The Bird and the Blade

The Bird and the Blade

by Megan Bannen


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A sweeping and tragic debut novel perfect for fans of The Wrath and the Dawn and Megan Whalen Turner.

The Bird and the Blade is a lush, powerful story of life and death, battles and riddles, lies and secrets from author Megan Bannen.

Enslaved in Kipchak Khanate, Jinghua has lost everything: her home, her family, her freedom . . . until the kingdom is conquered by enemy forces and she finds herself an unlikely conspirator in the escape of Prince Khalaf and his irascible father 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 an impossible 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062674166
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/04/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 473,751
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 13 - 17 Years

About the Author

Megan Bannen is a librarian and the author of The Bird and the Blade. In her spare time, she collects graduate degrees from Kansas colleges and universities. She lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, their two sons, and a few too many pets with literary names. She can be found online at

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The Bird and the Blade 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Shelley Murray More than 1 year ago
I listened to The Bird and the Blade on audiobook as narrated by Emily Woo Zeller, and I have to say that the only reason I didn't DNF this book was because of Zeller's amazing narration. She does such an amazing job, I'm immediately going to look through what else she's narrated and listen to more of her work. Absolutely stellar 5 star performance. The book itself I just didn't care for as much. I was really intrigued by the set up. The book is set up in parts that run along three different timelines. Part 1 is set up for Timeline A, the "present day" of Autumn 1281 in the City of Khanbalik in the Khanate of the Yuan Dynasty and sets up the drama. Part 1 had me hitting Goodreads making sure this wasn't the second book in a series or something, because the reader is very much dropped in the middle of a storyline. Then Part 2 flashes back 1 year to the Autumn of 1280 and starts the reader along Timeline B. "Oh, okay," I said to myself. "Now the rest of the book will go along and until we're caught back up to where we started." NOT SO, DEAR READER. Instead, Part 3 skips forward again to Timeline A, then Part 4 skips back again to Timeline B, and actually does bring us back to where Part 1 started, so you'd think we'd be good to go when Part 5 returns again to Timeline A... BUT THEN! Part 6! And a NEW TIMELINE C! Which brings us way, way back to Autumn of 1278 (3 years prior to the opening of the book) in order to get Jinghua's deep backstory. And finally, we wrap up Part 7 finishing up Timeline A, with all the pieces of the puzzle in place. It was really interesting, and is another reason I didn't DNF the book (even though some of the things Jinghua says and thinks about who she is or was before are out and out misleading or lies, and still I called it...) Now for why I wanted to DNF - OH. MY. GOSH. I could not take Jinghua cursing herself for a fool over and over and over again! "Stupid, stupid Jinghua!" Like, every other line it seemed like. Everything was so super dire and dramatic. And then she's so dang cryptic, I wanted to slap her. Actually, I wanted to slap most of the characters in this book, most of the time. They're all just super repetitive. Like Jinghua is only capable of yelling at herself in her head "Stupid Jinghua" and mentally gasping "Oh. My. Heavens." on an endless loop. Even Timur, whose cynicism and snark rather grew on me by the end, only seems to know how to say two things ("rotting carrion" and "go suck your used tea leaves.") I did really like a lot of the romantic bits between Jinghua and Khalaf. That being said, this is NOT a romance novel. Romance as a genre very specifically requires a HEA or HFN, and I'll just say that the ending of this novel is very true to the source material. The Bird and the Blade is a retelling of the opera Turandot by Puccini (which I've never seen).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story--incredibly well written. The history is fascinating as well. I was so disappointed at the end of the book, though. No spoilers, but what a downer! Be prepared for a massively sad ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is very historical, and in the beginning you feel a little lost if you are unfamiliar with the time period. Push through though. It can be a bit slow, but the slower spots show an unbelievable build up of relationships between the three main characters. You truly see the people they were and the people they become. It’s in depth and shows over a massive amount of time unlike so many other YA novels. Then in the end when everything springs into action the emotions of what plays out and how these characters end up are overwhelming. It was a weird mix of formal and informal language that I actually enjoyed and for me brought authenticity to some of the characters. It was a raw, real, and beautiful book that I’m thankful to have found and read.
Lisa_Loves_Literature More than 1 year ago
