The Bird and the Blade
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Published: June 5th 2018
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.
THE BIRD AND THE BLADE is a lush, powerful story of life and death, battles and riddles, lies and secrets from debut author Megan Bannen.
If I believed in the half star system, this would be a 3.5 ★’s .
Before we get started, no, I had no prior knowledge of the Italian opera Turandot, which this book is based on. I do appreciate the story taking place in the Mongol Empire, it adds a nice take to the story.
Keeping it short: We have a prince who wants to save his kingdom by solving three riddles in a competition to gain the hand of a powerful princess.
This book is a pretty slow read, though I got through it pretty quickly. It’s a lot of alternating between the past with the characters in the woods, on the run showing how they got to where they were in the present.
The present day chapters were confusing in terms of Jinghua, she was very cryptic and until the big reveal (which I liked a lot actually), I was just hoping it would be explained.
The characters all had their separate voices and though Khalaf did irritate me because he was weak, I couldn’t dislike him. Same with Jinghua. Though she fell for him quick and hard and made questionable decisions based on said feelings, I couldn’t dislike her. I think my favorite part was the relationship between Jinghua and Timur, especially towards the end. It was sweet and a sort of parallel/contrast from her own father.
I knew without a doubt this was going to end tragically. Was I wrong? No. Did I cry? Again, no. But I did feel the injustice of it all and was angry for the characters, even if they weren’t angry themselves. This was a good read, especially the last third of it, it left me with this echo of sadness and stayed in my thoughts days after I read it.
Megan Bannen is a librarian and the author of THE BIRD AND THE BLADE. In her spare time, she collects graduate degrees from Kansas colleges and universities. While most of her professional career has been spent in public libraries, she has also sold luggage, written grants, and taught English at home and abroad. She lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, their two sons, and a few too many pets with literary names.
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