The Bird and The Blade is set in the ancient Mongolian empire. Jinghua, our protagonist, is a slave in the Khipkhak Khanate, that is, until the kingdom is taken over by enemy forces and the only people able to escape are the Khan (King), the prince, and Jinghua. Together they journey across the kingdom, fleeing pursuing forces. With no other options, Khalaf plans to marry Turandokht, the cunning and beautiful daughter of the Great Khan. Easier said than done. Around 20 men that had similar intentions are already dead, killed by Turandokht’s riddles. There are three of them in total and each must be answered in seven minutes or certain death will follow. No one has made it past the first one. And, to top it off, Jingua slowly realizes her growing feelings for Khalaf, feelings that can never be requited.
This book. Wow. I have no criticisms. Books like this are so hard to find. The plot kept changing; twists and turns left me unable to put it down (I read for five hours straight - no joke). It dealt with so many topics: war, love, family, history, and more. The characters were rich and complex. Jingua in particular. At first, she seemed so easy to figure out: a hopeless, lovesick girl, but just as I’d come to this conclusion, another layer was revealed. Same for Khalaf. The character development is unparalleled. The writing was gorgeous. This might be my new favorite book; why isn’t it more popular? The only thing I’m worried about now is that I may have peaked in my reading career. Surely, it’s all downhill from here. I’d recommend this for, well, anyone. 5 out of 5 stars for sure.