The Bird and the Blade
Author: Megan Bannen
Publication Date: June 5th, 2018
Publisher: Blazer + 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.
The Bird and The Blade was one of my most anticipated new releases for 2018. It didn’t disappoint. Its rare that you find books set in the Mongol Empire, I don’t think I’ve ever read a YA book about it. The Mongol Empire has a rich and brutal history which is why I was interested in this book.
The Bird and the Blade is a historical fiction that takes place in the Mongol Empire in 1280, decades after Genghis Khan. It also touches on the fall of the Song Dynasty following a young woman named Jinghua, a slave, who has a devastating story and a past she can’t forget.
This book is full of romance, betrayal, lies, political wars, survival and friendship. The writing is absolutely beautiful and lush the book is filled with riddles and songs which just adds to the beauty. This is a historical fiction that reads like a fantasy, there are elements like Jinghua seeing the ghost of her brother which bring in that fantastical element. If you’re looking for some seriously beautiful writing look no further, give this a shot. Just to make a note while the writing is beautiful it is very modern, modern terms are used and they way the characters interact is modern so if you’re looking for a historically accurate story this wont be it.
The plot of the book is alright, it’s nothing I haven’t seen before, the slave falling for the Prince, forbidden love which just happens to be my least favourite trope out there. As this is my least favourite trope I wasn’t really into the romance aspect of it, because forbidden love always makes me roll my eyes, I was however into the friendship formed between Jinghua and Khalaf. Their friendship was pure, heartwarming and heartbreaking.
What makes this book different from normal historical fiction and the forbidden love trope and what kept me interested were the characters, the setting, the fantasy feeling of the book and finding out the truth about Jinghua. While the plot of the book is alright it’s really the ending that pushes this book over the edge. The ending is satisfying while being devastating and bitter-sweet.
I really enjoyed the characters of Jinghua and Timur, Khalaf was an alright character, slightly on the boring side though. Jinghua is a strong, intelligent and feisty character, as the book progresses she begins to voice her opinions and that feisty side comes out especially when interacting with Timur or ‘The Old Goat’ as she refers to him. Timur was the Khan of the Kipchak Khanate which he lost and had to go into exile so he wouldn’t be killed. He’s an opinionated grumpy old man who doesn’t seem to care about anything besides getting his title back and trying to sell Jinghua. The way these two character interact is a bit of comedic relief, Timur likes to make jabs about Jinghua and Jinghua dishes it right back to him. Prince Khalaf is educated, conscious, religious and kind, he wants to help save his father and will do whatever it takes, including trying to forge a marriage alliance by solving the riddles of Turandokht. Everyone who has tried ends up dead. The way they die is absolutely BRUTAL.
In conclusion this was a fantastic book and I recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction, the forbidden love trope or anyone who wants to read a beautiful story with beautiful writing. Like I said above if you are looking for a historically accurate account of the Mongol Empire during 1280 you’ll need to look somewhere else.