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“This book of riddles is itself a kind of sublime riddle composed of the ingredients of a true classic tale. There is doomed love, an authentic historical backdrop, fallen kingdoms and thwarted destinies, sacrifices that elevate, and an ending that, by transcending its finality, takes the reader full circle to begin the tale again with fresh eyes. Bannen takes the operatic tradition of Princess Turandot’s slave girl and infuses it with a richness of character and a convincing dramatic immediacy that rewards the reader at every turn. The Mongol Empire has never been so deftly invaded as it is in the pages of The Bird and the Blade.”
Kenny Brechner, Devaney, Doak & Garrett Booksellers (Farmington, ME)
“The Bird and the Blade is a slow burn in the best sense of the phrase. While it takes time to sink into the world of 13th-century Mongolia and surrounding China, the historical weight is well worth it by the book’s end. Based on a tragic opera, the tale of princess-turned-slave Jinghua and exiled prince Khalaf is treated expertly, and the tension rises as every chapter passes, as the stakes get higher. The turns and the ending (no spoilers here) come as truly unpredictable shocks—not something that I can boast about often!”Destenie Fafard, Cellar Door Books (Riverside, CA)
“As a Mongol slave, Jinghua wants nothing more than to escape her captivity and return to her home in Li’nan to mourn her brother and honor her ancestors. Forced to flee with the Khan and his son, she must confront a great deal more than slavery by finding who she wants to be and how to best live in the world in order to save the ones she loves. I found this story to be fantastic, a high-stakes reimagining of Puccini’s Turandot. Bannen’s execution of a complicated story is nothing short of operatic—dramatic and romantic in all the best possible ways. These characters are so wholly crafted, the story so viscerally real, you feel the blood Jinghua sheds. Not in a violent shudder, but in the weight of a life lived and all the choices, mistakes, and regrets each of us carry. Not only is the story compelling, but the history is as well. I appreciated the thought the author put into the anachronisms and the presentation of how she came to this fabulous story. “
Jessica Hahl, The Country Bookshelf (Bozeman, MT)
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