Title: The Bird and the Blade
Author: Megan Bannen
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Retelling, Romance
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication date: June 5th, 2018
As a slave in the Kipchak Khanate, Jinghua has lost everything: her home, her family, her freedom … until the kingdom is conquered by enemy forces and she finds herself an unlikely conspirator in the escape of Prince Khalaf and his irascible father 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 can tell myself I have options, but really it all boils down to one choice: it’s either Khalaf’s life or mine.
And that’s a choice I don’t know how to make.”
I cannot tell you how excited I was to read this book. The premise sounded amazing, and before I started reading I read that I was a retelling of Turandot, and even though I had to read a bit what the opera was about before picking up this book, I think that alone made me even more excited. And I have to say that I ended up being a bit disappointed with the whole story. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but The Bird and the Blade let me down.
First of all let me start by saying that even though I had a fairly idea of what the book was about and in what it took inspiration from, I was hoping to read more about the prince trying to solve the riddles. And though we got to see those parts, the whole story was mostly focused on the journey of our main character and her relationship with Khalaf, and I found those parts a bit boring.
The story itself was really lineal and for being quite a long book, I feel not much happened that made the characters or the plot remarkable. The storyline was very plain and boring and I think that though it focused more on the politics and the relationship between Khalaf’s family with the others and explained a lot of things about that, it was very confusing at times and I feel I wasn’t as invested in the story as I would have wanted to. It dragged in some parts and others there wasn’t anything that important happening, and I was wanting to get to the present parts where Khalaf was trying to solve those riddles.
“It’s funny. While to all outward my appearances my life has changed drastically over the past couple of years, there are some things that stay the same.”
The characters were pretty simple to me. Our main character Jinghua was a very lineal and plain character, and I was constantly wishing to see an evolution in her that I didn’t see until the very end of the story. I enjoyed the relationship she had with Khalaf, and how that relationship evolved during the story, but there were some things that made me not connect with her as much as I wanted to.
The romance, though it was well written and had a very interesting development, was a bit insta love-y. I would say that I absolutely adored Megan Bannen’s writing, and I think it added a different touch to the whole story, and her descriptions and everything in general was absolutely gorgeous.
The thing that made me give this book a solid three stars, and what changed my mind about The Bird and The Blade was the ending. It was absolutely heartbreaking and I wasn’t expecting to see something like that happening, and it was really well done and I completely loved it. It was definitely my favorite part of the book, and just for that alone I’m so glad I ended up reading this novel.
Overall, even though this book had a very interesting premise and the ending was incredibly amazing, I had a few issues with the whole plot and the characters, and since I was in a small reading slump by the time I don’t know if that reason was why I didn’t enjoy it as much or not.
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