Sunday, June 3, 2018

Review: The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen

The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen
Published: June 5, 2018
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 336 (hardcover)
Series: N/A
Source: HarperCollins
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a slave in the Kipchak Khanate, Jinghua has lost everything: her home, her family, her freedom... until she finds herself an unlikely conspirator in the escape of Prince Khalaf and his irascible father as they flee from their enemies across the vast Mongol Empire. On the run, with adversaries on all sides and an endless journey ahead, Jinghua hatches a scheme to use the Kipchaks' exile to return home, a plan that becomes increasingly fraught as her feelings for Khalaf evolve into a hopeless love.

Jinghua's already dicey prospects take a downward turn when Khalaf seeks to restore his kingdom by forging a marriage alliance with Turandokht, the daughter of the Great Khan. As beautiful as she is cunning, Turandokht requires all potential suitors to solve three impossible riddles to win her hand- and if they fail, they die.

Jinghua has kept her own counsel well, but with Khalaf’s kingdom—and his very life—on the line, she must reconcile the hard truth of her past with her love for a boy who has no idea what she’s capable of ... even if it means losing him to the girl who’d sooner take his life than his heart.

I was *living* for this historical fiction stand-alone book. The Prologue into Part One confused me a bit because of the timeline, but I quickly wrapped my head around the story of the book and once I picked the book up after a good night’s rest I loved the flow Bannen picked. Like I said, the timeline is a little wonky at first, but it fits the story being told perfectly. The Prologue is two character’s meeting for the first time, and the beginning of Part One is the beginning of the climax of the book. The novel then switches between the journey leading up to the climax, and little snippets of the climax. You slowly discover bits of information about the three main characters, the recent history of the empire they live in, and LOTS of fun poetry/riddles. I wouldn’t want the book set up any other way!

What I really love about the novel is how seamlessly the story flows. It feels natural, even though this specific story didn’t occur. The topic is obviously well-researched to make the plot feel so smooth. The Bird and the Blade is actually a retelling of “Prince Khalaf and the Princess of China” a story about how a great king must be a competent warrior and extremely wise. A Princess tells 3 riddles that must be answered in order to be married, a Prince and his slave respond to the call- that’s as vaguely specific as I’m going to get so that I don’t spoil anything not given away at the beginning of the book! Basically, I really enjoyed how this non-mongolian story was able to be transplanted into the chaos of the Mongolian/Song turmoil and was able to use historical East Asian events to portray this new rendition of a Persian story.

Furthermore, the characters and their development in this story felt so natural. It’s amazing what traveling across a continent in close quarters will do to a small group of travelers. Namely, a Khan in exile, a Prince in exile, and their slave. The POV is from the slave, and the father-son dynamic seen from the outside was stellar. Jinghua (the slave) is full of mystery and creates a compelling main character, even for the parts of the story when you know practically nothing about her.


This is definitely one of my favorite books of the year and I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves history, riddles, and intricate relationships (romantically and familial).

1 comment:

  1. I haven't heard of this book before but I LIVE for historical fiction and interesting timeline organizations! I recently read a bunch of past-present narratives and ever since then, I've been going on a kick of other variations. Lovely review, Nikki!

    Laura @BlueEyeBooks

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