The Lark and the Wren (Bardic Voices, Book One)

Monday, August 15, 2011


This post is part of a week-long series of reviews of Mercedes Lackey novels. See intro post for more information.

The Lark and the Wren (Bardic Voices, Book One)
Mercedes Lackey, 1992

I'd been considering re-reading a few books I hadn't looked at in years, and then I saw that I could read this one for free.

Premise: More than anything, Rune wants to make music. But for a girl born a bastard, with no money and no connections, with nothing but talent, the path is bound to be long and hard.

I remember enjoying this whole series when I was in high school, and on re-reading I'd say it's fluffy and light, with some major bright spots and some major flaws.

One of the flaws is that the plot reads like a series of short stories all jammed together, not like a novel. The first half of the book or so is comprised of two major stories, which work well together. The first part tells how Rune is dissatisfied with her life, and how she ends up making a deal with a ghost to play her fiddle all night for its entertainment, but if she fails or falters, she's dead. That's a pretty good story. The second story is of how Rune makes her way through the small villages to the city, how she learns to be a street busker, takes lessons in music, and makes new friends. That's a great story as well. This section culminates in her journey to the Bardic Trials. In order to join the Guild Bards (the highest paid and most high-class musicians), she has to get through a grueling audition, while disguised as a boy.

Up to this point, the book is a pretty good, if unexceptional, fantasy adventure. Rune is a fun character, and the people she meets, while not being especially deep characters, are entertaining.

But suddenly the book takes a sharp left into romance, as Rune falls in with the Gypsies, and the older Bard Talaysen. I don't mind the romantic plot, I mind that after strictly following Rune Third Person Limited for half the book, the point of view starts to latch onto new characters and wander around. The plots that stuff the second half of the book are a series of short adventures that just don't grab me, and the good fortune enjoyed by everyone is far too pat.

I found it a fun read, but the constant plot meandering in the second half means it'll never be great.

3 Stars – A Good Book

The Lark and The Wren is FREE on Baen.com

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