The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon
Published May 10, 2016, 352 pp.
Swallow, daughter, pull them in, those words that sit upon your lips. Lock them deep inside your soul, hide them ‘til they’ve time to grow. Close your mouth upon the power, curse not, cure not, ‘til the hour. You won’t speak and you won’t tell, you won’t call on heaven or hell. You will learn and you will thrive. Silence, daughter. Stay alive.
The day my mother was killed, she told my father I wouldn’t speak again, and she told him if I died, he would die too. Then she predicted the king would sell his soul and lose his son to the sky.
My father has a claim to the throne, and he is waiting in the shadows for all of my mother’s words to come to pass. He wants desperately to be king, and I just want to be free.
But freedom will require escape, and I’m a prisoner of my mother’s curse and my father’s greed. I can’t speak or make a sound, and I can’t wield a sword or beguile a king. In a land purged of enchantment, love might be the only magic left, and who could ever love . . . a bird?
How goes it?
Ack, skip the summary. Just read the quote, and dive right into the book. Because this isn’t just about romance, not just about court politics – it’s about a girl who learns who she is, and what she can do.
This is my first book by the author, and Amy Harmon has a way with words. Most of the time, our heroine doesn’t even have an inner dialogue, because words have power – especially for someone like her – and she learned early on that a careless slip, an exclamation, can have far-reaching consequences. Somehow though, Amy Harmon manages to draw us into Lark’s story, and by the end I didn’t want to leave Jeru.
The Bird and the Sword is about Lark, who is Gifted – she can make dolls fly, heal others, objects move just by saying the words. However, the Gifted are hunted because those whose who do not have Gifts, or whose powers have become weaker down the line, fear that the Gifted could use their powers to lord over those who are not as powerful. Hence, a proverbial witch hunt was instituted, and now Gifted suppress their powers or flee the kingdom of Jeru. One day, the king visits Lark’s family and inadvertently witnesses a display of Lark’s power. Her mother is killed, but before she dies she recites a curse that includes the king, his son, Lark, and her father. Years later, the prince comes back – but now he’s king, and in a war against the Volgar, and when Lark’s father doesn’t send enough troops, he takes Lark as collateral to make sure her father sends his troops. At the castle, Lark is surprised to be treated like a guest, albeit one confined to their room all day long, and even more surprising, the king, Tiras, starts to teach her how to read and write. Soon Lark discovers the extent of her powers – just in time, because the Volgar numbers aren’t going down, and Jeru will need all the help it can get.
This reads almost like a fairytale, in a good way. Lark isn’t hampered by her lack of ability to communicate via words, Tiras enables her to read and write, and in the end they save their kingdom together. Lark also manages to hold herself well in battle, and even takes down her fair share of havoc-wreaking Volga. Basically, she manages to overcome every obstacle thrown her way, despite the odds hardly ever being in her favor.
Would I like more detail? Yes – I feel like I still lack details of how exactly Jeru, and the rest of the places, look like. I would’ve also liked more on the mythology of the Gifted, but that’s just because I would like to know more. Don’t worry: what Amy Harmon does narrate of how the Gifted came to be is sufficient for the book. I feel like this is one of those books where I don’t mind the lack of specifics, because the author manages to craft the world and characters so well, even without delving into details. Almost like she paints with broad brushstrokes, and you see the whole picture – and the little things don’t really matter if this is the result. And I really do love the result.
Amy Harmon’s writing is lyrical, atmospheric, and has a way of sticking with you even after finishing the book. Lark cannot speak – she doesn’t have the words, thanks to her father refusing to let her learn letters and words – but she’s smart, learns how to observe people around her, and quickly adapts to her surroundings.
I liked the way Lark’s character developed through the book. It was apparent that Lark had a spine even early on, but didn’t have the tools to stand up for herself, or even “speak” for herself. But as she accumulated experiences, interacted with more people, she learned how to do just that, and I like how Tiras played a hand in that growth. He isn’t the alpha sort of male, he’s more of a soft, supporting-from-the-backstage kind of guy, which I think is perfect for Lark.
I also particularly like how the Gifted’s powers work, especially those of the Tellers, because they use words. For the Tellers’ power to work, they need to be specific, because they can be interpreted differently by different people. Because of this, what Lark’s mother says as she is dying was at first taken as a curse, but as Lark discovers how her power does work, she realizes that maybe her mother wasn’t cursing anyone – it was a portent of things to come.
The romance kind of creeps up on you, because I felt like it came on suddenly. It’s not insta-love; more like they’ve barely become friends, and suddenly I read Boojohni, a troll who has been with her since childhood, saying Lark is in love with Tiras. It’s like a seed was planted, and from there Lark realizes that maybe she is in love with Tiras. I’ll cut Lark some slack, since this is her first time having these sorts of feelings, but I feel like this could’ve come on more organically.
Overall, I think this is a book that’ll stick with you after you’re done reading it. I finished reading this yesterday and I still can’t get this out of my head – it kind of echoes in my mind every now and then. If you want a good, quick fantasy romance, and would like a break from serials, I think The Bird and the Sword could be your next read.
Perfect read if you like fantasy, you like romance, but do not want to deal with reading multiple books.