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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


By Maureen LaFerney

My name is Maureen. I currently work as a library assistant in a public library in the Indianapolis area, and also just so happen to be a voracious reader. I frequently end up under a cat.

22 replies on “Musicians in fantasy books”

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!

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.’

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

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…

Yeah, I had kind of forgotten about them too. I’d be curious to go back and reread them, but also not sure I want to invest the time.

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

Wrinkled Crown is on my TBR! I don’t think I’ve ever heard of The Hum & the Shiver.

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.

Hmmm, good to know.

I haven’t heard of that trilogy at all! Will have to check it out.

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

I love the Menolly books! Probably the best out of all the Pern books, to be honest.

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

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!

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