Literature / Bardic Voices

Bardic Voices is a series of five novels by Mercedes Lackey. Each novel centres on different characters, although characters do reappear in other novels in minor roles. The books are, in order:

  • The Lark and the Wren
  • The Robin and the Kestrel
  • A Cast of Corbies
  • The Eagle and the Nightingale
  • Four and Twenty Blackbirds

The books mostly follow the adventures of the Free Bards, a group of musicians who work to help each other and make music. Their main rivals are the Bardic Guild, who have strict rules and are more concerned with their own individual power and wealth than anything else.

This series provides examples of:

  • Abdicate the Throne: See King Incognito.
  • Animal Theme Naming: Gypsies take on use-names based on their job (such as hostlers being called Hob), with musicians taking on bird names. When the Free Bards were formed, they adopted the practice, with all of them taking on (or being given) bird names.
  • Attempted Rape: This prompts Rune to run away from home, kicking off the plot of the first book.
  • Baleful Polymorph:
    • In The Lark and the Wren, a corrupt priest turns one of the Free Bards into a songbird as punishment for refusing his advances. When he is found out and the spell is broken, it backlashes on him, turning him into a huge dark bird. The bird-priest returns as one of the villains of Four and Twenty Blackbirds.
    • In Four and Twenty Blackbirds, Bishop Ardis turns the people who were responsible for burning down most of a city into donkeys and gives them to the city to be used to help clear away the rubble.
  • The Bard: The main characters, and several of the minor characters.
  • Better as Friends: Tal and Ardis have a lot of Unresolved Sexual Tension in Four and Twenty Blackbirds. During the climax they end up independently deciding that they are much better off staying as partners and confidants without becoming lovers.
  • Celibate Heroine: Ardis of Four and Twenty Blackbirds.
  • Corrupt Church: While there are individual priests/monks/nuns that are truly good people, some in high positions, many in the Church are corrupt and venial, with some getting into positions of power to further their own shady agendas. Case in point: Bishop Padrik of Gradford in The Robin and the Kestrel.
  • False Widow: Rune's mother in The Lark and The Wren.
  • Good Shepherd: High Bishop Ardis, the priest that married Rune and Talaysen in the first book, and a few others. Ardis in particular becomes one of the main characters in Four and Twenty Blackbirds.
  • Involuntary Dance: Rune forces some elves to dance when playing her fiddle in order to rescue Master Taylesen from them.
  • Interspecies Romance: Happens between Nightingale, a human, and T'yfrr, a Haspur (a humanoid eagle-like race) in The Eagle and the Nightingale. T'yfrr adds that such pairings happen in his homeland.
  • Intimate Healing: After saving her from almost drowning, Talaysen has to warm up a hypothermic and semi-conscious Rune without anything to make a fire with, so he climbs into a sleeping bag with her. He is very uncomfortable with this because a) he's old enough to be her dad, b) she's his apprentice and c) he's still falling for her despite both these facts. The first thing Rune does when she wakes up is give him a Big Damn Kiss, and in the next chapter they're sealing the deal on their Relationship Upgrade by getting married. It's as heartwarming as it sounds.
  • King Incognito: Jonny Brede/Kestrel was Sional, the crown prince of Birnam, whose tutor, Master Bard Darian, smuggled him out of the country when his uncle (a good man), disposed of the king (because he was corrupt and was wasting the Treasury's money). Due to falling ill with fever during the escape, the prince forgot who he was and Master Darian was able to make him think he was just a regular boy named Jonny Brede. When Jonny joins the Free Bards, a magical technique allows him to regain his memory, and knowing that he wouldn't be a good king and would be just a puppet for those that preferred the corrupt reign of his father, renounces his claim to the throne and marries a Gypsy woman that he loves.
  • Lizard Folk: Topaz is implied to be one. Rune doesn't have the temerity to ask what race Topaz is exactly, but suspects that upon close inspection she would have tiny scales instead of skin.
  • Magic Music: Discovered partway through the first book.
  • May–December Romance: Rune and Talaysen. She's about 16 when they marry, he is at least 40. Also a case of Hot for Teacher
  • Never Suicide: Four and Twenty Blackbirds is about a series of murder-suicides that are actually magically induced double murders.
  • Obfuscating Disability: In The Robin and the Kestrel, the church of the city that the heroes are visiting uses this, among other techniques, in order to enact "miraculous healings."
  • Our Elves Are Better
  • Phony Psychic: In Four and Twenty Blackbirds, one of the ex-priest-mages that Tal investigates has taken on the persona of a psychic named Oskar Koob, using his magic to find information about his clients (such as seeing inside their belt pouches) and to aid in his phony consultation sessions.
  • Rock Theme Naming: Rune takes a job at a brothel (as a musician only). The ladies working there are required to take pseudonyms after gems.
  • Son of a Whore: While Rune's mother isn't a whore, Rune has been called the daughter of a whore/slut (and told she will be one herself) by some of the teenage boys in her village, since she was born out of wedlock.
  • Sinister Minister: High Bishop Padrik, who took control over the city-state of Gradford with faked miracles (most of which were learned from a rogue Gypsy clan or helped along with his magic) and being a great orator, preaching on such subjects as that woman's place was in the home, that nonhumans were Anathema, and any sort of fun (non-Church music and brightly colored clothing, for example) was a sin.
  • Serial Killer: Catching one is the plot of Four and Twenty Blackbirds.