I had fun reading this book. It’s a light and fluffy fantasy story, but I enjoyed the writing, the story, and the characters. The main character, a girl named Rune, is a teenager living at an inn where her mother and she both work. From a young age she showed a gift for music and taught herself to play the fiddle, with the help of various traveling musicians who stopped by their inn and were remarkably generous in teaching her how to play different songs. She often played these songs for the inn patrons during normal nights when there wasn’t a musician staying there. She had a strained relationship with her self-centered mother, and she was looked down upon by most people in the village. Her dream was to win an apprenticeship with the Bardic Guild where she imagined she’d lead a life spent learning about music and playing music, all in the company of like-minded musicians who support and help each other.
Rune was a sympathetic character. She was smart and practical, and that made her easier to sympathize with as compared to the type of character found in many books who cause most of their own problems. Rune used common sense and she listened to advice. The other major characters in the story were likable also. My main complaint with Rune was that she had an awful lot of mental monologues about the corruptness of government agencies, the church, and rich people. The author did introduce a few decent people from these groups, so my problem wasn’t that it was a completely one-sided point of view. My problem was just the repetitiveness of it. I don’t want to listen to a character complain at length about an organization, certainly not more than once. If the organization is corrupt, I want to see them engage in corrupt activities. We did in fact see that, so I didn’t need the monologues to convince me they were corrupt. Fortunately, while this occurred often enough to annoy me, it really wasn’t all that frequent.
I had read an anthology by this author last June called Fiddler Fair. As it turned out, one of the short stories in that anthology was pretty much taken straight from a chapter in the middle of this book. The story made several references to earlier events in Rune’s life, so I found that I knew a lot of the major plot points from the first half of the book. Normally this would make a book less enjoyable for me because I liked to be surprised by where things go, but the story was much more enjoyable in a full-length novel where all the details were fleshed out so I enjoyed it anyway. Everything that happened after the first half was more of a surprise and it was nice to finally learn how things turned out after the events in the short story.
The book did get really romance-heavy in the second half and it happened awfully fast in terms of page count. Weeks and occasionally months of time often passed between sections of the book, so the romance did develop over a reasonable period of time, but I as a reader didn’t get to see the slow development so I only felt mildly invested. For a little while it became very angsty in a repetitive sort of way and I started to get thoroughly tired of it. The nice thing was that it wasn’t dragged out too long. I was afraid it would be dragged out until the end of the book, but it was resolved well before the end and then the story moved back to more interesting territory.
Although this is the first book in a series, the author told a complete story and this book could stand well on its own. I’m a little skeptical about whether the author will be able to sustain my interest in this setting for five books, but I plan to continue on to the second book and see where she goes with it. For some reason I kept passing over this series in favor of other books that looked more interesting to me, but I’m glad I finally got around to trying it.