Book Review: The Robin and the Kestrel by Mercedes Lackey

Posted March 7, 2022 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: The Robin and the Kestrel by Mercedes Lackey

I received this book for free from my own shelves in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Robin and the Kestrel by Mercedes Lackey
Genres: Fantasy
Published by Baen on December 16, 2012
Pages: 384
Format: eBook
Source: my own shelves

Also by this author: Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill, Victories, Blood Red, The House of the Four Winds, Closer to Home, Changing the World: All-New Tales of Valdemar, Under the Vale and Other Tales of Valdemar, Winter Moon, Moving Targets and Other Tales of Valdemar, Elementary: All-New Tales of the Elemental Masters, No True Way: All-New Tales of Valdemar, From a High Tower, Hunter, Closer to the Heart, Silence, A Study in Sable, Elite, Closer to the Chest, Tempest: All-New Tales of Valdemar, A Scandal in Battersea, The Hills Have Spies, The Bartered Brides, Dragon's Teeth, Eye Spy, Breaking Silence, Pathways, The Case of the Spellbound Child, Jolene, Passages, Magic's Pawn, Magic's Promise, The Serpent's Shadow, The Oathbound, The White Gryphon, The Silver Gryphon, Beyond, Spy, Spy Again, Oathbreakers, The Lark and the Wren, The Gates of Sleep, Phoenix and Ashes, The Wizard of London, Oathblood, Exile's Honor, The Silver Bullets of Annie Oakley, Owlflight, Exile’s Valor

Second in the Bardic Voices fantasy series and revolving around the Free Bards. The couple focus is on the newlyweds, Robin and Johnny Brede.

My Take

It’s a tale of bigotry that’s being promoted by a “Church” that supposedly speaks of love and tolerance, but only approves of music or healing performed by their Guild allies or their own priests. Lackey makes an excellent point that an organized religion can claim that any action they take doesn’t have to be justified. That their religion is the only real one. And it demonstrates the hypocrisy that can always be found in those who claim power.

Of undermining generations of cooperative progress. *Shiver* these authoritative actions remind me of the Nazis and of people who accept what they’re told as long as it doesn’t affect them. There’s also a retreat back to treating women as “primitive, lascivious, and lewd”, not even achieving second class citizenship!

There’s quite a bit of back history at the start that explains what happened to Johnny and Bard Darian. It made me want to kick those arrogant bards!

Robin’s relationship to Kestrel is what so many aspire to, a partnership of equals where the man assumes that if she says she can do it, she can.

Hmm, those Deliambrens. Lackey uses the Deliambrens to hint at this world having been so much more advanced before some catastrophe they call the Cataclysm. Okay, so you know how gadget-happy I am, and the Deliambren achievements are definitely a load of fun gadgets, lol.

I did have to laugh at Robin’s bragging about Rune to the villagers of Westhaven. Those nasty people who had hoped to hear of her downfall, lol. It’s that impetuous and curious nature of Robin’s that leads her and Johnny into such troubles. An attitude that has Johnny questioning what he thought he knew of his wife.

Phew, The Robin and the Kestrel resolves the mystery of Carthell Abbey. Nasty, nasty, nasty!

It’s a fascinating page-turner of a tale of horror, magic, and music using third person dual protagonist point-of-view from Robin’s and Johnny’s perspectives, and involving good versus evil with plenty of action.

The Story

There is a High King in these lands who rules over the Twenty Kings, but he’s lost interest. An opportunity that leads to rising unrest that isn’t helped by the Bardic Guild and the Church working together to cause problems for any being who isn’t them, especially those immoral Free Bards.

Problems that include warning the populace to avoid hiring Free Bards, preaching morality, destroying trade and businesses that cater to travelers.

It’s an upset that finds Johnny and Gwyna going undercover in Gradford to learn who’s behind this new severe tyranny.

The Characters

Johnny Brede, a.k.a. Free Bard Kestrel or Prince Sional, (The Lark and the Wren, 1). Free Bard Robin, a.k.a. Gwyna, is Kestrel’s new bride, a gypsy with a talent for lyrics. In Gradford, they’ll become Jonny and Jina Brede, traders in God-Stars. Robin will also be “Reba” the daughter of Long Robere. Later she’ll pretend to be Rowen Woolwright, Orlina’s sister.

