The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon
Mythology & Folk Tales
Overall Rating: 4.5 (xoxo)
Quick Summary: Lark is special in a land where special means a death sentence. In their quest for equality, the kingdom has decreed that anyone who has special gifts must be put to death. With her dying breath, Lark’s mother tries to protect Lark by tying her fate to her father’s and telling her to pull back her words. Years later in an odd turn of events, Lark is singled out by the young King. Despite her muteness, Taris, the King, finds her useful to have around. As the two of them try to overcome a common enemy, they will discover that there is more to them than what meets the eye.
I love love love love love this book. I would give it 5 stars except that I’m not sure I could re-read it. It’s very emotional and powerful. There is a dazzlingly array of imagery, symbolism, and metaphor.
In some ways, I read this book at a critical time. While I’m not sure Amy Harmon intended the social criticism, I can’t help but make parallels to our lives today. Americans are experiencing a re-awakening in some ways. Regardless of political affiliation, there’s been an increased sense that what happens politically matters to people on a daily level. And for some, the changes they’ve seen are scary; they are matters of life and death.
While there are no direct allusions to our current political climate, how could there be when the book was released in May 2016 and was conceivably written well before that date, I’ll try to share a bit of the connection in my mind. Here’s a quote: “Corvyn was weak, but he wasn’t evil, though I wondered if weakness wasn’t just as dangerous. The weak allowed evil to flourish.” This sentiment strongly echoes Elie Wiesel’s speech, “The Perils of Indifference.” Here’s an excerpt from the speech:
“Indifference elicits no response. Indifference is not a response. Indifference is not a beginning; it is an end. And, therefore, indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor — never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten. The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees — not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity, we betray our own.
Indifference, then, is not only a sin, it is a punishment.
And this is one of the most important lessons of this outgoing century’s wide-ranging experiments in good and evil.” (Elie Wiesel, 12 Apr 1999, http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/ewieselperilsofindifference.html).
This also ties into another quote from the book, explaining how the persecution of those with special gifts is justified: “convinced that equality could only be realized if no one was special, and the power of the words was eradicated.” Again there is a connection to Wiesel’s speech. He says, “What is indifference? Etymologically, the word means ‘no difference.’ A strange and unnatural state in which the lines blur between light and darkness, dusk and dawn, crime and punishment, cruelty and compassion, good and evil.” Equality cannot come by subsuming difference. Indeed, it is an “unnatural” state because humans are not carbon copies of each other. I won’t go into this more, because I want you to read the book .
This theme of specialness, of unique gifts, is one that is explored throughout the novel, and is one that resonated deeply with me. There are many other themes, including the biggest one about the power of words. I could write on and on about this book. And that’s probably the number one reason why I enjoyed it so much. There is something “more” to it that I fall in love with.
Of course I love the characters too. There is action and adventure to complement the philosophical component too. And the fantastical nature of the whole plot is great. I love being transported to the Kingdom of Jeru.
Is it worth buying? (Kindle $5.95)
$6 is a lot for an e-book, at least it is to me. But, this is a really, really good book. So while you should probably check your local library for it first, if they don’t have it, please spend the 6 bucks to buy it. You won’t regret it!
Something else you might enjoy:
I don’t think there is another book out there like this. Not with the kind of allusion and metaphor layered on top of myth. If you want another book like this, you’ll have to read more of Amy Harmon’s work. I recommend The Law of Moses. You can read my book review here.