Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Welcome to the FFBC: The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen-- Interview & Giveaway

The Bird and the Blade

by Megan Bannen
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
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As a slave in the Kipchak Khanate, Jinghua has lost everything: her home, her family, her freedom … until she finds herself an unlikely conspirator in the escape of Prince Khalaf and his irascible father as they flee from their enemies across the vast Mongol Empire. On the run, with adversaries on all sides and an endless journey ahead, Jinghua hatches a scheme to use the Kipchaks’ exile to return home, a plan that becomes increasingly fraught as her feelings for Khalaf evolve into a hopeless love.

Jinghua’s already dicey prospects take a downward turn when Khalaf seeks to restore his kingdom by forging a marriage alliance with Turandokht, the daughter of the Great Khan. As beautiful as she is cunning, Turandokht requires all potential suitors to solve three impossible riddles to win her hand—and if they fail, they die.

Jinghua has kept her own counsel well, but with Khalaf’s kingdom—and his very life—on the line, she must reconcile the hard truth of her past with her love for a boy who has no idea what she’s capable of ... even if it means losing him to the girl who’d sooner take his life than his heart.

Hello Megan! We are super excited to talk to you about THE BIRD AND THE BLADE and to have you in our FFBC tours. 

Thank you! I’m very excited to tour the FFBC world!


Favorite Book?

There’s probably a fifty-way tie for favorite, so I’ll just go with Jane Austen’s Persuasion today.

Favorite TV show?

Oh my, Poldark. *fans self*

Favorite movie?

The Princess Bride, and I loved Cary Elwes’s book on the making of the movie. It’s fantastic on audio, by the way.

Favorite Song? 

“Jackie Wilson Said” by Van Morrison. It just makes me happy.

Favorite Food? 

Chole saag, a dish I associate with the very attractive waiter at India Palace fifteen years ago who would wait until my then-boyfriend-now-husband would go to the restroom to come over to our table and tell me I had a nice smile. Every. Single. Time. Heavens, he was dreamy.

Name 3 fictional places you would move to in a heartbeat. 

Attolia, Hogwarts, Pemberley

What were your favorite books growing up? 

The first book I ever loved was My Friend the Monster by Clyde Robert Bulla. As I got older, I tore through The Chronicles of Narnia, and anything by Lucy Maud Montgomery and Lois Lowry. 

Favorite Quote?

“… he realized that the ritualized world he had dismissed as feminine was in fact civilization.”
― G. Willow WilsonAlif the Unseen

What authors would you “fangirl” over? Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Markus Zusak, Megan Whalen Turner

Name a recent book you read that you would recommend to our YA fans? 

Just one??? Well, I really loved I’m Not Missing by Carrie Fountain which comes out this summer.


Could you tell our Book Addicts a little bit about THE BIRD AND THE BLADE?

THE BIRD AND THE BLADE is a retelling of François Pétis de la Croix’s “Prince Khalaf and the Princess of China” which was itself based on story from Haft Paykar by Nizami, a medieval Persian poet. It’s also the basis for Puccini’s last opera, Turandot. My version of events is told from the point-of-view of a minor character in the original tale, in this case, a slave girl named Jinghua who lands in the Kipchak Khanate of the Mongol Empire after the Mongols defeat the Song (in southern China). When the khanate is itself defeated by a neighboring kingdom, Jinghua hitches a ride with the fleeing khan and his son, Prince Khalaf, in the hopes that she might figure out a way to get back home. As they head east with their enemies in hot pursuit, Jinghua finds herself falling for the kind and brilliant prince. Complicating matters is the fact that Khalaf has decided to restore his kingdom by marrying Turandokht, the daughter of the Great Khan. To win Turandokht’s hand, however, a suitor must successfully answer three riddles or face execution. Jinghua might be the only person in the world who can help Khalaf answer Turandokht’s riddles, but that means she must make an impossible choice between Khalaf’s life and her own freedom. 