“Lord” Harperus, a.k.a. Old Owl, is both humanlike and yet similar to an owl — a Deliambren, drives the most amazing wagon! He’s also an honorary Free Bard for all the help he provides. His traveling companion, T’fyrr, is a Haspur, a bird-man, a folklorist who is collecting songs. Erdric is another, younger, Deliambren, who lives in Kingsford.

The Free Bards were . . .
. . . formed by Free Bard Master Talaysen, a.k.a. Master Wren, who had once been known as Master Gwydain, a famed bard in every kingdom for his skill and songs. Free Bard Rune, a.k.a. Lady Lark (The Lark and the Wren), is wed to Talaysen and both have been appointed the court Bards of Birnam — Talaysen is actually the Laurel Bard to the throne! Linnet, Gannet, Blackbird, and Nightingale, who plays the harp, are more Free Bards whom we first met in The Lark and the Wren. Peregrine is a Gypsy mage and Elf-Friend.

The Stillwater Waymeet . . .
. . . is just off a main trade road. Jackdaw is of the Guitan Clan and has a knack with penny-whistles. Oakhart is a cartwright.

Gradford is . . .
. . . a Free-Trade City without a Sire but with a High Bishop, Padrik, who could have been a Count. The Cathedral Constables, a.k.a. the Guards of Public Morality, are yet more hypocrites, visiting the brothels they may be ordered to close down.

Robere Patsono, the leader of the Pastsono Gypsy Clan, helps with Padrik’s miracles as do Little Robere, Bald Robere, Tammio Blackbear, Mindy, Rosa, Gray Tombere, and Berto Lightfingers.

Rodrick Cunart is a pack-trader. Master Tomas and his daughter, Juli, sell raw materials. The Singing Bird is an inn with Wylie as the innkeeper. Lady Orlina Woolwright is one of the Mayor’s Councilors and a Master in the Weaver’s Guild.

The Warren is a slum neighborhood that offers refuge where Donnar is the owner of the Empty Keg. Shawn Tailor’s offers personal “fittings”. Ardana Bodkin is a seamstress specializing in ecclesiastical robes. She also runs the House of Penitents as a madam. Sisters Tera, Jasmine, and Krystal are some of Ardana’s “nuns”.

Westhaven is . . .
. . . the village Rune came from. The Hungry Bear is the inn where Stara, Rune’s slut of a mother, has married Jeoff, the innkeeper. Annie Cook is the inn’s cook. Mother Tolley sells the freshest bread. Hill and Warren are two of the three bullies who had picked on Rune. Skull Hill, a.k.a. Bare Hill, is where the murderous Ghost haunts the land. The Priest of Westhaven had tried to banish the ghost.

Carthell Abbey knows . . .
. . . all about the Ghost of Skull Hill. Brother Pierce is beyond grumpy. Brother Reymond is the worried Abbey Librarian.

The Kingdom of Birnam
The rotten King Charlis had been Sional’s father. Master Darian had been the Guild Bard who escaped with the prince. King Rolend had been Charlis’ brother who staged an uprising.

Deliambrens have a reputation for wizardry mechanics and information brokering; they are said to live in Bendjin, a Free Republic with no Kings, Sires, or Dukes. The Fortress is a refuge where the Deliambrens can hole up and outlast a generation.

Alanda appears to be the world that includes the twenty human kingdoms as well as Bendjin and other non-human kingdoms. The King of Rayden is neglecting his duties as well.

A Waymeet is a permanent camping place set up by the Gypsies, a place to which Gypsies can retire, where non-Gypsies can camp for a fee, where a market provides provender, bathhouses and laundries are available, and repairs can be accomplished.

Adaestra music is as much magic as music and reputed to have the power to control spirits and souls. Beguilers are creatures that hypnotize their victims and lure them into swamps. Treekies are nocturnal bloodsuckers.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a collage of events with the ghostly hand reaching out for an older Gypsy on the right with Johnny and Robin rearing back on the left at the foot of the stairs that lead up into a sunny background of the leaning glowing buildings of Gradford. There are dark vertical borders on either side. At the very top is a red-outlined, yellow box with the author’s name in black. Immediately below it is a series blurb in a black-outlined white. Below this is the title in a wider black outline with thin lines of red surrounding the yellow text. Below that, on the left, is the series information in a shaped pale yellow box with a thin red-outline and the series name in black and an oval black box with the series number in a royal blue.

The title is who this tale is all about, The Robin and the Kestrel.

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