Title: The Bird and the Blade
Author: Megan Bannen
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins imprint)
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 the tale of a young woman desperate to survive and desperate to keep those around her alive.
Jinghua is caught up in a life of slavery, taken from her home and forced to serve a khan in the Mongol Empire. Her life is now hard, desolate, and possibly haunted. But when everything is flipped around and she has to run, she find an unlikely saviour in Prince Khalaf, the son of the man she's enslaved to. Now the two of them, along with his now deposed and stubborn father, are on the run, racing towards safety and hope for the future. All Jinghua wants is to leave the empire, to find a place back home, but how will she do that as a slave? As a young woman with nothing? And so comes her journey across deserts and through cities as she struggles to keep the three of them travelling together while keeping her feelings for Khalaf, the one person to treat her like a human being since her enslavement, hidden.
I don't know the story of the original Italian opera that the author took inspiration from, nor do I know much about this time period when it comes to the Mongol Empire, so I can't say anything in terms of accuracy. Overall, it's an interesting story of a young woman caught by circumstance and plotting wanting to escape but deciding to stay because of certain reasons. I can see where it tugs at the reader's emotions. Jinghua's memories of life before she was taken, her days in the Song Empire with her parents and brother. The ripples and anger that pas between Khalaf and his father. The ending. I thought this was okay, I liked it well enough but found it slow, but I can see fans of historical fantasy YA and sweeping heartbreaking stories enjoying this.
(I received an advance copy of this title from HarperCollins Canada.)