“The Swan Kingdom” by Zoe Marriott
After recently having my appendix out, I was told I was unable to work or play sport for 4-6 weeks. I used this time to catch up on my reading and found this book hiding at the bottom of my bookcase, completely unread! So obviously I changed that.
It’s a great, well paced fantasy story that actually isn’t a part of a series which was refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, I adore fantasy novels, but it was pleasant to read one without large scale battles, but that still contained the all important adventure.
The story is told from Alexandra’s point of view. She is the youngest of four children, and her mother is considered a very skilled woman in the art of healing and drawing power from the earth (or a Cunning Woman as they call them in the book). Alexandra has three older brothers who each have their own skills and positive character attributes. Alexandra, however, is considered plain with nothing going for her in life. In her father’s eyes, she simply does not exist.
One day, the Queen takes Alexandra out for an adventure, however she dies after being attacked by an unnatural, yet full powered beast. After the Queen’s passing, the King goes out each day to search for the beast that killed his wife. Each day, he returns empty handed. That is, until one day he returns with an unconscious woman – Zella. It doesn’t take long for Alexandra and her brother’s to work out that this mysterious woman has hoodwinked not only the King, and the entire population of her town. Alexandra and her brother’s try to sneak up on this woman whilst she is asleep to attack her, however their plan backfires drastically.
Alexandra’s brothers disappear (turning into Swans) and she is sent off to live with her Aunt – her mother’s sister, who is cold and unwelcoming. The land in which her Aunt lives is completely different, which Alexandra finds hard to adapt to. She sneaks out each night and goes to the beach where she meets Gabriel. Although their paths lead in different directions, Gabriel finds Alexandra after months apart. Together, they face Zella in a major show down as Alexandra discovers how to use her powers not only to beat Zella, but to also restore her brothers back to their human forms.
This novel is loosely based on the Hans Christian Andersen’s story, The Wild Swans, but it is told beautifully. I really enjoyed Alexandra’s adventure in this book – it’s exciting without the gore that most other fantasy books deem necessary. At times, it can be a little bit easy to get lost with the plot – I had to go back and reread certain passages again to understand what was going on, but generally the story was easy to follow, well paced and never boring.
It’s aimed at a fairly young readership, so parts of the novel may be challenging for them, but overall I think the story and adventure is more than enough to engage the reader. There’s just a touch of romance at the end too because (let’s face it) every Heroine needs a guy by her side. This novel manages to combine all the engaging elements of fantasy novels but tailor them perfectly to suit the intended readership. I honestly believe though that readers any age will enjoy this though, which is a credit to the Zoe’s writing talent! If you’re looking for a short fantasy story to read I definitely suggest giving this one a go.
Overall rating: 3.5/5