This was a very unusual fantasy.
I picked it up because I recently finished an historical fiction book by Amy Harmon that I loved (“A Girl Called Samson”). I knew just from the book description that this would be very different in terms of the plot, though I could definitely recognize her narrative voice. The story follows Lark, a girl with the magical gift of words. She can command objects in the physical world to do her bidding, though not people with a will of their own. But she was born into a world in which such gifts are considered dangerous, and those with gifts are persecuted and killed. When Lark as an innocent princess makes paper dolls fly, her mother takes the blame, and is murdered by her father, the king. But her mother placed a “curse” on Lark before she died, that she will no longer be able to speak, thinking this will protect her. At the same time, her mother vowed that if anything ever happens to Lark, her father will also die.
It’s an interesting concept, to have a protagonist who cannot speak, nor can she even read at the beginning (her father’s protection against her power). As a result, the story has to be told in first person narration, though not in Lark’s own thoughts. This still works, though. Lark is like Sleeping Beauty–kept away from her father the king with a single servant who loves and protects her. Then she finds an injured eagle, and manages to imbue it with her healing intention, even though she can’t use the words. The pacing was quite slow, so I didn’t pay very close attention at the beginning of the story, and I’m not quite sure how that led her to the palace of a neighboring king, Tiras. She heals him too, though the source of his ailment is at first unclear. He realizes that she is gifted after this, but while he protects her secret, he also keeps her captive, apparently to keep her close by in case her gift is needed again. At the same time, he teaches her to read, and he realizes that once she learns words, she can press them into his mind, so that they can begin to communicate.
There’s a slow burn love story between Lark and Tiras, lots of palace intrigue, and Lark’s father comes into the story on several occasions. Later we learn that there is a magical connection between the eagle whom Lark healed at the beginning, and Tiras. The primary theme of the story I’d say is the power of words, and also the fear of the unknown (common in fantasy stories about magic). There is a rather surprising happily-ever-after, though.
My rating: ****
Language: I can’t recall if it’s there… it might be
Sexual content: present though not over-the-top; probably PG-13 level
Violence: present but fantasy-esque
Political content: none