Image and blurb from Amazon:
“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?”
This book got great reviews and I was excited to start reading it. Also, the cover is beautiful! I was not really sure what to expect other than it being a fantasy, as the synopsis does not give away much information. One of the first things I noticed about the book is that the writing is wonderful. Harmon has excellent pacing and I enjoyed the story so much more due to the beautiful, lyrical writing. I love how the story is framed with the idea of the power of words. In this particular story they have a magical quality, but we also see how Lark learns the value of words by learning to read and write. She sees power in words and that is an important theme throughout the story.
Our main character is Lark, a mute narrator. Though she is quiet, she has no trouble communicating with those around her. She is a wonderful narrator and we get plenty of insight through her internal dialogue. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Lark’s character development throughout the story. She changes from someone who has been silent and caged for most of her life to someone who learns about herself and her gifts. She learns to use her words in a very powerful way.
Another major character is the king, Tiras. He is a complicated character as well. He has an unwavering loyalty to his kingdom but is also dealing with an internal struggle that prevents him from protecting the people of Jeru. While I did enjoy Tiras and Lark’s interactions, I found their romance to be lacking. They definitely had their cute moments, but overall I felt as if the relationship was more strategic than anything else.
Other than Tiras and Lark, there were not any other well-developed characters. While I enjoyed learning about other characters such as Kjell, Lark’s father and Boojohni, they were not developed enough and they came across as very two-dimensional.
The plot itself was multi-layered and complex. On the surface, Lark and Tiras face a very physical threat to the kingdom. The story is also very much a coming of age/self-discovery story for both Lark and Tiras. I loved the symbolism of the title with the story, it has so many meanings! Both Lark and Tiras are caged (in a way) and are searching for a way to be free. Tiras wants to protect his kingdom, Lark’s father wants to be king and protects Lark’s life but also holds her back. I believe Harmon intended for there to be multiple meanings for the bird and the sword in the title. I also enjoyed the twists at the end as well as Lark’s revelations about herself and the power of her words.
Finally, I really enjoyed some aspects of the world-building although I wish this too was developed more. Towards the beginning of the book we learn about the history of the changers, tellers, spinners and healers but that was all we learned about them. Why were the abilities so varied in different people? Why did some people seem to have multiple abilities? Why were some people stronger than others? Some of these questions were not fully explained, just accepted as fact in the story. There was a lot of beautiful dialogue about these gifts but nobody explained it further.
I was overall quite satisfied with the story and will definitely be picking up another Amy Harmon book in the future! I do wish there was more development from the supporting characters and the world-building, but that is mostly because I was so interested in Lark’s world and I wanted to learn more. It is a lovely book and I would definitely recommend.