This is another book that took me a while to read. I got a copy from the library where I work before last summer to read. The author was once not only a teacher in the school district where I work, but she also was a librarian in the Kansas City, Kansas Public Libraries which are partnered with my school district where I am a librarian. Any way, I got to meet her earlier this fall when she was part of a panel at the Barnes and Noble where I work, and then she came to visit students at my school a couple weeks ago. I didn't get this read until last month, because I wanted to make sure to have it read before she came to discuss it with my students. As usual it was another one that blew me away, and I couldn't believe I'd waited so long to finally pick it up and read. So more specifically about the book itself, I loved the history and all the research the author did to make the story so full and vivid. She wrote in the way that always makes me want to learn more about the time period and what truths she added to the story and what was actually what happened. There was so much edge of the seat tension about halfway through the book and all the way to the end. Then, I could barely put it down the last day I was reading it, read over 100 pages that day, and the ending, well, the ending gutted me!!! It was good, and if you know what the opera it is based on is about, it is what should happen. But still! Gah! Loved it, even as I hated it. Great story, and can't wait to read more by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What I liked: Nothing What I didn't like: Everything
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is awful! I would've rather watched the kissing book 50 times in a row then read this trash book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is terrible and shouldn't have been published in the first place! One of the worst I have read in a while!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wish I could give this book 0 stars! The description of this book made it sound incredibly interesting and engaging. But what was the book truly like? It was a book filled with undeveloped, boring characters with the personalities of paper cups. The book spent around 40 pages on the riddles (Roughly) and THAT'S IT! All the rest of the book is hyping up for a romance that was never developed and listening to the MC complain about how ugly she is. Also, you will have to sit through about 50 random poems that are just in the book to take up space and add more pages to this already pathetic excuse for a book. I would give this book 0 stars even before I read the ending, but it made me hate the book even more! SPOILERS AHEAD: Who in their right mind would write a book from a first person perspective and then make her main character kill herself? The ending was unbearably awful and I found myself counting down pages till the ending of the book, just waiting for the sweet release of the last page from this bookish hell. This book is not worth your time and is a complete waste of money as well! Don't buy this book unless you have a plan to wash your money down the drain, bore yourself out of your mind and want to have this book leave an awful taste in your mouth.
NovelKnight More than 1 year ago
I don’t know what I expected with The Bird and the Blade but what I got was WAY better than I thought possible. Y’all. I loved this book. LOVED IT. It’s tragic and packed with emotion and written in a unique style that immediately grabbed my attention. For the record, I had no idea that this was actually a retelling of the Italian opera Turandot. Set in the Mongol Empire, the story follows a prince, Khalaf, who seeks the hand of the Princess Turandokht. To win her over, he must solve her 3 riddles. And there’s more to it, but I wouldn’t want to spoil this book for you because it stuck close to the opera’s overall story arc from what I’ve read. But this story isn’t told from Khalaf’s view, or Turandokht. No, it comes from a slave girl, Jinghua, the last of the Song dynasty. She ends up in the charge of Khalaf and his father Timur, who she describes as an “old goat” which I think is a pretty accurate description, as they head to the Mongol capital to solve Turandokht’s riddles. Except... they’re already there. So I don’t like summarizing in reviews but I wanted to mention that bit because this story alternates between sections of Jinghua, Khalaf, and Timur traveling to the capital and already being IN the capital as Khalaf starts solving riddles. I was hooked. You’re thrown in enough to make things interesting but Bannen brings you back to catch up to where the story kicks off. And those flashes forward in time only serve to heighten the tension because you sort of know what’s going to happen, but not really. So then you’re anticipating the fate of everyone (which makes this book great for reading in one sitting, BTW). But let me jump back to the characters for a minute. Jinghua is in the lead and she has this secret that I started guessing about the halfway point but remained a mystery until near the end. It serves as the basis for all of her decisions and the closer you get to the reveal, the more everything starts to fall into place. The Bird and the Blade is an intricate riddle of its own, each piece so thoughtfully interwoven to deliver the