The Lark and the Wren is the first book in the Bardic Voices/Choices series. I have also reviewed another book in this series The Eagle and the Nightingales. I read this particular copy online, as part of the Baen fiction online free books series. There are a number of Mercedes Lackey titles there, all relatively good ones. With the exception of one, I have read them all before. This book is one of my favourites, but to my disgust the other books in the series have not been republished for quite some time.
The Lark and the Wren
Rune is a young woman who is excellent at fiddling. She is trapped in a deadend situation with a prostitute for a mother and no marriage prospects to speak of. But who said Rune wanted to get married? What she wants to do is become a professional musician, though she is unlikely to get there. Or is she? A poorly thought out bet later, and she’ll either be dead or on her way to glory.
This novel was adapted from a short story in ‘Fiddler Fair’, which was a short story collection by Mercedes Lackey. That short story I didn’t read until after I had read the novel form. Of the two, I think I prefer the novel because it has more depth (naturally!).
This piece of fiction was a breath of fresh air after the last set of books that I reviewed. The storyline is engaging, and the characters fleshed out. The difference is that Lackey makes it seem as if the various climax points are part of the novel, not just random events thrown in.
Rune is a strong character who is relatively flexible. Something I want to complain about is that Lackey lapses into stereotypes with her relationship later. Rune couldn’t care less about getting married, yet she does anyway. Also, Talaysen is the one that gets special training, not Rune, when it was Rune that originally discovered the magic. The conversations she has with her partner are very detailed, and logically show their thought processes without chopping and changing the perspective of the novel, or engineering a situation where they can discuss it. And at the end, the very end, I feel that Rune is very unkind to her partner! I mean, I’m sure he will love being a dad, but to sneak it up on him in a couple of months time?
The perspective changes in this novel are lovely. In the copy I read, only the chapter markings were clear, and so I didn’t actually get an idea of when the character perspective changed. For the first two thirds of the novel it is purely from Rune’s perspective anyway. Certainly between the Lark (Rune) and the Wren (Talaysen) the changes while they are travelling are smooth, and I didn’t really notice it.
Something I love about this book is the theme of learning music. There are other things I love too, such as Rune narrowly escaping rape, and being very practical about most things, but that’s probably my favourite. As Rune learns her new instrument, she has to learn how to read music too. I cannot remember learning to read sheet music because i was a child, but I can imagine that it is more difficult as a late teen / adult. Lackey captures how most people feel after a new lesson quite well. It’s nice that Rune doesn’t take to a second instrument immediately because she is such a natural on her fiddle!
There are several storyline peaks in this novel, and to give you them all would spoil reading it. It’s pretty amazing how much trouble Rune can get into. Although it’s not all from one excitement to the next, Lackey certainly maintains your interest in the novel. And the transitions are so smooth! I can’t rave about those enough after the trash I have read lately.
I’d recommend this book for teens and adults alike. Although there are sexual themes, violence and prejudice they are not in a positive light and they actually teach something! The sexual themes are not particularly graphic either. This book is one of my favourites that I have read multiple times, and probably will read again.