Book Reviews

Swordbird by Nancy Yi Fan | Book Review


Swordbird by Nancy Yi Fan. Swordbird, #1.

My copy: Harper Collins Publishers, February 2007. Hardcover, 212 pages.

Source: Own.



The blue jays and cardinals of Stone-Run Forest have turned against each other. According to legend, only Swordbird, son of the Great Spirit, has the power to conquer evil and restore peace to the land. But is he real or just a myth? Can Swordbird arrive in time to save the forest . . . or will it be too late?

Twelve-year-old author Nancy Yi Fan has woven a captivating tale about the birds of Stone-Run Forest and the heroism, courage, and resourcefulness in their quest for peace.

Swordbird was written by twelve-year-old Nancy Yi Fan and published back in 2007. The book was her message to the world about peace and freedom following 9/11. When the book was released, I was a young, aspiring author myself, so I scooped it up and read it cover to cover, multiple times, trying to figure out what about the book made it worthy of being published by one of the Big Five houses.

Revisiting this book more than nine years later and with a completely different, more mature set of eyes, I can say that Swordbird is… not very good. (Neither are its prequel and sequel, which I also read back in the day.) It’s definitely not as bad as some of the crap out there written by adults, but it’s extremely thin in word count (this is under 30k words), plot (very basic and elementary), and characters (they’re so cliche and two-dimensional). For a twelve-year-old I suppose it’s pretty decent, seeing as most kids that age probably aren’t writing novellas, but putting that fact aside, Swordbird is very juvenile and lacking in any substance.

The book is about a world of birds. There are the cardinals and blue jays, and then the villain hawk Lord Turnatt who is enslaving wood birds. There is also Swordbird, the birds’ version of god, I suppose. The plot is about the warring cardinals and blue jays who eventually work together to vanquish Turnatt and free the slavebirds. (Peace and freedom! Peace and freedom! The morals and themes are so obvious and shoved down your throat.) There’s also a random theater troupe with a hot-air balloon and piano, and some magical Leasorn Gems that can summon Swordbird to save the day… Yup, some of this stuff is pretty random.

Probably the best thing about the book are its beautiful pencil illustrations by Mark Zug. Yeah, that’s really the only pro I’ve got… The writing isn’t bad, it’s just very… juvenile, which you’d expect from a twelve-year-old. The dialogue isn’t great, and feels very wooden and awkward, and there are way too many exclamation points for my liking! (Exclamation point! Exclamation point! Almost every sentence is an exclamation!) Swordbird isn’t bad, but it definitely won’t appeal to anyone who isn’t a child, and then you should just park Harry Potter in front of them instead. ♦

Have you read Swordbird?
If you haven’t, would you be interested to?
What’s a book by a kid/teen author you’ve read?
Comment below letting me know!
And, as always, happy reading!

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