Sword Mountain by Nancy Yi Fan

Nancy Yi Fan was eleven years old when she started writing the first novel in her Swordbird series, entitled Swordbird. I haven’t read Swordbird, nor have I read the second novel in the series, Sword Quest. And I had no idea that Ms. Yi Fan was a teen author until I finished reading Sword Mountain and read the author blurb in the back. Nancy Yi Fan’s writing matches that any adult fantasy author, and her deft handling of story, character, and theme outdo many authors with far more experience than she has.

Sword Mountain is the ancestral of the Golden Eagles, and as the story opens exiled musician Prince Fleydur is returning home to the Castle of the Sky as a hero. He and his brother, Prince Forlath, and their Eagle Army have defeated the archaeopteryxes and saved the kingdom. Unfortunately, not all of their enemies have perished, and not much has changed at the Castle of the Sky in Fleydur’s absence. The Iron Nest, the tribe’s ruling authority, still holds to tradition and a rigid social hierarchy, and Queen Sigrid is still enmeshed in her own selfish ambitions for her son Forlath. And nobody understands Fleydur’s love for music nor his compassion in rescuing an orphaned valley eaglet named Dandelion and bringing her to the Castle of the Sky to associate with the eagle nobility.

Dandelion becomes the heroine of the the story as she struggles to find her place and identity in a very rigid, rule-bound society. Fleydur is good, but a bit clueless, thinking that everybird, including the villains of the piece, means well and only needs a taste of music to make them understand the beauty of equality and freedom.

I liked the way this one was written. I liked the aphorisms at the beginning of each chapter. I liked the anthropomorphic birds who felt like characters from a human fairy tale, only with flying. I liked the strong, female protagonist who did the rescuing instead of being rescued. I liked the centrality of the two books, The Old Scripture and The Book of Heresy. I liked the themes of “hope and change”, slow, sure hope and change. I liked it all well enough that I’m hoping to go back and read the first two books in the series when Cybils season is over.

Sword Mountain is eligible to be nominated for the 2012 Cybils Awards for Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy. Nominations open October 1, 2012.

7 thoughts on “Sword Mountain by Nancy Yi Fan

  1. I’ll have to put this on the list for my son. Sounds like something he would love. Thanks for the review!

  2. I read the first one but I haven’t read the others. (I didn’t know there WERE others!) I thought the first was a pretty good story from a pretty amazing 11 year old. But there was still room for improvement. (Always.) But I’m still impressed that she became an official and published author at the age of 11. And the story plot is clever.

  3. Hello together,
    my name is Erik Schreiber from Germany, Europe. I am SF-Fant, Hobby-Author and Publisher. I have in my small publishing house the idea, to published one book in germany with 80 stories from 80 authors around the world. The idea based on Jules Verne “Around the world in 80 days”.

    Invitation to contribute science fiction short stories to an anthology
    I am planning to publish a science fiction anthology with 80 international science fiction stories from 80 countries. In tribute to Jules Verne the title will be “Around the World in Eighty Stories”. The stories should be about 4 – 5 pages long. This project is unusual, but I hope to find enough authors from all over the world. The book will be published when the 80 stories are complete. If you are interested please don’t hesitate to contact me.

    I have two websites:
    on last site you can see the first authors, they send me one story. But I am searching Authors from Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Oceanien. So I would ask you, if you can help me?

    best regards

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