Sword Quest by Nancy Yi Fan, illustrations by Jo-Anne Rioux. Swordbird, #2.
My copy: HarperTrophy (Harper Collins Publishers), January 2009. Paperback, 262 pages.
One magical sword. Two rivals.
Wind-voice the half-dove, formerly enslaved, is now free, and Maldeor, the one-winged archaeopteryx, hungers for supreme power. The adversaries will both embark on their own epic quest to find the sword that will determine the future of birdkind. An exciting prequel to the New York Times bestseller Swordbird.
Sword Quest is the prequel to Swordbird, and tells the life of the dove Wind-voice before he became the legendary Swordbird. Nancy Yi Fan was about 14 when she penned Sword Quest, and, in a nutshell, Sword Quest is about, wait for it — bird-Jesus. It’s a stronger story than Swordbird by far, but still very cliche and juvenile, sorry to say.
The story is set in a world of birds, where various species rule over their own kingdoms and territories. The villains this time around are the archaeopteryxes, but there’s another villain, Yin-soul, trying to control and manipulate both our hero, Wind-voice, and our antagonist, Maldeor.
The plot is a pretty basic hero and quest-type story: the search for the magical Leasorn gemstones and the One Sword to Rule Them All. (Haha, not exactly. It’s just the “hero’s sword”. I’m being a little sarcastic here.) Our merry band of birds escape from the archaeopteryxes, visit other bird tribes in search of help and the Leasorn gems, get captured again, get rescued, visit some penguins, etcetera, etcetera. It’s predictable, but at least it’s a quick read. (I skimmed a lot of it since I’d read it before. I don’t think I’ll be reading it again.)
I thought the world-building was a lot better and more fleshed-out than in Swordbird. As I said earlier, this prequel is much stronger than Nancy’s first book. It’s longer and it has a somewhat meatier plot, even if the plot is pretty basic. The characters are all still pretty two-dimensional, however, and whatever inner conflict some of them had was pretty weak. The one great thing these books have going for them, though, are the beautiful pencil illustrations. Mark Zug, a favorite artist of mine, illustrated Swordbird, and this time Jo-Anne Rioux illustrated Sword Quest.
In conclusion, Sword Quest isn’t that good, but it’s a lot better than its predecessor. It’s aimed for younger middle-grade readers, and it doesn’t skillfully tackle any of its messages and themes; it just kind of presents them and says, “this: good, this: bad.” I enjoyed Nancy Yi Fan’s books when I was a kid because I myself wished I was in her shoes — being a published author and New York Times bestseller at such a young age. Now that I’ve grown up and have revisited her writing, I’m not as enamored anymore. These books really don’t have much to them, so I’d recommend skipping them in favor of better stories out there. ♦
Have you read Sword Quest?
If you haven’t, would you be interested to?
What’s a book you’ve revisited that doesn’t hold up to what you originally thought about it?
Comment below letting me know!