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Book: “The Bird and the Sword” by Amy Harmon
Publishing Info: CreateSpace, May 2016
Where Did I Get this Book: own it!
Book Description: 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.
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 trade 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?
Review: Now that I’ve discovered Amy Harmon, I’m probably going to just systematically work my way through her catalogue. And, surprise, surprise, when I started looking through her book list, I discovered several books I’d already flagged on my TBR list. I’d had my eyes on this one for quite a while, but now that I knew I already liked the author, it was a no brainer to get my hands on a copy as soon as possible!
Lark was born with a powerful gift, the ability to influence things around her with her voice. But in a land where magic is outlawed, Lark’s mother, in a final act as she’s lying dying in front of her small daughter, locks Lark’s voice away to protect her. Now, silenced and moving through a world that only wants to use her, Lark finds herself caught up in great wars and the fate of a nation. But will the love a King be enough to unlock her voice and with it a power that could save them all?
This is the second book that I’ve read recently that features a protagonist who can’t speak for most of the book. The last one was the middle-grade novel “Gallant.” It’s a particularly challenging choice for an author to make as it greatly limits one of the primary ways that writers establish relationships between their characters. But Harmon definitely pulls it off here. She does find a few work-arounds for this trait later on in the book, but I like how well Lark stands on her own without the use of her voice.
The book is written in first-person, so the reader is fully within Lark’s head right off the bat. We see her isolation, feel her inability to direct much of her life, and know her frustration when those around her seem to be using her and her abilities for their own benefit. Her arc is that of someone who starts out feeling powerless discovering their inner strength and becoming a powerhouse by the end of the book. And while her abilities can be amazing at times, sometimes its the quieter moments of inner strength that really cement Lark as the impressive character that she is. She stands in the face of criticism and even her own insecurity to hold on to what and who she loves.
I will say that there were times when her magical abilities were almost a bit too powerful. But by the end of the book, Harmon did come out with a villain who was a powerful enough force to challenge even Lark. But this more straight-forward conflict, while exciting and action packed especially in the final action scene of the book, was for me the less compelling of the stories. Instead, I was more invested in the quieter, slow-build romance and tragedy between Lark and the King. There was so much heart here, and while the two end up together quickly, the romance itself is slow to fully establish itself. They each need time to understand the other’s motives fully. But this slow burn makes their eventual full commitment to one another all the more sweet.
Harmon has a solid, lyrical writing style. It’s not overly flowery, but she also nails creating highly emotive scenes and characters. In a lot of ways, it’s similar to Juliet Marillier’s style. Of course, that makes it a hit for me! Fantasy fans looking for a sweet romance in a stand-alone novel should definitely check this one out!
Rating 9: Beauty and power all found within a quiet but determined leading lady make this one an excellent read!