Top Ten Tuesday: Books Featuring Musicians

April 28, 2015 Top Ten Tuesday 30


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Top Ten Books Which Feature Characters Who _____ (are musically inclined, have lost someone, have depression, who grow up poor, etc.). .

I chose Books with Characters Who Are Musically Inclined, because music is my other passion (besides reading), and I love reading about singers and other musicians. What surprised me was how few books I came up with; I expected to have to cull from a much longer list.

Click on the cover to see the book on Goodreads. Click the title link (if any) to read my review.



The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear (Patrick Rothfuss): Kvothe is a highly-skilled musician and composer, particularly on the lute. He’s also a storyteller, a brilliant student, a mage, a thief, a bit of a trickster, and a highly unreliable narrator. All by the tender age of 15 or 16. He’s awesome.

Seraphina and Shadow Scale (Rachel Hartman): Seraphina is a highly-gifted court musician and composer, and a human-dragon halfbreed – something her world barely admits is possible, and views with loathing.

The Lark and the Wren (Mercedes Lackey): Rune is a highly-gifted musician and composer who runs away from home to find musical training – but not until after she survives the murderous Skull Hill Ghost by playing for him all night.


Dragonsong & Dragonsinger (Anne McCaffrey): Menolly is a highly-gifted musician and composer (are you seeing a pattern here?) who runs away from home because they forbid her to play and sing, and ends up apprenticed to the Masterharper of all Pern. (The third book, Dragondrums, focuses more on her young friend Piemur.)

Magic’s Pawn, Magic’s Promise, Magic’s Price (Mercedes Lackey): Vanyel is a nobleman’s son and pretty good musician. He wants desperately to become a Bard… but he doesn’t have the Bardic Gift. After a magic experiment goes tragically wrong, killing his lifebonded lover and blasting open his Gifts (magical and musical), Vanyel becomes a Herald-Mage of Valdemar. But music is still an important part of his life. (Warning: the last half or third of the final book contains a rape scene, emotionally rough though not graphic, and the book doesn’t end very happily. But it’s still a good series.)


The Prydain Chronicles (Lloyd Alexander): Fflewddur Fflam is a nobleman who passes himself off as a Bard… and he’s an absolutely terrible musician. His harp has two peculiar properties: the strings break if Flewddur lies or exaggerates (which he does with hilarious regularity), and it can play itself (after he’s given a very special string.) Flewddur isn’t the main character, but he is a continual delight – and much braver and nobler than he or anyone else realizes. (review)

The Sorcerer of the North (John Flanagan) Newly-promoted Ranger Will Treaty poses as a jongleur to carry out a spying mission. He’s passable, but not great… but the recurring joke as everyone calls his mandola a lute and Will tries to correct them is rather fun.



Photo Finish (Ngaio Marsh) La Sommita, a flamboyant opera singer who epitomizes the “diva” stereotype (and based in part on Maria Callas), is murdered on an island during a storm, with both Inspector Alleyn and his artist wife Troy in residence, thus presenting a closed-circle mystery that Alleyn must solve. Almost everyone except the Alleyns has a motive, but the prime suspect is the paparazzo “Strix”, who is apparently on the island – either in disguise or in hiding.

The Horn of Roland (Ellis Peters) – Before he became a well-known composer, Lucas Corinth worked with the Resistance in the Alps during the war. He has returned to debut his latest and greatest work, “The Horn of Roland”. But someone from the past has vowed to kill him for betraying one of his wartime colleagues. (Corinth isn’t the only musician; there’s also a struggling horn player plucked from obscurity to play the horn solo, and a blind fiddler.) This isn’t the best of Peters’ mysteries, but I enjoy it; it has an almost Mary Stewart-like feel, except that Lucas is as important a character as his daughter Una, the heroine. Other Peters mysteries featuring music and musicians are Black is the Color of My True Love’s Heart (which I love!) and the wonderful The Piper on the Mountain (review.)



Simply Unforgettable (Mary Balogh): Francis Allard is an incredibly gifted soprano, so why is she hidden away, teaching music at a small girls’ school in Bath? After fate throws them together for a single, unforgettable night, nobleman Lucius Marshall is determined to pursue her – and give her voice the opportunity to shine – regardless of her protestations. I love Balogh’s historical romances, and this is a good one.


Honorable Mention

The Melendy Quartet (Elizabeth Enright): Russ, the second-eldest sibling, plays the piano and composes.

Eight Cousins and A Rose in Bloom (Louisa May Alcott): Rose’s maid and friend, Phoebe, beomes a singer, but she’s not a major character.

Exile’s Song (Marion Zimmer Bradley) Marguerida Alton is a musician, and that brings her to Darkover, the nearly-forgotten planet of her birth.

The Copper Crown and The Silver Branch (Patricia Keneally-Morrison) Secondary character and main love interest Gwydion is a master Bard – among his many other talents.


I’m pretty sure I’ve missed some good books – so please tell me your favorite books about musicians in the comments!


30 Responses to “Top Ten Tuesday: Books Featuring Musicians”

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Have fun – there are some delightful books on that list, so hopefully you’ll find something to love! Thank you for coming by, Chrissi!

