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The Theory of the Leisure Class (Modern Library Classics)
Thorstein Veblen, Alan Wolfe
The Lark And The Wren - Mercedes Lackey Spunky gal Rune is teased in her generic medieval European village! Oh noes, but at least she has her music. In fact, she's so good that she wins a fiddling contest against an ancient and malevolent ghost. Buoyed by her success, she enters the Bardic Trials to become a licensed bard. BUT! She's a girl! And girls can't be bards! OPRESHUN! She wins the competition, but when she reveals her gender they beat her and cast her out. Luckily, she impressed Talyeson and the Free Bards. They take her on, and she spends the rest of the book travelling the roads, making her living through music.
The first half of the story is a lot of fun. Rune is hard-working and good hearted, and her love of music is clear. There's a great bit during the Bardic Trials when she retools a song WHILE SINGING IT to ensure the judges don't think her too proud or female. The tension between the Bardic Guild and the Free Bards is great, and I liked the sequence of Rune discovering the hardships of the road. Unfortunately, all too soon the tension and quick-thinking devolve into a saccharine romance, with an easy victory thrown in.
As a middle schooler, I really enjoyed the Bardic Voices series. If I read it nowadays I probably wouldn't manage two pages.