In a land where all who are gifted are put to death, little Lark accidentally displays her ability as a Teller. Her mother takes the blame for the magic and is put to death by the the throne. But her last words were a curse — that Lark wouldn’t speak again, that if Lark died her father Lord Corvyn would too, and that the King would trade his soul and would lose his son to the sky. Lark’s father conspires for his claim on the throne, but Lark just wants to be free.

The Bird and the Sword opens with a fun magical system of Tellers, Spinners, Changers, and Healers, who must hide their gifts, and a protagonist who stands to gain everything. Lark’s powers as a Teller are repressed, both by a magical curse from her mother that makes her a mute, and by her fathers’ rules that she never learn to read or write. When Lark is taken by the new King Tiris as a hostage to keep the rebellious Lord Corvyn in order, the king takes pity on Lark and teaches her to read. These early moments in the story are palpably touching, and it’s a sure bet that someone who loves reading will feel Lark’s enthusiasm and excitement in her moments of breakthrough. Lark not only gains the ability to read and write and learn on her own terms, but to communicate with the world, and to unlock the potential of her power as a Teller.

However, several other aspects of the story are at best irksome, at worst, very off-putting. The Volgar are winged animal monsters terrorizing the kingdom, who Lark and her people mercilessly kill in battle, despite the moral dilemma of the Gifted as lesser humans to fear. Why encourage the reconciliation of two races but endorse genocide of another species? Both Lord Corvyn and King Tiris’ father are the enemies on the home front, and their lust for power are sole motivations. The most important aspect of the novel, per it’s billing, is the romance. But King Tiris is a brute, and Lark is needlessly co-dependent. The king knows his position of power, and when Lark is his captive, he tells her, “I think I will keep you.” (*creepy*) Even when Lark becomes Queen, he tells her to accept her duty to please him. He tells her that he will put a child in her belly. He keeps secrets from her because he does not respect her. Lark herself fawns over the king in the most annoyingly obtuse way, throws tantrums when she is angry, refuses to be used, then allows it, even loves it.

Recommended for fans of dysfunctional romance looking to break into the fantasy genre.

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.