Rating: High Four
Who I'd Recommend to: Fans of Warriors, Wings of Fire, and other similar series.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
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?
(click the Read More button in the bottom right hand corner of this post to read the full review)
For me, although SWORDBIRD has its many flaws, it was still a thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile read. It's the type of book I would've fawned over for months as a nine-year-old (Oscar has yet to read it, but I'm positive he would enjoy it as well). The story, although simple, is exciting and suspenseful, reminding me of Warriors. The characters were likable, admirable, and fairly well-rounded - however, it was, at times, difficult to pick out a main character, since so many were mentioned. Turnatt was a fantastic villain, even better, I think, than the heroines. A hawk who eats babies because he believes it will make him live eternally? This was pure genius.
The writing, on the other hand, was pretty choppy. There would often be long paragraphs of description, with hardly any dialogue at all. Yi Fan also switched perspectives pretty rapidly - from Aska to Glenagh to Flame-Beak and then to Turnatt. This often became pretty tiresome, because I didn't know where to focus. This only slightly detracted from the story, but enough so where I had to dock a star. And again, the characters - there were just a few too many. The story was immensely simple, which is totally fine, but that means the characters have to be, too, at least in my book. Not simple as in not dimensional, but simple as in only one or two main characters with POVs, instead of ten. Thus, the story, although this seldom happened, became confusing or dull.
Again, though, this was a solid high four. I enjoyed it to the fullest, the plot was, overall, pretty steady, the action was exciting and suspenseful, and the characters were likable. And although there were many flaws, I think I'll be revisiting this one again and recommending it to some of my younger friends. So, to answer my original question: how well could kids my age write a story? If Nancy Yi Fan's book is any indication, twelve-year-old kids can produce a satisfying story that is completely worthwhile.
UPDATE: Oscar just read this book and is now obsessed with it, as predicted :). He's been researching Nancy Yi Fan, asking if we can interview her, drawing pictures of all the birds in the book, and even writing his own bird stories. So SWORDBIRD is now wholeheartedly recommended by both Oscar and me!