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YA Epic Fantasy Book Review: The Lost Bard of Taliyaven

3 stars

1st of the Red War Annals Quartet

Type of Fantasy: Epic


A long-awaited war begins at last.

Alexci Golovkin’s plan to overthrow Arribor is about to be set in motion. Only one person stands in his way: Duren Akszenyuk, the mad captain of Arribor’s west band. Alexci sends out his silencer, a man trained to kill, to eliminate this final obstacle.

Ever since Blackburn spread lies about her past, no one has fully trusted Kráľovná Nataŝa. Desperate to clear her name and save her city, Nataŝa begins a search for the Telae—people with magic songs. But if they are truly gone, who will come to Arribor’s aid?

Zoya Zvonimira is the heir of Kazan Vyselki, but if the ancient wall protecting her people continues to crumble, there won’t be anything left to rule. Only a wordsmith—a person with powerful gifts of speech—can unite Taliyaven to rebuild the wall. And the only powerful wordsmith was lost long ago, exiled for killing Zoya’s brother.

Masha is a maid—certainly no one important. Yet when she isn’t shunned for her red hair, people instead ask if she’s Telae. After multiple attempts on her life are made, she picks up a sword to protect herself, unaware that she is about to become involved in a war that began hundreds of years ago.

My Thoughts

Things I Liked:

  • Horses! They kept cropping up, which I loved because I’ve always secretly wanted a barn full of them. And through this book, I could pretend like I did.
  • All the different POVs were interesting and helpful in unfolding the story and giving tidbits of information that I wouldn’t have received from the other POVs. And generally there was enough space between them to get other people’s perspectives without feeling like you’re away from one long enough to forget what happened (except for Zoya–see below).
  • George does a good job of explaining the countries and their histories and tensions without info-dumping. Yay for no info-dumping!
  • Songs: There was intriguing singing magic, and I’m sure the other books will explore it more.

Things I Didn’t Like:

  • I enjoyed Masha–one of the main characters–for the most part. However, I had a hard time grasping her age. Some of the things she said made her seem like a child, but I think she was supposed to be an older teen. Her naivete to the city could have been done in a way that didn’t make her seem so childlike. And I wish she had done more to try to save her brother.
  • The book was too slow. Many scenes could have been cut to help speed things up without losing anything of importance.
  • Masha and the rest of the main characters (besides the evil guy) didn’t have a clear motivation. They’re just drifting along, subject to the whims of the plot.
  • For a good chunk of the book, the characters know that a war is going to happen in their city and don’t seem to do much to prepare for it. Couldn’t they at least have taken the women and children to a safer place?
  • One character, Zoya, the reader leaves for a long time. And when we finally did pick up with her again, it’s not clear who the characters were that she’s talking about; I needed some gentle reminders after so long away from her part of the tale. And Zoya’s reaction to a certain person felt off. Actually, most of the chapters with Zoya felt off for some reason. I blame not being able to fully grasp who the characters were, their motivations, the culture, etc.
  • It wasn’t clear why one group of people was fighting another one toward the end of the book. (I can’t say more because of spoilers).

I’m not sure if I’m going to read the sequel, The Red Bard of Roche, yet because although the story was interesting, it wasn’t necessarily gripping enough for me to dive into another long journey.

However, if you enjoy long epics with many different viewpoints such as Lord of the Rings and The Eye of the World series by Robert Jordan, you may enjoy The Lost Bard of Taliyaven. 

Do you prefer longer or shorter books?

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