on the team as a protector, and his love of horses and dogs will sway most readers' opinion to approval. During this mission his leaders have commanded he must not speak, only observe. Slowly the reader learns Dau's compassion and the reasons behind his reactions. 

While on the journey to Breifne, a wise woman saves Dau's life when a demonic crow-like being attacks him. Both the wise woman and the crow-like beings play important roles in the story. Each chapter is told through the viewpoints of Liobhan, Brocc, or Dau. Although the belief in Fair Folk has diminished, they are a significant factor in maintaining the safety of their Faery realm and that of Breifne. While the story was slow to engage me, it did ensnare me. THE HARP OF KINGS is an excellent read and a good start to the Warrior Bard series.

Robin Lee