Wednesday, June 6, 2018

ARC Review: The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen

The Bird and the Blade
Author: Megan Bannen
Publication: Balzer + Bray (June 5, 2018)

Description: The Bird and the Blade is a lush, powerful story of life and death, battles and riddles, lies and secrets from author Megan Bannen.

Enslaved in 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 an impossible 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.

My Thoughts: THE BIRD AND THE BLADE was an excellent historical fiction novel set in the Mongol Empire around the year 1280. It's star is Jinghua who is a young woman with lots of secrets. She is a slave in the Kipchak Khanate. When the Khanate is overrun by the il-khanate she chooses to go on the run with the deposed Khan Timur and his only surviving son Khalaf who is both kind and brilliant.

As they flee ahead of both the il-khanate's forces and soldiers sent by Turandokht, the daughter of the Great Khan, Khalaf and Jinghua fall in love. A more hopeless love would be hard to imagine since he is a prince and she is a slave and considering that Khalaf's one road to restoring his position in society is to win the hand of Turandokht. However, Turandokht is not making the task easy. Any suitor has to answer three impossible riddles. Failure means a gruesome death.

The story is woven between the contest of riddles and how Jinghua and Khalaf got there. It is filled with romance and danger and a twist I didn't see coming. The Author's Note talks about her inspiration coming from the opera Turandot which, since what I know about opera could be written on the smallest Post-It Note with plenty of room to spare, came as a surprise for me. Some of the plot elements are certainly operatic in nature. I also enjoyed the poetry and songs that were part of the story.

I enjoyed the setting which takes place in a time period and part of the world unfamiliar to me. I also loved the relationship between Khalaf and Jinghua. I thought Jinghua was an intriguing character who was quite mysterious. Part Six answered quite a few questions I had about her past.

Fans of historical fiction and romance will enjoy this story.

Favorite Quote:
I think he must miss learning as much as I miss home. So now I am his university. And he, I realize with a sick dread in my stomach, is my universe.

It happened in little fits and starts through the desert of the il-khanate and then in an overwhelming rush as we near the Chagati border, like water breaking through a dam. I'm drowning in a flood of Khalaf, and I don't know what to do about it.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

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