BOOK CLUB: A Song of Flight

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A Song of Flight by Juliet Marillier is the third in a trilogy, and the latest in an extended series of lightly linked novels set in the same world. Despite this, it’s fairly accessible to new readers. While it will be most enjoyable to those who have been following the trilogy, it’s still a pleasant reading experience if you’re starting here.

Prince Aolu of Dalriada has disappeared without a trace. Behind him, he leaves his dear friend and bodyguard, Galen, seriously injured in the confusing encounter with masked men and the vicious crow people. His father turns to Swan Island, the closest thing this world has to secret agents, for help.

Liobhan is one of Swan Island’s best warriors, but her superiors don’t want her involved in this mission: Galen is her brother. She’s too close to it. But as time goes by, and no sign of the Prince is found, she’s sent to investigate the possibility that Aolu has stumbled through a portal to another world.

Liobhan is quickly distracted. Her older brother, Brocc, is in trouble. He’s been trying to communicate with the crow people, and build a peaceful relationship. These very attempts, however, threaten to bring harm to him and those he loves most. As Liobhan rushes to save him, it becomes clear that Brocc’s dilemma is linked to the Prince’s disappearance.

This is, perhaps, the tenth Marillier book I’ve read. Her greatest weakness is that sometimes her plotting is obvious. This novel is one of her better ones, and most readers won’t be overly surprised by the ending, nor will they see every beat of the story coming.



Marillier has built a complex and detailed world, rooted in genuine historical knowledge of pre-Roman Britain. Her novels (which tend to run in trilogies) are all set in this world, with characters who are the focus of one appearing in others in little more than walk-on roles. This is historically credible, given the relatively small population of the era, and the fact that Marillier is writing about characters who would have been part of an even smaller elite. Readers will find it easy to immerse themselves in this world; it’s believable, even with magic woven into the story.

Readers who have read more than one of her novels will find that the reappearing characters and their history add some depth and additional nuances to the plot and characterisation. However, new readers will get enough information that they’ll still be able to follow the plot easily, and won’t feel they’re missing much.

The characters are strong and diverse. I felt their internal voices weren’t particularly individual – they all sounded the same to me. This is a problem as the novel is told in chapters narrated by different characters in turn. I had to concentrate a fair bit to remember which character’s head we were in; it didn’t come naturally because of the sameness of their voice.

However, characters act in distinctive and individual ways, meaning they’re generally quite credible. It’s only when we’re in their heads that they’re difficult to distinguish.

The fantasy elements are well woven into this. Some earlier Marillier novels were closer to historical fiction than fantasy; here the balance falls towards fantasy. It’s an important part of the story, drawn in such a matter of fact way that the two elements meld seamlessly.

Readers of the trilogy so far (I’ve read volume two, but not the first) will find this a satisfying conclusion to the series. Readers picking this up as a stand alone will find it a little shallower, without the benefit of the story and character development in earlier novels, but are still likely to enjoy it. It will not be hard for them to follow.

This is a strong fantasy novel with an interesting plot set in a believable, well-drawn world that’s populated with credible characters. Both new and continuing readers will enjoy it, although continuing readers will undoubtedly get the most out of it.

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading A Song of Flight by Juliet Marillier. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

Author: Juliet Marillier
ISBN: 978-1-76078-423-2
Copy courtesy of Macmillan (2021)

4 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: A Song of Flight

  1. A Song of Flight by Juliet Marillier and published by Pan Macmillan is a wonderful fantasy tale full of adventure, mythical creatures and pageantry. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
    Even though it is the third book in the Warrior Bards series, I happily read it as a stand alone and did not feel I had missed out by not having read the previous books. The story in A Song of Flight – the disappearance of a Prince, the plight of the Crow Folk, and the portal journeys into the faery Otherworld – is quite engrossing on its own, and the imagery and detailed world building where music and magic are beautifully interwoven, is enchanting. However it definitely did leave me wanting to read more about Liobhan, Brocc and Galen and all the adventures they have had.
    A Song of Flight was a delight to read and it’s parable like messages of redemption and moving on from the past added to my enjoyment of the story.

  2. Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Macmillan for the opportunity to read and review A Song of Flight by Juliet Marillier.

    This is the third and final book in the Warrior Bards series and the first of Marillier’s works that I have read.

    Fantasy was always my favourite genre so I was thrilled to be chosen to read and review this book.

    The premise of the book is simple, Prince Aolu of Dalriada and his bodyguard (and best friend/lover?) Galen have been ambushed while out riding, Galen is seriously injured and Aolu has disappeared without a trace.

    The warriors of Swan Island (a group of highly trained yet disparate individuals) are enlisted to find him.

    Meanwhile the Crow People are terrorising the land. Brocc (bard, part fey) and adopted? older brother of both Galen and Liobahn (a Swan Island warrior) is trying to befriend them, which gets him thrown out of the Otherworld with his young daughter Niamh and straight into the hands of a cult who are wanting to take over the world by using the Crow People as an attack force.

    As the book progresses it becomes clear that the disappearance of Aolu is tied up with the dilemma that Brocc now finds himself in.

    Although I enjoyed the book overall, I found it very hard to get into and I was probably more than halfway through the book before I really engaged with it. I am unsure whether reading the first two books in the series, which may have given a background to each of the characters making it easier to engage with them, would have helped. Or whether it is just Marillier’s writing style which made it hard to become immersed in the story.

    Once engaged with the book I didn’t want to put it down, as I tried to work out how all the separate plot lines would come together.

    Overall a good read, providing you are willing to work at getting through the initial chapters.

  3. This being the third book in this series I was a little worried that I would struggle to get into the story as I had not read the other two books. But it works well as a stand alone. I am however very keen to now read the previous two books.

    In this book Prince Aolu goes missing and it appears that he has been abducted so a search is set in motion. There are many obstacles with the crow folk putting peoples lives at risk. Brocc has worked out a way of communicating with the crow folk but his knowledge of this is wanted by others and sadly with evil intent. This puts Brocc and his baby daughter at risk.

    There are lots of twists and turns. If you love fantasty and intricate stories then this is the book for you. So very well written. This is a book to really get your teeth into.

  4. Thank-you Beauty & Lace for giving me the chance to read & review ‘A Song of Flight’ a fantasy book by Juliet Marillier.
    This is the third book in the Warrior Bard fantasy series which I thoroughly enjoyed even though I had not read the first two instalments. Interweaving fantasy with historical pre-Roman Britain aspects along with a bit of magic thrown in gave the story of the lost prince more depth and intrigue. Once I had all the characters set in my mind (especially who are the crow people) I became totally immersed and was eager to find out the outcome.
    I really like reading about strong female characters and Liobahn certainly is not one to mess with, facing all the twists and turns when looking into how her brother Brocc is involved with the princes’ disappearance. A great fantasy novel, I would happily recommend it. Thank-you ‘Beauty & Lace Bookclub’ and Pan Macmillan for the opportunity to read ‘A Song of Flight’ a fantasy book by Juliet Marillier.

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