I was excited to get a chance to read and review the second installment of The Red War Annals, The Red Bard of Roche by Helena S. George, after reading and reviewing its predecessor, The Lost Bard of Taliyaven, last year. While I do not read a lot of fantasy novels, I was intrigued to learn what happened to the characters in The Lost Bard of Taliyaven and The Red Bard of Roche did not disappoint.
The Red Bard of Roche picks up shortly after the events in The Lost Bard of Taliyaven. The war with the neighboring kingdom of Llenned is over, at least for the moment, and Masha and her people of Arribor emerge the victors. Because she saved the princezná Katarína (Katka), Masha becomes Katarína’s personal protector, or crown warrior. The novel begins with Llenned sending an offer of peace between the two kingdoms through proposing a marriage between Katarína and their prince. But is Llenned’s offer genuine, or is it a trap? And Roche, another neighboring kingdom, is intent on capturing Masha and Katarína, but why, and will they succeed? And what about Masha’s brother, Denis, who was captured in the last novel? All of these are questions that The Red Bard of Roche explores.
The novel also continues the story of Zoya Zvonimira, another main character from The Lost Bard of Taliyaven who admittedly was probably my least favorite character in that novel. However, I found her story extremely interesting in The Red Bard of Roche and could not wait to see what happened to her, especially with all of the plot twists that occur throughout The Red Bard of Roche.
The plot pace of The Red Bard of Roche is faster than The Lost Bard of Taliyaven. I found the novel more suspenseful than its predecessor and could not put it down. Like The Lost Bard of Taliyaven, The Red Bard of Roche is sectioned into parts and chapters, and each chapter follows a different character’s perspective. Because of this style, the reader learns information that some of the characters know but other characters do not, and I really enjoyed this technique. The novel further has Christian themes like The Lost Bard of Taliyaven. Masha is a strong Christian character, and in one scene, Masha states to one character who is not a Christian that she believes that God has worked her life out perfectly, despite her biological parents dying in a fire (60). Additionally, I enjoyed seeing how Masha’s faith has an influence on Katka, who is also not a Christian but becomes more interested in Masha’s beliefs by the end of this novel.
Overall, I struggled with keeping track of all of the characters, especially characters who have several different names. I had to reread parts of The Lost Bard of Taliyaven to remember what was going on. Even so, I found keeping track of the characters easier in The Red Bard of Roche than in The Lost Bard of Taliyaven. I think this is in part because I was more familiar with the characters from reading the first novel. Also, The Red Bard of Roche clarifies some scenes that confused me in The Lost Bard of Taliyaven, such as the first part that did not make sense to me, as I mentioned in my review. Because of these clarifications and the faster plot pace, I enjoyed The Red Bard of Roche more than The Lost Bard of Taliyaven.
The ending is satisfactory, as it resolves several plot points that I was wondering about, but The Red Bard of Roche leaves a lot hanging as well. I recommend The Red Bard of Roche to ages sixteen and up, and I recommend reading it together with The Lost Bard of Taliyaven, as I think it would be hard to follow without reading the prequel. I can’t wait to see what happens to Masha and her friends in the sequel, The Singing Bard of Llenned, that comes out later this year!
Kathryn Dover lives in South Carolina with her family including six cats, a dog, three fish, and many house plants. She attends Presbyterian College, majoring in math with minors in history and creative writing. Kathryn loves writing, especially plays, and she completed and performed her first play, The Sexton, at 14. She is currently serving as a Russell Program Intern in PC’s Marketing and Communications office and writing for the school newspaper, The BlueStocking. She’s not sure what she wants to do as a career, only that she wants to write, but is trusting that God has a plan for her life to use her in a powerful way.