Bird and the Blade
by Bannen, Megan

A slave with a secret past is forced to serve the exiled prince she loves as he risks his life in a desperate effort to forge a political marriage with a powerful and deadly princess. A first novel. 75,000 first printing. Simultaneous eBook.

Bannen's debut is a story of riddles, betrayal, politics, and love. Jinghua, a slave girl with no family, finds herself helping Kipchak Khanate's prince flee to safety with his father after their kingdom is invaded. Jinghua wants to use the royals she's assisting to her own advantage, hoping to return home to a better life than the one she left. Prince Khalaf is determined to take back his kingdom and crown, and to aid his efforts, he seeks a marriage with the daughter of the powerful Great Khan. However, the girl's hand in marriage can only be earned by solving three challenging riddles; the consequence of failure is death for Khalaf and Jinghua. Bannen whisks readers away to the thirteenth-century Mongolian Empire with a story rife with both romance and heartbreak. It is a rich, imaginative tale that delivers thrilling characters, heart-stopping action, and exciting intrigue with every turn of the page. Hand to fans of Renée Ahdieh's The Wrath and the Dawn (2015) and Roshani Chokshi's A Crown of Wishes (2017). Grades 9-12. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

A Mongol slave must choose between escaping her captivity and saving the man she loves. When the Chinese Song dynasty is conquered by the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty in 1279, Jinghua is enslaved by the Khipchak khanate. In autumn of 1280, the khanate itself is overthrown by enemy forces, and the exiled Timur Khan and his youngest son, Prince Khalaf, must flee. Jinghua joins their fugitive party disguised as a boy. Traveling across the vast Mongol Empire, Khalaf finds comfort in Jinghua's companionship, and they bond over Hanyu (Mandarin Chinese) lessons and poetry as, against her better judgment, she falls in love with him. Alas, Khalaf devises a plan of last resort to save his kingdom—he will marry Turandokht (yes, as in Puccini's Turandot), the beautiful but heartless daughter of the Great Khan; however, potential suitors must solve three riddles or face execution. With Khalaf's life at stake, Jinghua must prove her mettle, even if it means sacrificing the one thing that she holds most dear. Though the tale is ancient and epic, this is a fast-paced page-turner. Thorough research helps build a believable 13th-century Mongolia, and the Romanized Mandarin Chinese is used precisely, right down to the tonal inflections. Lavish, sweeping, and powerful, this is a love story, tragicomedy, and history lesson rolled into one. A must-read for fans of heart-wrenching, sob-your-heart-out YA. (cast of characters, map, historical notes, author's note, glossary) (Historical fiction. 12-18) Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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