The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
First of all, I want to comment on the writing. It was breathtaking, like reading poetry or listening to violins while smelling roses.
I was hooked from the very start, and quickly got lost in a very good way. The intro might even be my favorite part – folklore meets fairytale and completely intriguing. I mean c’mon, you ready something like below… how can you not read more?
“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 heav’n or hell. You will learn and you will thrive. Silence, daughter. Stay alive.”
Honestly the whole thing reads like an old-timey fairytale – full of beauty, mystery, and darkness. Lark (yep, that’s the MC’s name and its totally awesome) can’t speak, thanks to a curse her mother meant to protect her when she was young – as you can tell if you read the above quote. In fact, it all happens right before her mother is killed by the king for having magic.
When Lark grows up (at the start of the novel), we find out very quickly how sad her life is. Not only can she not speak, but her father holds no love for her and sees her only as a waste, a curse. He’d like nothing more than to be rid of her, but the second part of Lark’s mother’s curse is that their lives are tied together. He will die if something happens to her. So, Lark is kept at his manor for ‘safekeeping’. Her father won’t allow her to learn to read or write, much less anything else.
Everything changes when the son of the man who killed her mother, the current king, shows up and whisks her away (I won’t explain why.)
I’d say just go in not knowing much more than that. The story is very much driven by emotion. Having the story told from Lark’s perspective is so interesting – we learn how she feels just by her inner monologue and how she gestures to people since she is unable to speak herself. And when she captures the attention of the king and the two start to get to know each other, things get even more emotional. I’m pretty sure I shed a few tears in this one.
I couldn’t explain how it felt to converse with another human being. To actually converse. I had been reduced to sharing nothing of my innermost thoughts for most of my life. Reduced to throwing things when I was angry. Reduced to tears when I was sad. Reduced to the simplicity of nods and bows, of having people look away from me or become frustrated when they didn’t know what I was trying to communicate.
The ending was really beautiful. Though a generally sad book, I felt really satisfied at the conclusion (I was really getting worried there for a while.) I’d recommend this to fans of Naomi Novak or Grace Draven!
My biggest complaint is the very strange nods to Christianity. Normally I’d be all for that, but it just felt too weird, almost like copying to an extent and then warping it. For example, in the beginning, the author literally describes how the world is made and she straight up took it from Genesis (almost word for word )… up until she decided she wanted it to stop and formed into some other form of religion. Then, she uses several biblical references such as ‘two-edged sword’ and whatnot.
Again, it wasn’t that I minded that referenced it or anything like that.. but it just felt cheap the way she handled it. I’m curious if someone else felt this way. It would be one thing if she gave credit or talked about her inspiration in the acknowledgements or just SOMEWHERE, but I searched and searched and found nothing. I love seeing real life inspiration and how it can breath into a story but this just felt… wrong.
Either way, I enjoyed the book and I’m stoked for the sequel (though thank goodness this one wrapped up for the most part!)