Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen

Title: The Bird and the Blade
Author: Megan Bannen
Genre: Historical, Fantasy
Source: Balzer + Bray

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.
Review by Nara

Well that was fucking devastating.

I'm not sure how famous the opera Turandot is, but I personally had never heard of it and knew absolutely nothing about the plot of the original tale. The Bird and the Blade is a retelling that focuses on one of the secondary characters in the play, and gives her the story that the original never shows.

Jinghua is a slave girl who is shown kindness by the prince of the Kipchak Khanate, and decides to follow him and his father when they become political targets. I very much enjoyed watching the development of the relationship between the three main characters, and the unfolding of Jinghua's tragic backstory.

I have to admit, there's a slight fantasy aspect of the novel that confused me. Jinghua is haunted by her brother's ghost, and she has to do things like offer him food to keep him at bay (sidenote: offering food to ghost ancestors is definitely an Asian tradition, but I don't think the message is necessarily to keep them from haunting you). I was a bit unsure as to whether this ghost was real and this was a fantasy or whether it was just some sort of magical realism thing where it's like she's an unreliable narrator. I guess it doesn't matter too much in the end, because I still highly rated the novel overall.

The Bird and the Blade is a political/historical fantasy that was quite the impressive debut. I am looking forward to what else Megan Bannen has to offer.

Overall: 9/10
Plot: 5/5
Romance: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
World Building: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 2/5