The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon
Published by Indie
Published on: May 10 2016
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"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 heaven 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 sell 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?
I have friends who are bargain hunters. They stalk the aisles of stores like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, searching for last season frocks from Kate Spade and Lilly Pulitzer, and are often successful. They preen over their discoveries, and I sometimes envy the fruits of their labors . . .
BUT. I will never be able to do it myself.
Those types of places are too chaotic; I walk in the door and immediately turn and walk back out. B/c overwhelmed. There’s so much stuff shoved together so haphazardly that I haven’t the foggiest notion of where to begin.
THE BIRD AND THE SWORD had a similar effect, and I’m kind of baffled that the same author who wrote A Different Blue, which I loved, also wrote something as poorly planned and executed as this was . . . But here we are.
MINOR SPOILERS after this point.
1. The journey is merely the shortest distance from point A to point B.
There are two main types of writers: those who plan and those who write by the seat of their pants, and if I had to guess, I’d venture that Harmon is the former.
You: What makes you say that?
Me: The extraordinarily stupid actions that enabled obvious plot points.
Take Lark’s first adult encounter with King.
The last time they met was the day King’s father (former King) killed her mother, b/c magic is outlawed. Having magic herself, Lark is understandably afraid when she belatedly learns that King will be visiting her home that very day.
So what does she do?
She tears off through the forest, determined to be hidden in a tower before King arrives, but when she hears horses pounding down the road, does she retreat back into the relative safety of woods? Does she hide herself until the riders have passed, slinking home behind them and avoiding detection?
She runs faster.
And that’s just the beginning.
You: What do you mean?
Me: Father wants to usurp King. Has been planning it since the death of his wife.
So what does he do?
Lay low, scheming and machinating until the time is ripe for a coup?
He refuses the command to send soldiers to the war front, painting an arrow over his head that shouts, “MALCONTENT.”
You: That’s not very smart . . .
Me: Yeah, but, see, King needs to be able to take Lark hostage b/c reasons.
You: Seems like kind of a bullshit way to make it happen though.
Me: YES. It DOES.
2. Deliberately obtuse heroine.
The problem with telling a story from the first person perspective is that the reader gets ALL of her information directly from the source. SO. If a thing is more-than-obvious to the reader, it’s incomprehensible if it isn’t also more-than-obvious to the storyteller.
And yet . . .
*sing songs* “My mother foretold that the former king would lose his son, the prince, ‘to the skies . . .’ The injured eagle I found in the forest disappeared while I slept, and I returned home to discover that one of my servants had been conked and the head and relieved of his clothes, and a horse was missing from the stables . . . King chained himself in the dungeon, tormented by a mysterious malady . . . Oh, look! It’s my friend the eagle sitting on the rail of King’s open balcony! Hello, friend eagle! Where ever could King be? He never returned last night . . .” *blinks vapidly*
3. Conflicting information.
The following screenshot serves a variety of purposes, but for now, let’s focus on the blue passage:
They are creatures, animals, ruled by instinct. They are PREDATORS. Like a shark scenting blood in the water or a bear whose normal food sources have been unnaturally depleted.
If this is true, they cannot also be “base.”
To be “base” requires sentience, yet Harmon uses the mutually exclusive concepts of being governed by basic needs—food, water, shelter—and more nefarious or “base” motivations interchangeably.
My knee-jerk reaction was that she was confused about the meanings of “base” and “basic,” but on the very next page:
They lived to kill. Not for hate or power. But still, they killed. They killed because death meant food. Death meant life. Death meant that their blood pounded hotter in their veins, and their flesh grew thicker on their bones. They were simple monsters, but monsters all the same.
And a paragraph or so further down, the earlier accusation is even more blatantly contradicted when she references the creature’s, “innocent instinct, however bloodthirsty.”
So it’s not that she doesn’t understand the terms and the difference between them, it’s that she was so concerned with finding flowery ways to present information that she either didn’t care or didn’t notice that the end result made not one lick of sense, which segues perfectly into my next issue . . .
4. Purple prose.
This time let’s check out the yellow highlights:
Taken individually, all the various flourishes and embellishments might not be a problem. I mean, just b/c I’ve never personally experienced an “obliterated” appetite, and could come up with half a dozen less vague ways of describing the weather than “advantageous,” doesn’t mean that an emphatic adjective/adverb (or three) is a distraction.
BUT. As you can see, there are four on this page alone, and friends . . . that is not a fluke.
Then there’s this:
Suddenly freed and temporarily weightless, the ground rose up and snatched my breath. I lay stunned, the wind forced from my lungs.
The ground . . . rose up . . . and snatched her breath . . . *flares nostrils*
NO. It did NOT. She fell and had the wind knocked out of her. The end.
5. There are just some things you CANNOT do.
Like reference real world works of literature in a wholly make-believe world:
“The Art of War?”
BUT. That specific reference is borderline hilarious, b/c later on, King is so determined to engage the enemy on his terms that:
We rested a full day, giving the horses a chance to recuperate from the journey, but the collective unease of the camp made the day feel wasted. Shrieks and shouts filled the night as the Volgar picked off men in the dark . . .
Huh. So the same King who is familiar enough with Sun Tzu’s ART OF WAR to make jokes about the bloodthirsty discussion points, passively allows his soldiers to be attacked by their enemy?
I guess he skipped this part:
Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.
And I’m done. DONE. D O N E.
Basically, I spent twice as much time deciphering the bewildering events and characters’ actions as I did actually reading THE BIRD AND THE SWORD. I have no idea what the masses are basing all their praise and accolades on for this particular work of nonsense, but it certainly isn’t merit. NOT recommended.
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