final blow at story’s end. That said, I will say I wasn’t a HUGE fan of Jinghua immediately falling for Khalaf because it read pretty insta-lovey and not in the good way, but it also worked in a way, adding that flare for the dramatic that I realized once I finished was present throughout the story. Because the ending. No matter how much you hope and dream for something different, remains true to the opera and that is all I will say on that note. It was heartbreaking and painful and so perfect but also a part of me wishes that Bannen had gone a different route. Which isn’t a comment against her writing, simply my own wishful thinking. After finishing The Bird and the Blade, I read the author’s note and was curious about Turandot, and I found that it’s kind of an awful opera in everything that it stands for. So when I went to review this book, I was torn because it did stay true to the opera in many ways (both good and bad) that I don’t necessarily agree with. But. I decided to treat this book as it was when I picked it up, with no knowledge that it was a retelling, so my feelings on this book are from my initial reaction, for full transparency. I picked up this book because I happen to love the Netflix Original series Marco Polo, set in the Mongol Empire, but I stayed for the writing and execution of a masterfully crafted retelling. Hands down, one of my favorite reads of the year!
Disturbia0509 More than 1 year ago
I am completely shocked that this book does not have more hype. It was beautiful.  I did not know, until after I started it that it's a retelling of the opera, Turandot. I don't really know anything about that opera, well I didn't. This story takes place in the Mongolian Empire, which was new for me. I don't think I've ever read a story in this era, especially since it's the 13th century!  Jinghua is the main character, who is a slave to the Kipchak Kanate. Although, you start to realize there is a lot more to her. She's got a lot of secrets from her past and Bannen really makes you wait for it. I was so ready to know more about what was really going on.  Khalaf is pure good. He is so kind and I'm so sad that he ends up with the life he's dealt. I know that not every story is a happy ending but he deserved it.  Timur, who is Khalaf's father, definitely won me over. I really disliked him at first. How could he not love and respect Khalaf? He's like the best man ever! Then as the story goes, you learn a lot more. Some men really like to hide behind a facade. He reveals much more to Jinghua and then he actually starts show he cares. I loved his relationship between he and Jinghua. Their banter was always funny too!  The plot is so good. The story jumps back and forth between the present and past. The beginning is a bit slow, most of it is them traveling together. You really get to see the relationship between Jinghua and Khalaf really grow. I think that Bannen did a really good job with the history in this book. I felt like I've learned a lot but I wasn't sitting in a lecture. I advise you to read the author notes after! There's a couple of chapters of information and it's really enlightening.  "And Apples Always Apples" The ending broke me. If you can't stand a book without a happy ending, do not read this. Even though, it broke my heart and made me shed some tears, it was beautiful. It was so well done and it's definitely going to stay with me for a long time. I really enjoyed this book and I recommend it, if you can stand a book without a happily ever after!  I want to thank Edelweiss and Balzer + Bray, HarperCollins for an e-ARC of this book. 
BenT-Gaidin More than 1 year ago
Let me tell you a thing I wished I'd known -- this book is a tragedy. The story is a retelling of the fable about the princess with three riddles, only willing to marry the prince who answers them and killing all others, from the point of view of the slave girl accompanying the prince; it's also based on the opera Turandot, which I had not previously heard of, but which might have warned me of the coming doom. As it is, the jacket text told me that the slave girl is the key to the prince answering the riddles, that she's come to care for him, even as he seeks to marry someone else. It is a gorgeously written book, set in a loosely historical 13th century as the heirs of the Khanate feud among themselves for control of their empires. It also had me wondering the entire time how it was going to solve the puzzle it had set up: Would the prince answer the riddles and refuse the marriage, to stay with the girl he had fallen for? Would the princess accept the girl as another wife of the prince, once they'd both proven their cleverness? Would the girl answer the riddles instead and marry the princess herself? What I didn't expect -- and this is the largest of spoilers, but also I feel unfair to not warn a reader of -- is that the slave girl's refusal to betray the prince, and her loyal suicide, would lead to winning the princess's heart for the prince and an eventual golden age for the empire under their joint rule. Knowing that this is a tragedy, and that our viewpoint character is doomed, I would praise this book highly for a lush, historical portrayal of this fable. If you come in not knowing what's coming, though, it's hard to expect that the reader won't be disappointed.