Musicians in fantasy books

Today I’m taking a look at fantasy books which feature musicians–I’m less interested in this case in the generic bards that litter high fantasy, and more in books where there’s a specific, deliberate relationship to music. (These are all books I’ve read! If you know of others, let me know.) This is a bit of a subjective criterion, and probably Patrick Rothfuss should be on this list, but I couldn’t quite decide. When it’s done well, this is one of my favorite themes–the mix of magic and music can be a really powerful thing to explore.

masks and shadows seraphina 7ae48-cover_of_fire_and_hemlock

Masks and Shadows by Stephanie Burgis

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

The Story of Owen and Prairie Fire by E.K. Johnston

The Dalemark Quartet (esp. Cart and Cwidder) by Diana Wynne Jones

Fire & Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner

Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey

All Our Pretty Songs  by Sarah McCarry

Song for the Basilisk by Patricia McKillip

Lament and Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater



Filed under book lists, bookish posts

22 responses to “Musicians in fantasy books

  1. Ooh, there are some great picks here! I loved Masks and Shadows, and Fire and Hemlock. I recently made a similar list, but restricted myself to six ( but it was hard to pick, and I wish I’d seen your list first!

    • Maureen Eichner

      Great minds! 🙂 I haven’t read several of the ones you thought of and I’ll have to check them out. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Kathy_S

    I’ve also missed a few of these and will have to check them out.

    One I’d add for unique musical world-building would be Gail Carson Levine’s ‘Fairest.’ — I’d never have guessed how excellent it would be from the blurb that just billed it as a retelling of Snow White.

    More run-of-the-mill girls-can’t-be-bards plot: Mercedes Lackey’s series that begins with ‘The Lark and the Wren.’

    • Maureen Eichner

      You know, I’ve read Fairest and I don’t remember it very well at all! I should go back and reread. X <—that part was the cat

  3. You know, I read Lament and Ballad and totally forgot about them. I liked them at the time, but I guess they didn’t really stand out after time passed…

  4. Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks, which I reviewed very briefly here:

    Rock music and fairies!

    • Maureen Eichner

      Oh, I haven’t read that one, although I recently read & enjoyed Freedom & Necessity which she cowrote with Steven Brust.

  5. Yay! Some favorites and some new ones to read… have you read the Wrinkled Crown by Anne Nesbet? The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe?

  6. I also vote for War for the Oaks! Which is *very* different from Freedom and Necessity, though I loved that one, too.

    Another older work where music is central is the Damiano trilogy by RA MacAvoy.

  7. I like music in fantasy too! Here’s an older one for the list-Damiano, by R.A. MacAvoy. (and now I see Rachel beat me too it!) The sequels get a bit weird, but the first one is good. And one of my all time favorite fantasy music books–Dragonsinger, by Anne McAffery

  8. Charlotte, right, of course! Dragonsong and Dragonsinger were favorites of mine, too.

    • Maureen Eichner

      Yes, probably my favorites out of the Pern books! (Dragonsong is on my list. :))

      • Kathy_S

        I agree with that, and would rank ‘The Masterharper of Pern’ 3rd after the two Menolly books.

        I think my favorite MacAvoy is ‘Tea with the Black Dragon,’ though I don’t think it really qualifies as musical fantasy — even though the protagonist is a fiddler and dragons don’t ordinarily populate mystery novels!

  9. Pingback: May 2016 round up | By Singing Light

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