A Dance With Fate

See my review for A Harp of Kings
A Dance with Fate
Warrior Bards Book Two
Written by Juliet Marillier
Fantasy, Folklore, Celtic
Published July 2020
420 Pages
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia
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★★★★☆

An accident. A forfeit of freedom. A descent into danger.

Liobhan, the young warrior and bard, has lost her brother to the Otherworld. Even more determined to gain a place as an elite fighter, she returns to Swan Island to continue her training. But Liobhan is devastated when her comrade Dau is injured and loses his sight in their final display bout. Blamed by Dau's family for the accident, she agrees to go to his home, Oakhill, as a bond servant for one year.

But Oakhill is a place of dark secrets. The menacing and enigmatic Crow Folk still threaten both worlds and while Brocc battles them in the Otherworld, Dau must battle his own demon, despair.

When Liobhan and Dau begin to expose the evil at the core of Oakhill, they place themselves in mortal danger. For their enemy wields great power and will stop at nothing to get his way. It will take all the skills of a Swan Island warrior and a touch of the uncanny to give them any hope of survival...

Returning from her maiden assignment in the Kingdom of Breifne, Liobhan is disheartened at the loss of her brother, choosing to remain with Eirne in the forest realm of the Fair Folk. Continuing their warrior apprenticeship, Liobhan and Swan Island comrade Dau enter the arena for their friendly, noncombative competition, Liobhan discarding her protective clothing as Dau falls heavily, concussed, scarcely unresponsive and visually impaired. Healers of the island cannot guarantee the return of his vision and as a warrior who relies on his senses, Dau is questioning his position within the company of elite soldiers. 


Dau is returning home to Oakhill Estate, his father and his advisors demanding compensation for the accident and to evade questioning about the mysterious Swan Island, Dau reluctantly agrees to return home. Liobhan is held accountable for the accident and volunteers to serve as a bond servant at the family estate, protecting Dau from the cruelty and maltreatment he endured as a boy. Seanan has assumed the position of Master of Oakhill while their father is ailing, a mysterious illness causing confusion and an inability to manage the family estate. Seanan is tyrannical and vindictive, a sociopath who derives pleasure from tormenting his younger brother Dau, using his humanity and gentleness as a weapon. Dau requires treatment but is isolated and his injuries festering, he experiences depression, anger and resentment.

Dau is a Swan Island warrior and without his vision, the feeling of hopelessness is palpable as he contemplates suicide as an alternative. A Dance with Fate explores the trauma of mental health and a diagnosed disability. Visually impaired, Dau is overwhelmed by his remaining heightened senses and begrudgingly accepts assistance. 


As the mysteries of the Oakhill Estate emerge, Brocc remains in the forest realm with Eirne and her fair folk community as he discovers the torture and slain Crow Folk mutilated within the surrounding forest. Brocc is a humanitarian, he cares deeply for his community of small folk and his wife, who is becoming apathetic and distant. Their relationship is entirely superficial. Brocc sacrificed his family, community and position on Swan Island to join the otherwordly community and although Eirne cares for her community, Brocc is their protector, using his voice to protect the Fair Folk from the ferocious Crow Folk attacks. In one particular instance, a messenger reveals that Liobhan may be endangered and rather than forewarn her husband, Eirne chooses to conceal the information, creating a further divide. One of my favourite characters of the otherworld is True, the unassuming and philosophical protector and along with True, the fair folk are beginning to welcome Brocc into their community as a valued family member.


As Brocc and Eirne's relationship begins to fracture, the tentative attraction between Liobhan and Dau is beginning to blossom into a beautiful and delicate intensity. We see Liobhan's compassion and vulnerability, encouraging Dau to remain positive despite the circumstances and guiding a young stable hand in caring for Dau's injuries. Corb is a wonderful character, gentle, patient and although Dau resents not being able to tend to his own injuries and his bruised ego, he and Liobhan come to care for the young man.


The striking aspect of the Warrior Bards series is the atmospheric, whimsical narration infused with Celtic folklore. A Dance with Fate is an engaging and delightfully whimsical installment that explores disability, mental wellness and traumatic disorders. Beautifully lyrical and a remarkable read by one of Australia and New Zealand's finest authors. Juliet Marillier is a national treasure. 

8 comments

  1. What a review I can’t wait to read! I love Juliet Marillier’s books, her writing is just perfect for the genre she writes in. I always get intrigued by these interesting and complex characters she writes about. You have certainly made me want to get reading this, but I also remember I never got around to reading the first book in this series which is something I need to correct.

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    1. She's magnificent! This was my first Juliet Marillier series and her writing is just divine! Because she's written so many books, it can be a little overwhelming knowing where to begin but this series was prefect as an introduction. Can't wait for the next in the series!

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  2. Ooh I love that cover! This sounds fabulous. The fae elements... I love the Celtic flavor as well.

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    1. It's not something we see explored in young adult often, it's beautiful. Such a brilliant series Greg, I think you'll really enjoy this one!

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  3. I've heard good things about the author. I don't know that this is a book for me, but it sounds like a beautifully written novel. Glad you enjoyed it so much!

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. I think you'd really enjoy it Lauren, it's so beautifully immersive and you can lose yourself within the pages.

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  4. I love when myths and lore are intertwined into stories, and I am impressed to see fantasy taking on so many social issues.

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