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Timothy Lane’s Blog on The Bird Master by Karin Erlandsson



At the end of The Pearl Whisperer, Miranda succeeded in finding Syrsa, but in rescuing her she unwittingly gave the Eye Stone to Oberis: the Eye Stone has the power to give to the one who finds it their hearts desire. After the cruel treatment she received at the hands of Oberis, Syrsa is reluctant to ever go pearl fishing again. Miranda returns with her to the Northern town, where Lydia a woman skilled in herbal remedies, and herself a former pearl whisperer, takes them into her home.

Syrsa enjoys helping Lydia prepare treatments for patients, whilst Miranda in a desire to be useful takes to her old occupation as a tree cutter. One day when she is out cutting with a native of the town called Erk, large birds called Dagpies attack him as he is up in the heights of a tree lopping off branches. Terrified by his screams, then more terrified by his silence, Miranda manages to cut him down from the tree when the birds retreat. After getting help from the town, Erk is taken to Lydia for treatment. It is then that Miranda reflects on the extraordinary nature of these previously harmless birds so brutally attacking a human being. Her attempts to explain what happened are met with disbelief by the people of the town, despite what are evidently claw marks on Erk’s face. Erk lives, but has to have both of his arms amputated.

The townspeople are soon shaken from their complacence, as large numbers of Dagpies begin to attack people in the streets of the town. The normal pursuits of the townspeople are frequently interrupted by the appearance of the Dagpies, who will congregate in the centre of town and perch on top of buildings, attacking any who leave their homes. Miranda suggests a plan that is eventually adopted, of using the wood they have to stake large posts in the ground, covering these over with a series of nets. The plan successfully shields the town from the birds when they next return, but has unfortunately depleted the wood supplies in a winter that is turning very cold.

Miranda takes upon herself the risk of cutting down trees now that Erk is indisposed and others are too frightened, but she is also attacked by the birds. When she wakes, she is being cared for by Lydia. She is completely incapable of moving any part of herself apart from her head and her neck, she has also been unconscious for months. In that time, the people of the town have been under siege from the birds.

Miranda faces the prospect of either prolonged or permanent paralysis. Her debilitated condition puts serious strain on her relationship with Syrsa, who has come to rely upon her as a kind of parent/older sister figure. There is also the burgeoning understanding that the behaviour of the birds is not a bizarre incomprehensible phenomenon, but the work of Oberis. Oberis is intent on becoming Queen of the realm, and to do so she drives the people of the various regions north to the town under nets, where she plans on penning them in with Dagpies, while she lays siege to the Queen’s city. Miranda faces the pressure of recovering not just to be able to live normally, but to look after Syrsa, help the townspeople, and to deal with the consequence of her efforts to save Syrsa, which meant giving Oberis the very thing she has wanted to pursue her power craving ends.

The Bird Master successfully conjures the anticlimactic nature of life after a great adventure, of trying to go back to a normal existence, only to realise the adventure has not ended, that the antagonist has not gone away, has only become stronger, and is determined to follow you to where you are comfortable, and strive to, at the least, ruin that comfort, and at worst destroy love, life and home.
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