While The Eagle Huntress was (mostly) real, I actually found this novel more realistic. Bow spent considerable time in Mongolia researching the people and their lives and the story is abundant with cultural details. While some critics have decried "cultural appropriation" and I found more than a few Westernizations that rang false, overall the story provides a rich and respectful depiction of daily life and cultural values. The result of that hard work is a deeper, more rewarding story about how Aisulu, through the experience of building a bond with her eagle, in turn builds a stronger bond with her community. More could certainly have been done with this material (for example, her estrangement from her own mother was a frustratingly neglected thread) but the theme gave the story gravitas beyond the single-focused girl-power message of the film.