I’m a damsel, I’m in distress, I can handle this.

Hey, baybays. How’s life in this Orwellian hellscape treating you? I myself am coping quite well, I think. Only five breakdowns this week. Things are improving!

And whenever current affairs are bringing me down (so basically, all the time), I just have to think about the Saturday before last’s historic Women’s March, and I feel better. I really wanted to attend the Toronto march in Queen’s Park, but was confined to my bed with ‘women’s problems’ – oh, the irony! So I had to settle for witnessing the marches all around the world on twitter, which was almost as good. It still makes me a bit teary to look at all of the photos of women banding together to fight for human rights. THIS is why intersectional feminism is absolutely vital – we’re not just stronger together. When all the ladies get in formation, we’re goddamn invincible.

So now that we’re feeling feminist af, let’s dive into this week’s review. What’s more appropriate than turning some of that girl power onto a book with a very questionable romance and some… less than feminist lessons. The book: The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon.

I’d heard about this book somewhere on the interwebs, but it was when it racked up a Goodreads award nomination for best fantasy. That’s pretty high praise, right? And obviously, this book has a stellar rating on the site, which is my usual metric when deciding whether to buy a book. In fact, the reviews were so positive that I actually bought the e-book at FULL PRICE (okay, fun fact, I refuse to pay for e-books unless they’re on sale; I spend, um, a lot of time hunting down e-book sales everyday). Seven whole dollars and ninety-nine cents – plus tax! – went to this e-book.

So yeah, I had some high expectations. Keep reading to find out if they were met…

Cover Talk: Meh. Kinda looks like she’s about to get her head cut off by gone-but-not-forgotten-bae Ned Stark.

The Deal Summary Heist: “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 heav’n 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 trade 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?

Robyn Says: Let’s just get it right out in the open.

I have no idea how I feel about this book.

Like, I literally cannot tell you if I liked it or not. And I’ll be damned if I know whether I’d recommend it. You know what, Imma fall back on the tried-and-true pros and cons list. Except, because this blog is an experiment in self-indulgent, irritating, Absurdist literary criticism, let’s do it my way.

HUZZAH – This is an adult fantasy romance. And there is definitely not enough quality adult fantasy romance to be had. Sometimes YA just won’t do it, you know? (Grace Draven is an excellent author to check out if you’re looking for adult fantasy romance, by the way.). But that leads me to my next point…

BOO-HISS-BOO – It was fantasy-lite. What little world-building there was felt desultory and stale. However…

HUZZAH – Harmon is a good writer. I wanted to keep reading, and I thought the plot, bare as it was, was well-paced.There were dozens of sentences pretty enough to high-light or use as a caption for your moody instagram post. But…

BOO-HISS-BOO – I hated so so much about the story itself. It’s hard to go into much detail without being too spoilery, but if you’re hoping for a feminist read, you’re going to be disappointed. The voiceless heroine, Lark, calls to mind the Little Mermaid (the douchey hero, Tiras, calls to mind every prick boyfriend you’ve ever been happy to see the back of). I kept hoping that when Lark eventually, inevitably regained her power, she would gain some agency. Alas, no. And then there’s the romance, which earns another…

BOO-HISS-BOO – My god, the romance. Exaggerated airquotes around that word, guys. If a man ever spoke to me the way Tiras did, it would be u g l y. Violent. Bloody. Murder-y. I don’t care what anyone says, guys, there is no way to romanticize half the shit he says to Lark. It is not grumpy-but-soft-hearted, lovable-ashole shit. That shit is my ultimate jam, believe. And this is not that. The worst had to be the way he ordered her around. Ugh ugh ugh. Not cool.  And then there’s the fact that…

BOO-HISS-BOO – I kinda felt like not much happened? Like, there were a few battles, and a final showdown with the big baddie (whose reveal was not too shabby, I will admit), but it felt like a lot of telling versus showing. The adrenaline rush of reading a really good action scene was totally absent for me.

So yeah. Bit of a puzzle, this one.

Verdict: Read it – fantasy romances are like Albino Alligators – rare as fuck, so even if it’s a nightmare, you gotta slow down and take a look.

I am a metaphor for fantasy romances. What are you a metaphor for?

Best Lines: I highlighted a few sentences and passages. One of my faves: “I wondered if weakness wasn’t just as dangerous. The weak allowed evil to flourish.” BOOM, RELEVANT.

Rating: Six? Yeah, let’s go with six our of ten distressed damsels who don’t need any help from jack-ass dudes with swords, thank you very much.

Preach, sis.

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT: If I had any magical power whatsoever I would wreak terrible, terrible havoc on this world. Like, I know I would be the villain, without question. God, I wish I had some magical powers…


Oh, here’s Book Cat, with a quick reminder:

As the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”                       Resist, humans, and remember we are stronger together. Stay angry, stay hopeful.

Wise words, Titus.Wise words, indeed. Stay strong, guys.

– xoxo, your sister in the Revolution, R.


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