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Minstrel (Tir Athair) (Volume 1) by Marissa…

Minstrel (Tir Athair) (Volume 1)

by Marissa Ames

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Originally published on Tales to Tide You Over

This novel is subtitled A Ballad of Lies, Deceit, and Redemption, a pretty accurate accounting of what you'll find within the pages. The story focuses on Liam, a minstrel who has been raised from poverty through a king's proclamation and trained as a musician. He makes his living traveling around with a band of performers, but never are the pickings better than in the king's city. Only the first thing they learn is that the benevolent king has died and the kingdom has fallen to one of twin brothers while the other is at the distant reaches of the kingdom.

An observant nature, combined with the new king's wish to fete his nobility gives Liam a unique perspective on this new court, one he would have much rather left to some other soul.

This is a story of big events shown through little eyes, meaning Liam does not have the political, economic, or agricultural background to understand the implications of what he observes, but that knowledge comes to him through what he hears and after Shamus, the other twin, takes Liam into his employ as a historian, things get more complicated.

The Minstrel is a non-traditional narrative in that while there are big, epic events occurring all around them, it's a people story with the "farm boy becomes king" theme. The focus is not on the kingdom, or even on just what Liam becomes entangled in. The events are less important than the reactions, interactions, and intentions of the people involved, whether royalty or a gutter-born minstrel.

Marissa Ames offers an unusual perspective on the epic fantasy, but one that won me over. I read this book in paper, the first in quite some time, and so had to adjust my reading methodologies to free two hands. This didn't stop me from reading quickly because I wanted to know what would happen next, and even had an "Oh no, you didn't" moment when events in the story turned in a direction that made sense to the story but denied everything I, as a reader, wanted. This is not a simple read with a straightforward narrative. It is, as I said before, a people story, and people are complicated. Things happen, choices are made, and sometimes those aren't the "dream come true" type decisions, but they're also the right ones, no matter how harsh.

I will admit I stumbled over the first page, but kept going, and by the second page, personalities started to manifest, the description in the beginning started to make sense as more than just scenery, and I was hooked.

This book came from Grassroots Books, my local bookstore, because Marissa Ames is a Reno author. I met her online, through NaNo, I believe, but it was the book copy that piqued my interest. I'm happy to say my support paid off in a wonderful read. ( )
  MarFisk | Mar 12, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0615878539, Paperback)

Arriving in the royal city of Cynegil just after the good king’s death, Liam and his traveling troupe face arrest for entertaining during a time of mourning. The new king, Riordan, offers them a choice: play for the court as he demands or be punished for the crime. With little recourse, they acquiesce. While the troupe entertains within the hall, Liam witnesses the dissension between the king and his twin brother, Shamus. When Shamus enlists Liam to record the kingdom’s history from his own viewpoint, the king becomes suspicious. And when Liam becomes involved with Molly, the mysterious redheaded washerwoman, and Tristan, the royal soldier with a deadly secret and a skill for causing unfortunate accidents, his life becomes even more complicated. As the kingdom staggers beneath drought, famine, and conflict, Liam and Shamus must flee Cynegil with prices on their heads. Will they survive their journey or will they become just another ballad to be sung?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:20 -0400)

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