Fantasy Novels

‘The Harp of Kings’ Review: Fantasy Meets Fairy Tale

The Harp of Kings is an enchanting tale, matching three warriors with a secretive land and a straightforward mission that quickly becomes muddled. The expert storytelling reveals a deep magic running through the forests and a history that’s more fairy tale than fantasy. The three narrative streams are highlighted by masterful character growth and diverging personalities that all seek something vastly different. This is a series I’ll be following closely.

And now for a few of my favorite things (and there were many):


The Harp of Kings shines thanks to the author’s intricate character work. We follow three narrators, each unique in their own way. In Liobahn, we have a strong female warrior who fights every day to prove herself worthy of an order that mostly admits men. She’s strong, intelligent, and cares deeply for her brother. That familial bond drives much of what she does, adding a passion to her character. In Brocc, we get a man who has reluctantly joined this band of warriors and wants nothing more than the comforts of home. He’s more delicate than the others and a true artist when it comes to singing and playing the harp. His narrative voice is lyrical, showing a deeper understanding of the world around him. There’s more to him than meets the eye, with many of the biggest reveals aligning around him. In Dau, we get a bullheaded warrior who wants nothing more than to fight and win. As the story progresses, he shows the most character growth. Initially angry with his part in the plot, he quickly matures, taking his duties head-on and growing closer to the other characters. Combined, these three create an incredibly compelling story.


Music runs deep in the storytelling, featuring a number of beautifully written songs and ballads that both entertain and change the world. With Brocc’s gifts, we see the magic of music on those lucky enough to hear it. While music is often important in fantasy novels, it isn’t typically central to the plot. In The Harp of Kings, it’s what runs the world from behind the scenes. The King is coronated by the dulcet tones of a mystical harp that provides the primary connection between the human and fairy worlds. This aspect adds unexpected beauty to the plot and casts a kind of magic as you read. 


As the narrators become more invested in their mission, it becomes clear that much is wrong with this kingdom they find themselves in. Where once they expected to simply complete their duties and move on, they gradually realize they won’t be able to distance themselves from the future of those around them. Whether it’s due to their novice status or their genuine care for people in need, their paths begin to alter the further we get into the book. Intrigue pops up the more they diverge, leading to many a conflict and startling find. 


Finally, I was enchanted by the magical realm. To be honest, I haven’t read much fairy fantasy of late, and this aspect took The Harp of Kings from warrior-turned-spy novel into a deeper story that spells the future for a world in peril. The creatures and secrets of the realm are beautiful to imagine and Brocc’s part in their future is exciting to read. Throw in the mysterious old woman living in a cottage at the start of the winding trail and some horrifying birdlike villains and you’ve got an epic fantasy-meets-fairy-tale. 

The Harp of Kings
By Juliet Marillier
Published by Ace

NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.

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