Can you tell us 3 interesting/random things about the time period in which this book is set?
  1. One of the things that made the Mongols incredibly dangerous to their opponents was their ability to fire arrows with great accuracy, using an impressive weapon known as the composite bow, while riding horseback. But wait! It gets better! Because the thing that made them truly terrifying was the fact that once they broke through enemy lines, they would then turn in the saddle and fire with great accuracy behind them, nailing their enemy from the back as well as the front.
  2. The de facto khan of the Chagatai Khanate, Qaidu, makes an appearance in THE BIRD AND THE BLADE, but let’s talk about his daughter for a minute. Qaidu had a lot of children, but his daughter, Khutulun, was his right hand (wo)man in his fight to stick it to Kubilai Khan, the (somewhat illegal) Great Khan of the Mongol Empire at this time. Khutulun would ride into battle, pull men off their horses, and drag them back to her dad to finish off. She was also known as a fantastic wrestler and said she would marry any man who could beat her in a wrestling match. But if they lost, they had to give her a bunch of horses. Let’s just say the woman had A LOT of horses. To this day, if you watch a wrestling match in Mongolia, you’ll notice that the men wear these open front vests. That’s to show the crowd that they have no breasts and are, therefore, NOT Khutulun and, therefore, do NOT have an unfair advantage over their opponent. 
  3. One place Jinghua, Khalaf, and Timur visit on their journey east in the novel is the Taklamakan desert in northwest China. Marco Polo described passing through this area in his travels and particularly noted hearing a strange, eerie sound as if someone were crying or dying. This phenomenon is known as “singing sand,” and there are several scientific theories as to what exactly causes it. It’s super creepy.

Do you have any fave Fantasy TV shows/movies/books? 

I love The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner and Uprooted by Naomi Novik (so excited for her new book!!). I binge-watched Nirvana in Fire on after I completed copyedits for THE BIRD AND THE BLADE and I was hooked, so I’m holding up Nirvana in Fire 2 as a carrot to get me through a draft of my secret work-in-progress.

What 3 hashtags would you most associate with your book? (Could be a word or phrase or anything that would instantly make you think of THE BIRD AND THE BLADE). 

#doomedlove #uglytears #lambsballs 

How did you come up with the story? Did you find inspiration in any other story/movie/show and how has this affected your writing?

I first got the idea for THE BIRD IN THE BLADE in 2008 when I was listening to the opera Turandot and decided that the slave girl was the true hero of this story, not the prince. I daydreamed about writing a novel from her point of view for three years until, finally, in 2011, I realized, “Hey, Megan, you’re never going to write a book unless you actually, ya know, write a book.” So, I started writing, and here I am all these years later with a book I can cuddle. Other than all the research I read, the one book that inspired me was THE THIEF by Megan Whalen Turner. I love the way Turner handles the unreliable narrator in that novel, how Gen speaks to the readers as if we already know everything he knows. I tried to craft Jinghua’s narrative using that same method. I’m no Megan Whalen Turner, but I’m still pleased with the way it turned out.

Tell us your favorite quote from THE BIRD AND THE BLADE. 

“Cruelty is easy to repay, my lord. Kindness is another matter.” Close second: “Go suck your used tea leaves.”

Is there a specific scene that you had the most fun to write?  Or which part was the most difficult to get through?

If you’ve read any reviews of this book, you know by now that it tends to make readers weep buckets. The scene at the end that makes people sob? I had so much fun writing that! My fingers flew across the keys, and I thought to myself, “Oh, this is going to hurt so much! Mwah-ha-ha!! #sorrynotsorry As far as scenes that are difficult for me, I must admit that I suck at writing action. Fight scenes are definitely not my strong suit, and it takes me twice as long to write them as any other kind of scene. Give me dialogue and smooching any day.

If you had to pick one song to be the Theme Song for THE BIRD AND THE BLADE– Which one would you pick?

“Tu che de gel sei cinta” (“You, who are surrounded ice”) from the opera Turandot. It’s full of love and longing, and yet there’s a marvelous edge of defiance to it as well.

Are there any recommendations you could give your readers to be in the “perfect mood” to read THE BIRD AND THE BLADE (specific music, snacks…)? 

You’ve got to listen to the opera, of course! My favorite recording stars Plácido Domingo as Calaf and Barbara Hendricks as Liú, with Herbert von Karajan conducting. The first act finale is basically the best thing ever. It’s on Spotify! And if you really want to get in the mood, grab a cup of qumiz (fermented mare’s milk) and a handful of curds to munch on.

What’s next for you? 

I’m working on a young adult fantasy at the moment, and I occasionally putter away on a middle grade humorous fantasy. I’d love to crank out a rough draft of another YA book in 2018, but that might be pushing it.

Thank you so much for everything, Megan!

Thank YOU! This has been a blast!

Megan Bannen is a librarian and the author of THE BIRD AND THE BLADE. In her spare time, she collects graduate degrees from Kansas colleges and universities. While most of her professional career has been spent in public libraries, she has also sold luggage, written grants, and taught English at home and abroad. She lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, their two sons, and a few too many pets with literary names. She can be found online at

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  1. This book sounds exciting and action-packed so it's on my TBR already.

  2. I've been seeing this book all over the place lately - and I think I'm sold!

    And, yes, Poldark! I can't wait for the next season!

  3. I really enjoyed this one! I died with her hashtags when she said "lambsballs. lol Can't wait to see what she does next!