Like so many others, I was thrilled when the new Juliet Marillier book, The Harp of Kings, landed on my Kindle. Instead of diving straight into it, which I was so tempted to do, I held out and made reading it my reward for completing work that had to be done. Finally, a few days ago, the task I’d set myself was finished and I was at last able to return to the world Juliet so lovingly and beautifully created in the Blackthorn and Grimm series. Even so, this book also works as a standalone as it shifts into the next generation of players in this fabulously crafted realm of fey folk, druids, kings, warriors, bards, healers, wise women and so much more.
Told from three different points of view, Liobhan and Brocc’s, the children of Blackthorn and Grimm who are both superb singers and composers of music and training to be Swan Island warriors, and Dau, a chieftain’s son also training to be a warrior and with a dark and troubled past that he keeps firmly locked away, the reader is given insights into each character’s fears and strengths. We’re also given a greater depth of understanding about what makes these interesting young people tick and the choices they’ve made and are yet to have thrust upon them.
When the three of them are chosen for a specific task – to find and restore the precious Harp of Kings so that a new ruler might ascend to the leadership of a distant kingdom – and given fresh identities to both aid them in its completion and protect them, they are forced to work together and subsume parts of their characters in ways they’d never foreseen. While Liobhan and Brocc have a strong and deep sibling bond, Dau was raised in a different environment before being thrust into the competitive and dangerous world of the Swan Island warriors. Isolated by choice but also by his new identity, he is forced to see himself and the others in ways he never conceived.
When they finally reach the kingdom of Briefne and meet the man who would be king, and understand there are otherworldy forces at work as well as plots and plans a plenty, and not only from the court, but the mysterious druid figures who are responsible for the harp and the ancient ceremony to crown the king, the Swan Island warriors realise much more is at stake than first thought. But when one of them is asked to make a great sacrifice, the entire task, the future of a kingdom and the lives of those asked to guarantee it, are also put at risk…
The chapters alternate between the three main viewpoints and, as the story unspools, the reader invests heavily in each character and their particular grasp of what’s happening. Brave, bold, flawed, strong and kind, the three main characters are wonderfully and richly drawn as are the worlds they inhabit – both past and present. The way Juliet weaves the folklore of the region, introduces concepts surrounding nature, inclusivity, as well as politics and even love is masterful and transports the reader to another time and place – one this reader was so reluctant to leave.
This is another sublime story from Juliet Marillier. My only disappointment is that I had to finish the book and thus tear myself away from this wonderful world. Actually, there’s another regret – now I also have to wait what will seem a very long time for the next instalment in what is already a marvellous new series. Oh well, back to work so I can earn another sojourn of the imagination in a marvellous Marillier tale.