Reviewed by Mandi
A bird cannot wield a sword
When Angela, who reviews at Fiction Vixen, told me to read this book, I immediately purchased it. It’s been a while since I’ve read a good fantasy and this author was unknown to me. Short review: I loved it.
This is a land where people who have gifts – whether they can change into an animal, or heal, or use words to make things happen – these gifted people are outlawed, and if their gifts are revealed, the punishment is death. Our heroine Lark has a gift – she is called a teller.
She was a Teller, and her words were magic. She spoke and the words became life. Reality. Truth.
She can use words to make objects move, or to make people move – basically words to suggest events to happen. She is powerful and when she is young, her mother protects her and is killed for it. Before she dies she whispers to Lark:
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.
From this time on, Lark no longer has the ability to speak. Her mother’s dying wish was to keep her young daughter safe. Further safeguarding her, she curses her father that if Lark dies, so does he. Her father has his sights set to be the future king…but his fear of his daughter weighs heavily upon him.
Time goes on and Lark grows up, and a new beast is terrorizing the land. Called Volgar, they are beastly bird men who can violently wipe out entire villages. The current king, Tiras, has his hands full with fighting these creatures, and calls upon Lark’s father for reinforcements. To make sure he actually helps, Tiras captures Lark, and promises to return her once her father gives Tiras soldiers to fight the Volgar. Tiras drags Lark back to his lands and castle.
Lark is not happy to be his prisoner, although there is no love lost between her and her father. At the kingdom, Lark starts to realize something is off and very wrong with the king. While they start as enemies, Tiras starts to become very intrigued with Lark. Her father never taught her how to read or write, something she craves so much. When Tiras takes the time to teach her, although she can’t speak, she has words now. New words – and that means new power with those words. The joy when she learns how to spell words is striking.
The maid gasped when she brought my supper, but the king looked at her with haughty dismissal, and she bowed and stuttered and left the room with great haste. She obviously told the rest of the servants, because no one scolded me or tried to wash our words away.
He spent the day with me, and when he left, I wandered from one word to the next, touching them, saying them in my mind. As I did, I was unable to stop the moisture that rose in my eyes and slipped down my cheeks. It was the happiest day of my life.
Along with learning these new words, some people, including Tiras, can hear what she says in her mind. Tiras realizes she can fight the Volgar just by using unspoken words in her head. His capture of a young lady turns out to be his sword. As they fall in love, Lark worries all he really wants from her are her words, and is his affection genuine?
I don’t want to give away too much of the story, as there is a big piece about the king that goes straight into spoiler territory. But I will tell you this is a really well done fantasy romance. Lark is such a strong girl, for not having a voice. After she learns to read, it unlocks a new ability…. one that I hesitate to really go into. She is a young woman who has so much power, but worries what that power brings. Does she want to be a killing machine for the Volgar? Is she only in Tiras’s good graces because he likes to manipulate her power?
“What do you want, Lark?” He asked again, and his inner elegy was so deafening it pierced my walls. There was something he was hiding from me, something I had not figured out.
I want to be wanted.
He stiffened, and I realized I had let him hear. I had let him in. Just a bit. He was so close, and my need was loud.
“I want you,” he said, his voice sharp.
You don’t want me. You need me. I am of use. It isn’t the same thing.
I love that she is naive yet not willing to learn and to adjust. She thirsts for knowledge and can stand up for herself against people at his court who are master of manipulation. Their love story is slow to burn but ends up being romantic and super sweet.
Kjell, Tiras’s second in command also holds a special place in my heart. His gruffness and steadfast loyalty to Tiras is done so well in this book.
This is the first I’ve read by this author and I loved her voice. I can’t wait to read more.