The Bird and the Sword

the bird and the sword

The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon
Genre: fantasy
I read it as a(n): audiobook
Narrator: Trina Nishimura
Length: 10:57:00
Her Grace’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Set in a world where certain people possess magical abilities, referred to as Gifts, The Bird and the Sword tells about a Gifted young woman named Lark. Her Gift is the power to control words: she can come up with a rhyme and manipulate creatures, objects, and other people. However, in order to remain safe, her mother, who was also Gifted, put a spell on Lark that she must remain silent and never speak. As a result, Lark is mute and cannot even write because in their world, Gifts are seen as wicked and the Gifted are objects of hatred and persecution, outlawed by the king himself.

I loved the discussion about the power of words in this book. That concept has been explored in literature forever. Authors from antiquity to Shakespeare to modern-day novels have recognized the impact that language can have on our lives. The whole purpose of writing is to manipulate words and reality. So I liked that play on, well, words woven throughout the novel.

The new king, Tiras, takes Lark as a hostage to ensure her father’s compliance, but doing so has a far greater impact on their lives and the political landscape of their entire kingdom. As Lark navigates the political machinations of Tiras’s court, she discovers the true extent of her power. Her ability to control objects and beings is not limited to spoken words but extends to the written word as well. She can change reality just by altering the words on a page.

Through Lark’s experiences, Harmon highlights the immense power that words hold. They can be used to create and inspire, or they can be used to destroy and manipulate. In the hands of those who understand their power, words can change the course of history.

Related to that, the book also examines the responsibility that comes with possessing such power. Lark’s silence is a reminder of the danger that comes with speaking carelessly. Her ability to manipulate words also puts her in a position of great responsibility. She must use her power for good and resist the temptation to use it for personal gain. If ONLY certain U.S. politicians could grasp that very basic concept! The idea of words holding power is certainly not a new one, but The Bird and the Sword offers a fresh take on it. Harmon’s use of a fantasy setting allows her to explore the theme in a unique way, creating a world where the power of language is literal rather than metaphorical. Once again, this helps prove my point that sci-fi and fantasy are the perfect genres in which to examine social, political, religious, scientific, or other topics that people might object to if they were set in a realistic and recognizable world. 

The world-building in the book was vivid and imaginative. I was able to get fully immersed in the story. I always appreciate a well-planned and richly political story, and this checked those boxes. I think it is interesting to see how differently we can imagine various worlds or ways of managing a government. The character development was pretty good, though Tiras and Lark were the most developed of the cast. Some of the other characters were flatter or seemed there more to fill a role than to be a wholly-realized person. 

I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Trina Nishimura, rather than eyeball reading this one. Nishimura’s performance was ok. I didn’t think it was the best, but it was certainly not the worst I’ve ever heard. Her voice isn’t as low or rich as some women’s voices are who narrate other books, so she sounded a little shrill sometimes. I am also firmly convinced that she should never, ever narrate a book with a lot of children characters. Her child’s voices were obnoxious and I’m glad there were only a couple short bits with children speaking. Overall, she did fine and it wouldn’t stop me from listening to another book if she were the narrator. She’s just not one of my favorites, and that’s ok. 

Overall, The Bird and the Sword is a fun and fast-paced read that offers an insightful commentary on the power of words. It serves as a reminder that words can be both a tool and a weapon and that we must use them wisely.


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