29 July 2012
REVIEW: THE SWAN KINGDOM
Series: No, standalone
UK Publisher: Walker Books
UK Release date: 2011
Genre: Fantasy, Fairy tale
When Alexandra’s mother is slain by an unnatural beast, shadows fall on the once-lush kingdom. Too soon the widowed king is entranced by a cunning stranger — and in one chilling moment Alexandra’s beloved brothers disappear, and she is banished to a barren land. Rich in visual detail, sparked by a formidable evil, and sweetened with familial and romantic love, here is the tale of a girl who discovers powerful healing gifts — and the courage to use them to save her ailing kingdom.
The Swan Kingdom is a retelling of one Han's Christian Anderson's fairy tales, The Wild Swans. Like a traditional fairy tale this story had magic, romance, the horrible step-mother, and a battle of good against evil. The setting really took me back in time with the wise women, herb lore, and the magical stone circle which reminded me of Glastonbury and Stone Henge. It was such a beautiful place; so when her new step-mother arrived and started wreaking havoc over the land I was incensed.
What I love about fairy tales, and this story, is the way characters aren't what they first seem. Zella, Alexandra's new step-mother, is beautiful and immediately enchants everyone in the Kingdom. But underneath you know something very evil and dark lurks. And in contrast, Alexandra is initially presented as the strange and ugly girl. But when as you read her honest and open narrative, you can't help but love her.
The writing style was very languid, poetic and descriptive. From the very first word I felt completely immersed in Alexandra's world. The rhythm of the story was slow and natural, but reading it didn't feel slow. There were plenty of high tension moments, threats of danger and undercurrents of romance. I would have liked to have known Gabriel, Alexandra's love interest, in more detail. But having said that you instantly know he is a good and kind man.
It has to be said that Alexandra was an ugly duckling; she disappointed her father, wasn't pretty and took after her mother as a wise woman. However I loved Alexandra's personality and the humorous thoughts she had to herself. She was courageous, brave and throughout the story developed into a strong young woman. Despite starting off shy and lacking in self confidence, she slowly became more able to stand up for herself and for her Kingdom.
The Swan Kingdom is a beautifully written magical fantasy fairy tale.