This is a retelling of the opera Turandot. Jinghua is a young girl who lost everything and became a slave in the Kipchak Khanate. During an attack, Jinghua escapes the Khanate with Prince Khalaf and King Timur and sets out across the Mongol Empire. During their trek, they hear stories of the Princess Turandokt and the impossible riddles she makes any suitor answer before he can have the privilege of her hand. The Bird and the Blade is an engrossing and well-written novel set in a time and place little seen in literature. The author's ability to grab the reader is highly dependent on her primary characters and their growing relationships, which are well written and develop steadily throughout the story. The unique way that the novel moved back and forth between the finale and the buildup was impressive and increased my enjoyment of the character interactions as I kept trying to find hints of the development that would later come. These interactions occasionally left me wishing to see how their relationships developed more than how the circumstances of the finale came to be. The movements of the plot do well to help the reader grasp the sense of desperation that frequently grips the characters and leads them to consider options they know to be relatively undesirable.
You will root for Jinghua and her sad little life, getting to know her, but not fully understanding the weight of her world until the end. We highly recommend this book if you want excitement, a little bit of history and something that will tear your heart out. But be warned, keep the tissues nearby!