Bard City Blues by Nathaniel Webb
Reviewed by Kay’s Hidden Shelf. I received an eARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Bard City Blues hits every note in this compelling cozy fantasy, leaving me with a full heart. This self-published cozy fantasy by Nathaniel Webb mixes music, mystery, found family, friendship and memorable characters effortlessly.
Music, magic, mystery, kissing, drinking, family, and a gelatinous cube.
Gally Chaparral is a highland girl with a dream: move to Lackmore, join the Bardic Guild, and get a gig at a fancy tavern on Symphony Hill.
Unfortunately, becoming a bard isn’t so easy. No good tavern will hire a non-Guild musician, her teacher is a jerk, and worst of all, the only job she can find is washing dishes at a bar that seems to have recently been a dungeon.
When Alix, a beautiful but obnoxious postal rider, tricks Gally into auditioning as her tavern’s new bard, things start looking up. But Gally’s first show is a disaster, and she’s only saved when a fight breaks out and the owner accuses Alix of destroying a valuable painting.
Now, to keep the gig, Gally must prove Alix’s innocence. But there’s more to the mystery than the loss of a painting, and being forced to work with Alix has Gally wondering if this brassy delivery girl is really as bad as she seems…
Gally is a determined character with big dreams, she felt nuanced, genuine and gets great character development throughout the story. The more I read, the more I came to love Gally’s character from her internal struggles, awkward moments, and passion for music. There is also a diverse side cast with elves, orcs, halflings, humans, and goblins to name a few. The characters interactions are well developed, each had distinct personalities, and their own side stories which impacted the story. While we see this through Gally’s POV, much of the side cast had memorable moments and developments as well. I can’t forget to mention a side character that will easily become a fan favourite.
“Xolgoth commands you to shove a thumb in the eye of fear.” – Xolgoth
Not only that, but the scenes of characters playing music are spot on. From small details of temperature affecting the instruments tuning, the impacts of a performance, to the various aspects that affect musicianship. Ultimately creating plenty of easter eggs for any musician reading.
As for worldbuilding, it felt accessible and immersive. It’s set in a high fantasy world with a sprinkling of magic. From magical shops to libraries, there were plenty of cozy settings.
Let’s talk about the stakes for a moment. Bard City Blues mixes a well plotted mystery and a thoughtfully done romance, creating an engaging story. There was also a great balance of intrigue and wholesome scenes that made this hard to put down.
As for pacing, it starts with a slow burn and shifts to medium around 50%. From the romance, plotline, and character developments, it all flowed naturally with the story.
With the importance of truth, self discovery, found family, relatable characters, LGBTQ representation, and music that rings through the pages, this is a must read for fans of Legends & Lattes.
Nathaniel Webb is an author to watch as his skill with writing compelling story and characters is evident.
Bard City Blues is one for my re-read list!
Publication: Currently on Kickstarter until May 19th, 2023 and an anticipated general release date September 2023.
Series: Standalone (a sequel is currently in the works)
Genre: Cozy Fantasy
Rating: 5/5 Stars