Book Review: A Throne of Swans
A Throne of Swans
Written by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr
Published by Hot Key Books
Publication date: 9th January 2020
Summary (from Goodreads):
In a world where the flightless are ruled by those who can fly…
When her father dies just before her birthday, seventeen-year-old Aderyn inherits the role of Protector of Atratys, a dominion in a kingdom where nobles are able to transform at will into the bird that represents their family bloodline. Aderyn’s ancestral bird is a swan. But she has not transformed for years, not since witnessing the death of her mother – ripped apart by hawks that have supposedly been extinct since the long-ago War of the Raptors.
With the benevolent shelter of her mother and her father now lost, Aderyn is at the mercy of her brutal uncle, the King, and his royal court. Driven by revenge and love, she must venture into the malevolent heart of the Citadel in order to seek the truth about the attack that so nearly destroyed her, to fight for the only home she has ever known and for the land she has vowed to protect.
Written in rich detail and evocative language, this is the start of an irresistible, soaring duology about courage, broken loyalties and fighting for your place in the world.
The day of the Last Flight comes.
My father may have ignored the rigid etiquette of the court while he was alive, but his death brings its own set of demands . I am dressed in my new black gown – high-collared, with long sleeves that almost hide my hands – and from somewhere in the vaults my maid produces a heavy mourning diadem of jet and silver. She sets it on top of my dark hair; the clips dig into my scalp.
When I arrive at the jetty, the guests – castle inhabitants, tenant farmers and local lords, mostly – are already assembled, a mass of shadow like so much inky seaweed cast up on the shoreline. There are the required number of speeches and songs, and then my father – like my mother, and their parents before – is laid in the high-prowed boat that awaits him and pushed out into the current. At the last minute, a fire is set among the dry kindling piled around the body. Red flames swarm.
And as they do, the honour guard steps forward. Each member a noble, representing his or her family, they are dressed in long black cloaks. One by one, they hand their cloaks to the leather-garbed servants. For a moment, each noble shivers, naked in the chill morning air.
And then, they change. Cranes, cormorants, ravens and rooks, herons and falcons – the air fills as each person shifts seamlessly from human to bird. Birds far larger, far more dangerous than their namesakes that live in our forests and fields. Together, the transformed nobles follow the blazing boat out to the sea. So many different types of bird.
But no swans. