Swordbird (Swordbird Series #1)

Swordbird (Swordbird Series #1)

by Nancy Yi Fan, Mark Zug

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The blue jays and cardinals of Stone-Run Forest have turned against each other. According to legend, only Swordbird, son of the Great Spirit, has the power to conquer evil and restore peace to the land. But is he real or just a myth? Can Swordbird arrive in time to save the forest . . . or will it be too late?

Twelve-year-old author Nancy Yi Fan has woven a captivating tale about the birds of Stone-Run Forest and the heroism, courage, and resourcefulness in their quest for peace.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061757266
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/13/2009
Series: Swordbird Series , #1
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 582,851
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 9 - 12 Years

About the Author

Nancy Yi Fan is the New York Times bestselling author of Swordbird and Sword Quest. She appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show as one of the World's Smartest Kids and on The Martha Stewart Show. Nancy spent part of her childhood in China, where she was born in 1993. Birds have been a lifelong passion of hers and provided the inspiration for her novels. She began writing her first novel, Swordbird, when she was eleven years old. Nancy attends Harvard University.

Mark Zug has illustrated many collectible card games, including Magic: The Gathering and Dune, as well as books and magazines. He lives in Pennsylvania.

Read an Excerpt


By Nancy Fan

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Nancy Fan
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061131004

Darkness nourishes power.
--from the Book of Heresy



Beams of light fell through the trees, creating shadows that flecked the thick, moist undergrowth. Hidden in a patch of those shadows, a fortress was under construction. Many woodbirds had been captured and pinioned for this, and they worked wordlessly, carrying stones, clay, and sticks day after day. Usually a coal black crow could be found strutting among them. Whenever possible, he would spring on an unsuspecting victim with curses, yells, and a sound lashing. He was Bug-eye, the driver of the slavebirds, who carried a black leather whip the color of his feathers.

Through one sly golden eye, a red-brown hawk in dark robes observed the construction of his fortress. His name was Turnatt. Large for his kind, he towered over his captain and soldiers. With sharp claws for battling, a loud, commanding voice, and foul breath, he was a bird to be feared. His nasty habit of tapping an eye patch over his left eye while glaring with his right made the other birds shiver.

Turnatt had raided countless nests, camps, and homes, capturing woodbirds as slaves and bringing them to this secret, gloomy corner. Now the time had finally come: the building of Fortress Glooming. Sitting on a temporary throne, the hawk let thoughts of evil pleasure pass through his mind.As Turnatt watched the thin, helpless slavebirds' every movement, he tore into a roasted fish so messily that juices ran down his beak.

Slime-beak, Turnatt's captain, was hopping about, glancing at the trees bordering the half-built fortress. He dreaded Turnatt, for he worried about being made into a scapegoat.

Displeased, Turnatt stared down his beak at his ner-vous captain, his bright eye burning a hole into the bothersome crow's face.

"Stop hopping, Slimey--you're getting on my nerves. I'll demote you if you keep on doing that." A fish scale hung from the edge of Turnatt's beak.

Slime-beak shivered like a leaf, partly because of fear and partly because of the hawk's bad breath.

"Y-yes, milord. But it has been three days since Flea-screech and the soldiers went to look for new slaves. They still haven't returned!"

The hawk lord guffawed. The tail of the roasted fish fell from his beak and disappeared down the collar of his robe.

"Fool, who has ever heard of little woodbirds killing a crow? If you don't stop with that nonsense, I'll send you to get slaves! Now go and check the progress on my fortress. Then come back and report your news!" Turnatt waved the long, embroidered sleeve of his robe at the captain.

Slime-beak thought himself lucky that the hawk was in a good mood. Knowing Turnatt was fickle, Slime-beak dashed away.

Seeing the crow scurry off, dizzy and awkward, Turnatt tapped his covered eye in satisfaction. He chuckled, his glossy feathers shaking. His fierce yellow eye narrowed wickedly, becoming a slit. He was Lord Turnatt--the Evil, the Conqueror, the Slayer, and the Tyrant of soon-to-be Glooming. He thought about torturing woodbirds, killing others that got in his way. Nobird--nobird--could stop the mighty Turnatt. It would be as he had dreamed for seasons. He would rule the entire forest, with millions of slavebirds to bow down before him. Turnatt tilted his head back and let out a bloodcurdling screech that echoed throughout the forest. Slime-beak and the soldiers followed suit, their loud chants drowning out every other sound.

"Long live Lord Turnatt, long live the Tyrant of Fortress Glooming, long live the lord!"

Over the shouts, the sun rose above the treetops.

A forest split in two cannot stand.
--from the Old Scripture

Chapter One

The Red and the Blue

Just north of Stone-Run Forest, a war party of cardinals glided in and out of the shadows as the light of dawn slowly slipped into the sky. They traveled swiftly and low, each grimly wielding a sword in one claw. The leader, Flame-back, a sturdy cardinal distinguished by his larger and more powerful wings, reviewed their plan of attack.

"Circle the camp, wait for my signal, attack. Simple.

Everybird understand?" Crested heads bobbed in answer.

The idea of violence frightened a young cardinal, who wrapped his claw tightly around his sword hilt. "Flame-back, are the blue jays awake? If they are, we'll die! I don't want to die!"

Flame-back looked at the blurred land in the distance and, flapping his strong wings a couple of times, tried to reassure his band.

"The blue jays don't wake up so early, and nobird's going to die. Nobird's going to kill. Hear? We just scare and attack. No hurting." Pausing, Flame-back added in a more comforting tone, "And we must find our eggs. We can't let anybird, anybird at all, steal our unhatched offspring." The speech calmed his band, especially the youngster, whose wail dwindled to a sniff and a sob.

The cardinals were deep in thought. They all knew that Flame-back was right. There were no sounds except their wings, whooshing and rustling against the wind as they flew--red figures against a blue sky. They soared over the Appleby Hills and across the Silver Creek. Dewdrops trembled on delicate blades of grass; dandelions and daisies peeped over their leaves to greet the sun. Near the fringe of the forest, beech trees stood still, and only the morning breeze occasionally disturbed them. Those trees were ancient ones, covered with moss and vines, leaning over to touch branches with one another. Small creeks gurgled gently as they rippled along, under mists that covered the ground. But the cardinals were in no mood to enjoy such things. They were on a mission. The war party made a sharp turn along a boulder and flew over the Line, the border between the territories of the blue jays and the cardinals.

As they crossed, a twinge of uneasiness ran along every cardinal's spine. They were entering forbidden territory. But about a month before, it hadn't been. A month before, the cardinals and blue jays had been good friends. Their hatchlings had played with one another; they had fished for shrimp and hunted for crickets together. But things were different now. With a brisk flap of his wings Flame-back led his cardinals through a twist in a gap in the tangled trees.

"Lively now, lads. You all know what we're here for, so get ready. Fleet-tail, branch off with a third of our forces and go around to the left. You, take another third and go to the right. The rest, follow me. Swift and silent, good and low, friends."

In a flash the cardinals separated into three groups and departed into the shadows. After flying through a ghostly fog, the cardinals saw their destination. Eyes glistened and heartbeats quickened. With a few hushed words, the cardinals swiftly got into positions surrounding the blue jay camp. No feathers rustled. They sat as silent and rigid as statues, waiting for Flame-back's signal to attack.

The cardinals' target was ten budding oak trees hidden behind a tall, thick wall of pines. The oaks grew in a small meadow of early spring flowers and clover sparkling with dew. The pine tree border was so dense that one might fly right past it and not see the oak trees inside. It was indeed cleverly hidden. Those oaks were the home of the Bluewingle tribe.

It was very quiet. Occasionally a swish of feathers and breathing broke the silence. A strange long-limbed tree protruded from the center of the grove. In the branches of this tree a hushed exchange was taking place.

An elderly blue jay, Glenagh, shifted on his perch, his thin gray shoulders hunched up. Peering through the oak leaves, he could see a dim ray of light climbing up the ancient mountains.

How long can we go on fighting our old friends? the old blue jay wondered.

He turned abruptly to face his companion, Skylion. "How are you going to keep this 'war' up?" Glenagh asked. "Ever since you became the leader of the Bluewingles, we've been fighting the cardinals constantly." The old blue jay sighed. His feathers drooped. "You definitely do make your mind up faster than a falling acorn hits the ground."

Skylion turned his gaze toward the elder, Glenagh. "They used to be our friends--our family, almost," he said. The younger blue jay poured a cup of acorn tea for the elder with disbelief.

Shaking his graying head sadly, Glenagh accepted the tea with a worn claw. He gazed at his reflection in his cup with a dreary look. "Remember Fleet-tail? The cardinal who's always so quiet? Just last week I saw him with a raiding party, hollering and yelling like the rest."

"Well," Skylion replied hoarsely, "we have to regard the cardinals as enemies. Stealing and robbing--that's what they do now."

Leaves rustled as the wind changed direction.

"True, the cardinals have robbed us bare to our feathers, but we have done our share as well." Glenagh glanced again at the light outside. "The sack of pine seeds, the raisins, the bundles of roots, the apples . . . We've taken back more than what was stolen from us. We cannot say we aren't thieves."

Skylion hastily dismissed the idea. "Yes, but they stole our blueberries, our walnuts and honey! They stole the raspberries, the mushrooms, and more!" the blue jay leader argued. "We only took back food because we needed to survive. It's just spring. There's hardly any food you can gather outside. And what about our eggs? Our offspring. The next generation. Is there an explanation for that?"

"Peace is more important, Skylion." Glenagh shook his head and took a sip of acorn tea. "You do have a point about our eggs, but the cardinals declared that we stole their eggs and they didn't steal ours. I cannot believe that having been friends for so long, we have suddenly become enemies. Maybe they didn't steal from us; maybe somebird else did. We should go and talk with them about this."

"No, Glenagh. It would be a waste of time! We tried to talk before, but they only accused us of stealing from them first. You know that isn't true!" Skylion snorted.

"But Skylion, don't you--"

Skylion leaned forward. "Glenagh, can you stay calm and aloof when our eggs are snatched and stolen right from under our beaks? Of course not. We are fighting to get them back!"

Glenagh calmly looked at the leader, the steam of the tea brushing his face. He was silent for a few moments and then said, quite slowly, "Does fighting solve the problem?"

Skylion sighed deeply and shifted his glance to the wall, where there hung a painting of a white bird holding a sword. Though the painting was worn and the color faded, the picture still was as magnificent as ever. The bird seemed to smile at Skylion. Skylion almost imagined that the bird mouthed something to him.

Skylion whispered, "I wish Swordbird could come here to solve this."

"Ah, Swordbird . . ." Glenagh toyed with the name as a smile slowly lit up his face. "The mystical white bird, the son of the Great Spirit . . . He is a myth, but I know he exists. I know in my bones. Do you remember the story in the Old Scripture about a tribe of birds attacked by a python? They took out their Leasorn gem and performed a ritual to summon Swordbird. Immediately he came in a halo of light, and with a single flap of his great wings the python vanished into thin air." Glenagh paused. "Well," he said, "to call for Swordbird, we need a Leasorn gem. It's said to be a crystallized tear of the Great Spirit. But we don't have one. We have no idea where to find one either. So, it's what's in you and me that counts." Glenagh drained his cup, savoring the last drops.

Skylion opened his beak to reply, but he was interrupted by a frantic rustle of leaves. A young blue jay's head poked through, and in a high, nervous voice the youngster gave the message: "The cardinals! We are being attacked! We are being attacked!"


Excerpted from Swordbird by Nancy Fan Copyright © 2007 by Nancy Fan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Swordbird 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 52 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm a 13 year old guy and I've been longing to write a novel. My goal is to become a somewhat of a YA sci-fi/thriller author. I know i CAN do this if I keep revising. Just how Nancy Yi Fan inspired me to write a novel and get it published, I hope to be influential to kids and teens of all backgrounds and to just let them know that if they really wanted to then they can write a novel. 8)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This a good book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great loved it.
jfoster_sf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An ok book considering it was written by a 12 year old, but I just couldn't get into it at all. To me the dialogue was awkward, the message was too forced, and the characters were predictable. Young kids who might not care or not notice these things might like it, but I couldn't even finish it!
ctmsjani on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book Swordbird by Nancy Yi Fan is a fantastic read filled with action and adventure. It glued my eyes to the page as the story unfolded and Nancy's words came to life. The vivid descriptions she used brought every character to life as they soared through the beautifully detailed world known as Stone- Run. She conveyed her prestigious thoughts about world peace and truly spoke through the characters about her opinion and the opinions of others. In the story, the cardinals and the blue jays are fighting because they think their tribes are stealing each other's food supply and eggs. At the same time, Turnatt, the evil hawk lord of Fortress Glooming, is destroying Stone-Run by capturing birds, stealing eggs(including the cardinal's and the blue jays'), and by building his distasteful and disgusting fortress. Now it's up to Aska, of the blue jays, to alert her tribe and the cardinals' tribe of Turnatt's evil ways. To do this, she will need to summon the great Swordbird. Swordbird is an amazing book and a great read for those who seek peace and enjoy animals. Nancy's writing will not allow you to put the book down. Her spectacular attention to details will keep you entertained the entire time. Each character she portrays is unique and filled with personality. You will become part of the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book if you love adventure and birds. This book is such a standout. Even if it wasn't writen by a twelve year old. (Which it was) Nancy is a great young writer's role model. My twelve year old daughter wants to be just like Nancy. A young New York Times best seller.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is it long? I pove books and i like them to be long.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love your book and i hope that i can find more books that you wrote!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wish i could give this book a gazillion stars!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Going to buy soon.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really good
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a great fantasty book for peoplr
Rhonda Johnson More than 1 year ago
I luv this book,and as a twelve year old writer myself,i can appreciate the work nancy put into her writing.her success spurred me into starting my own series,wich i have not finished or published yet.anyway, i'm sure fantasy buffs like me will really enjoy swordbird.i hope ill get to meet nancy someday!she's my hero!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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RavynKatt More than 1 year ago
Nancy Yi Fan was 11 when she started the book, 12 when it was published, so it makes sense that she wrote a story that is almost perfect for the 9-12 age range. Though at times the writing style is very simplistic, the plot is good. The story follows several groups of birds- slaves, soldiers, and feuding forest birds- as they struggle with the tyranny of Turnatt the hawk. In the book you'll find battles, quests, and sacrifice as the followers of Swordbird's ways fight the cruel and power-hungry bird of Fortress Glooming. The story has some gruesome but not graphic components, so even the squeamish readers can enjoy it. It would definitely make a good summer read for those not quite ready for the Redwall series yet. Also, I found this book to be better than its prequel (Sword Quest), so if you read Sword Quest and weren't quite satisfied, give this book a try.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I will admit, this book isn't all I thought it would be. Although Nancy's story was entertaining, some of the scenes were to brief or easy. And the battles were to simple and not as realistic. I do like the descriptions though. Nancy made the scenes feel real. I wish she could have taken that and applied it to the conversations. The characters were very interesting and colorful. Nancy has been a real inspiration to me though, I am now writing my own story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Maureen_T More than 1 year ago
When my mom brought me this book i started to read it right away I was hooked I couldn't put it down! I was amazed at what she did and it inspired me to start to write many stories about animals myself! Genevieve age 9
Emma86 More than 1 year ago
I read it when I was the same age as the age Nancy Yi Fan was when she wrote it and I'm not much older now. I think the story was wonderful and created a different picture about how people care about animals like birds that are put in risk. Although it was fiction, it still told the reader a message. I would love to read another book written by Nancy.
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