by Zoe Marriott
Amazon / Goodreads
Shadows fall across the beautiful, lush kingdom after the queen is attacked by an unnatural beast, and the healing skills of her daughter, Alexandra, cannot save her. Too soon the widowed king is spellbound by a frightening stranger, a woman whose eyes reflect no light. In a terrifying moment, all Alexandra knows disappears, including her beloved brothers, leaving her banished to a barren land. But Alexandra has more gifts than she realizes as she confronts magic, murder, and the strongest of evil forces, and is unflinchingly brave as she struggles to reclaim what is rightfully hers. Fantasy lovers will be held in thrall by this tale full of visual detail, peppered with a formidable destructive force and sweetened with familial and romantic love.
Review:The Swan Kingdom was a lovely story to read - it has a great magical world, and it presents a different spin on the original fairy tale of The Six Swans. I was also impressed that the story brings more detail to the evil stepmother character who is a bit more disturbing as a villain than in the original fairy tale. While the three brothers are sort of cursorily summarized as characters and are not actively in the story for very long, the reader gets to see more of the mother and her influence on the family and the land before she's gone. I admire that this story is full of strong, female characters who all have very different personalities.
I found the main character, Alexandra, sympathetic and engaging and perfect to carry the whole story forward. She acted rather more slowly on her brothers' curse than I would have expected, but this story does take on some unexpected turns, especially with how the romance is woven into the tale. I love that the romance is built on the two characters really getting to know each other, instead of falling in love at first sight, so the romance is very sweet and endearing.
The main smaller issue I had with this story though was in the rather unresolved story line for Alexandra's Aunt - I was thinking she would play a stronger role in the story, but we don't hear from her again. And also in the nature of the Ancestors who guide Alexandra - I felt a bit confused on their role in the world of this magic. It seemed like they were just there when it was convenient, and were unable to do anything.
The reason why this is such an enjoyable read though is in the exciting plot line, the changes that deviated from the original fairy tale (there's a really neat twist about the curse!) and just my own appreciation that it's the women in this story who affect their own lives.