I really enjoyed the Sevenwaters series, and the Blackthorn and Grim series, and so when this popped up on NetGalley, I couldn’t resist putting in a request for it!
So thank you to the author, as well as Ace via NetGalley for the review copy.
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. . .
Watching her, I think of some mythical warrior from ancient times, the sort of hero that appears in the songs she and Brocc sing. She is all grace and power, all purpose and courage.
This is the story of Liobhan, Brocc, and Dau who are all eighteen year old apprentice warriors from a band of warrior/mercenaries. They are given a mission to go undercover to the kingdom of Breifne where it is nearly time to crown the new king. Unfortunately, the coronation ceremony requires that a very special harp be played, and that harp has gone missing. It is the job of Liobhan, Brocc, and Dau to find out where it has gone and get it back. But there may be more than meets the eye going on in Breifne.
Firstly, going into this, I had no idea that Liobhan and Brocc were Blackthorn and Grim’s kids, so that was an awesome revelation. And yes, really I should have assumed that, considering that the Sevenwaters series follows the adventures of four or five generations of one family. I should also note that it is not at all necessary to have read the Blackthorn and Grim books to find enjoyment here. Their names are mentioned in passing, and nothing they achieved on their own adventures really influences the goings on here.
We see this story from the POV of all three main characters, in the first person. The POV switches from chapter to chapter, and I found this a good way to get the story from three different angles. Our three warriors start out in the same place, but end up either in an entirely different place, or in entirely unique roles compared to the others. Dau, for example, is undercover as a mute farrier’s apprentice, while Liobhan and Brocc are undercover as traveling musicians.
The prose was lovely, and the story moved along at a good pace. It’s not action-packed, but I wasn’t expecting it to be. This is a more character-driven story. We get each character’s backstory slowly, bits at a time, and I absolutely loved that about it. It kept me reading well into the wee hours of the morning, wanting to find out what happened next. I didn’t start out loving all three characters, especially Dau, who is not super lovable from the get-go. But before long he became my favorite character. My heart was jostled a few times for Dau, and I found myself cheering hard for him by the end. I also really enjoyed Brocc’s adventures, and wished for the best things for him, and for Liobhan. The blurb gives the impression that Liobhan is the main character here, but really all three POV characters are equally represented.
So, all told, I really enjoyed this one. Moreso, I think, than I enjoyed the Blackthorn and Grim series, which I binged over a week despite being on vacation, lol. I can’t wait to see what happens next! 4.5/5 stars!