GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ Excerpt: A Song of Flight (Warrior Bards Book 3) by Juliet Marillier | I Smell Sheep

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Monday, September 20, 2021

Excerpt: A Song of Flight (Warrior Bards Book 3) by Juliet Marillier

An immersive, lush historical fantasy series, Juliet Marillier’s Warrior Bards novels feature a captivating blend of high stakes action and Irish folklore. This latest series installment, A SONG OF FLIGHT (Ace Trade Paperback Original; $17.00; On-sale September 21, 2021), follows warrior bard Liobhan as she uses both the power of her music and the strength of her sword to take on a new grave threat.

A Song of Flight (Warrior Bards Book 3)
by Juliet Marillier
September 21, 2021
Genre: historical fantasy
Publisher: ACE
A young warrior who wields both the power of her music and the strength of her sword faces a grave threat in this enthralling historical fantasy.

Bard and fighter Liobhan is always ready for a challenge. So when news arrives at Swan Island that the prince of Dalriada has gone missing after an assault by both masked men and the sinister Crow Folk, she's eager to act.

While Liobhan and her fellow Swan Island warriors seek answers to the prince's disappearance, the bard Brocc, Liobhan's brother, finds himself in dire trouble. His attempts to communicate with the Crow Folk have led him down a perilous path. When Liobhan and her comrades are sent to the rescue, it becomes clear the two missions are connected--and a great mystery unfolds.

What brought the Crow Folk to Erin? And who seeks to use them in an unscrupulous bid for power? As Liobhan and Brocc investigate, it will take all their strength and will to continue pursuing the truth. With the safety of their loved ones in the balance, the risks they must take may cost them everything.

Praise for The Warrior Bards novels
“This big-hearted novel completely transported me to the wonder and enchantment of ancient Ireland—and its resonance lingered long after the final page.”—Callie Bates, author of The Waking Land

“Breathtaking, often heartbreaking. . . . This lush fantasy is sure to win Marillier many new fans.”

—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Lush worldbuilding and well-rounded characters.”—Library Journal

Chapter 1: Aolu
I want to talk to the druid. Brother Oisín is an old man, but age hasn't slowed him much. He walks long distances and doesn't always keep to the roads. He is solitary by choice, loving wild places, praying alone, meeting with other folk from time to time to offer teaching or advice or help. At such meetings, if one is lucky, Oisín will tell tales of long ago, stories of wonder and terror, of joy and heartbreak. His tales are magical. They challenge the mind and refresh the spirit.

We are fortunate. Every spring, the druid spends time at Winterfalls, in a hut deep in the forest, not far from my holding. I have offered him one of the cottages that lie within my outer wall-we generally keep one available for visitors-but he prefers to be out in the woods, where birds and creatures and the ever-changing trees are all the companions he needs. My household provides him with supplies, and every so often he walks down to visit us, for he knows I am fond of poetry, philosophy, and the like.

This spring there has been no sign of him. No word. As time passes my concern grows. So, on a particularly fine day, I suggest to Galen that we should ride out as far as the druid's hut to discover if Oisín has been there.

Galen reacts in keeping with his official role as my bodyguard. "What about the Crow Folk?" he asks. "You know they've been spotted in that part of the forest."

"All the more reason to check if all's well with him."

"You could send Baodán with some guards. No need to risk your own safety."

Baodán is my master-at-arms. We both know he won't relish being given such a job. Everyone fears the Crow Folk with their random attacks, their wildness. For a long while this area was free of them, but of recent times they have appeared in our northern forests, and we must be careful. "No need for Baodán's men to risk themselves simply because the prince happens to care about a druid's welfare," I reply, catching the hint of a smile on Galen's face. He's been my companion and dearest friend since we were twelve years old, and we know each other very well. "Just you and me, a leisurely ride, a stop for refreshments somewhere. The weather's beautiful. Come on, Galen. I'll teach you a song on the way."

He lifts his brows, twists his mouth into a grimace. My friend lacks the remarkable musical talent of his siblings, though he can, in fact, hold a tune passably well.

"What if I promise to turn back if the Crow Folk appear particularly menacing?" I ask. "Not that they will, my friend. You're fearsome enough to frighten away dragons." Galen's a very tall man, strongly built, with a shaven head and a luxuriant, fiery red beard. He doesn't simply guard me. Over the years he's made sure I can defend myself, handle a horse capably, and generally get myself out of trouble. If not for him, I'd have spent most of my time in my library reading old tales and writing poetry, and I'd be far more of a weakling than any prince should be. One day I'll be king of Dalriada. A king must be a man of many parts, even if his bent is more toward scholarship than action.

"All right," Galen says, grinning. "But keep to your word. If I say we should turn back, we turn back."

The day is indeed warm. When we’ve covered a fair distance, we stop in a clearing among birches to let our horses rest awhile and drink from a stream. No Crow Folk here; they’ll be in the upper reaches of the forest, and we have not yet climbed far. It’s good to be alone, just the two of us without the bustle of a royal household around us. I have a council tomorrow with the local landholders, at which I must listen to their grievances and arbitrate in any disagreements. I suppose it is good practice for the time when I become king, though I fervently hope my father has many long years of healthy life ahead of him. I love the quiet of Winterfalls; I love being my own master, with my own household where we lack the formalities and protocols of court. But I love still more the times when Galen and I can get away on our own.

We eat a little of the food we brought with us, then pack up the rest for later. If Oisín is indeed at the hut, he may appreciate a share. We sit on the rocks in the sun, and I teach Galen a song about a man who got three wishes from a clurichaun and squandered them all on silly things. The moral of the story being, when dealing with uncanny folk, think before you speak. There's a chorus all made up of nonsense words, a tongue twister, and we're in fits of laughter trying to sing this when Galen goes suddenly still.

"Wha-" is all I have time for. He's on his feet, drawing his weapon. Men are moving in from under the trees, men with cloths tied over their faces and weapons in their hands.

"Run!" shouts Galen. I obey, sprinting across the clearing, diving into the cover of the forest. We've rehearsed this kind of thing over and over. He's drummed it into me that I must obey him instantly, no questions asked. Shouting breaks out behind me, the clash of metal, the thud of blows, and a scream. Something huge and shadowy flies over my head. Crow Folk. They're here, too. Galen. Oh, Galen. My heart pounding in fright, I risk one look back.

He's surrounded, slashing, kicking, getting his shoulder in, woefully outnumbered. And as I stare, my heart doing a wild dance in my chest, two Crow Folk join the melee, diving, pecking. It's a bloody maelstrom in which I cannot tell attacker from victim, bird from human. Blinded by tears, I slip my talisman from my neck and drop it on the forest floor. "Be safe, dear heart," I whisper, and take to my heels. I cannot save him. I can only do as I know he would wish, and try to save myself. I run, I run, dodging trees and bushes, slipping in mud, stumbling over rocks and fallen branches. When my breath is almost gone, when my head starts to spin, someone-something-is beside me, a presence felt rather than seen. Something touches my arm, but when I look, there is only shadow. My breath fails. I fall. Down, down, too far down. I land with a jolt. Pain spears through my ankle, then all is dark.

About the Author:
Juliet Marillier is a member of the druid order OBOD and is the author of the Blackthorn & Grim novels and the Sevenwaters series. Her historical fantasy novels and short stories are published internationally and have won a number of awards. Juliet Marillier is available for interviews.

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