  1. Rosy @ The Review Diaries

    A really awesome list with some fantastic books. My favourite will always be Seraphina – that book made such an impact on me and the music was such an incredible and integral part of the narrative. I was devastated at how little music is referenced or used in the sequel. It made it feel like a completely different story from the first one.
    My TTT
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    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I was sad about that too – music is so much a part of Seraphina that it seemed odd that it took a back seat in Shadow Scale. Thank you for visiting, and I hope you’ll come back!

  2. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    One of my very favorite books about musicians is A Mixture of Frailties by Robertson Davies, about a young Canadian girl who goes to London to train as a singer. There’s also The Magicians of Caprona by Diana Wynne Jones, in which singing is an important part of magic-making. I will have to look up the Peters books, I always thought she only wrote the Cadfael mysteries.
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    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Thanks for the suggestions! I know the name Robertson Davies, but haven’t read him, and I’ve read a little DWJ, but not that one. I’ll have to check them out!

      Ellis Peters wrote some standalone contemporary mysteries as well as a contemporary mystery series featuring Inspector George Felse and/or his son Dominic – plus one that actually features his wife Bunty as the MC. I enjoy them – some of them quite as much as the Cadfael mysteries! In addition to the titles I mentioned above, check out Never Pick Up Hitch Hikers for a humourous standalone, or try A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs (aka Who Lies Here) for an early entry in the Felse series. A City of Gold and Shadows is also really good; Felse is in it but he’s not the main character.

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Oh, how on earth did I forget Beth?! Good one! And It’s true that Tolkien’s books are full of songs (which I absolutely love!), but most of his LOTR and Hobbit characters enjoy singing songs, but music doesn’t define them as characters – it’s not a fundamental drive or urge – so I didn’t put the books on the list. (The Silmarillion has at least one musician that fits my criteria, I think, but it’s so long since I read it that I hesitated to include it based on that vague memory.)

  3. Leia Ann

    Have you ever read Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay? If I look at your picks here, I’m sure that you’ll love it.

    Ooh, also the Crystal Singer series by Anne McCaffrey slightly more sci-fi than fantasy, but incredibly enjoyable.

    Great list, though. Some interesting High Fantasy picks that I’ve not encountered before. I’ll have to check them out!
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    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Tigana is one I still need to read. And the Crystal Singer series, too. They’re both on my (massively long) TBR list, but they’ve slipped toward the bottom because of adding newer books. Thanks for the reminder! 🙂

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      This week is fun because of the wide range of topics people chose. I saw a few other musician posts, but mostly with contemporary YA/NA books on them.

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I think I saw both of those books on someone else’s “musically inclined characters list” this week! You’re right about the rock band books… I see them on people’s blogs, but I don’t tend to read a lot of contemporary YA (mostly fantasy) so I haven’t come across them in my library forays. Thanks for stopping by, and for the suggestions!

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Thanks! I thought it might help, since they are such different kinds of books, tied together only by having musical characters.

  4. R_Hunt @ View From My Home

    Great list– some major authors there on your fantasy list. I was stumped by this week; music is lovely to me but not a big part of my life, unfortunately. I also started to think of LOTR, but I couldn’t identify one character as driven by music, though the hobbits loved to play music under the big Party Tree and have get-togethers 🙂
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    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Hobbits sure know how to throw a party, don’t they? So do Elves, in their own way. And even the Rohirrim. It’s a pity we never get to see the Dwarves in their own lands (I don’t count Moria or the Lonely Mountain, which the dwarves were trying to reclaim.) I’ll bet they’re pretty good at celebrations, too.

  5. Jan

    Great list, Lark! I also used music in my list and had a very difficult time coming up with 12 books. Part of my problem was that I knew lots of fantasy books have bards or minstrels in them and historical romances often have some music in them, but I couldn’t always come up with the name of the book! I tried to remember which Mary Balogh books had music as a big part of the plot and remembered the one you have on your list, but I couldn’t remember the title or series!
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    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I saw your list and loved it! Sorry I’m so late replying. I know what you mean about not always being able to remember the name of a book. Luckily, I had a bunch of these on my shelves, so I could go look. 🙂

  6. anna (herding cats & burning soup)

    Oh my brain has totally given me the slip. I read a historical last year where the hero played the violin and it was just a fantastic read and now…nope. Can’t remember the title for the life of me. I’m gonna have to go look through old reviews.

    Recently though Lisa Nicholas did a rockstar one that really hit me. It was very different with the heroine being British Military and the hero a rockstar she was protecting while on leave.

    I’m gonna have to check out the Balogh one. Have been meaning to try her again.
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    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Hmm, a romance where the heroine is the bodyguard? That’s new and different! And if you ever remember the title of that historical where the hero plays violin, I’d love to check it out.

  7. Kaja

    These are great choices! 🙂 I’d lovelovelove to hear Kvothe play once (and to hear him & Denna sing together). Ahh 🙂
    Seraphina’s playing would be something to behold, too.
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    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I’d love to hear Kvothe and Denna sing – or sing with Kvothe myself. (Yes, he’s a lot too young for me, but I love to sing!) And I’d love to hear Seraphina play, too.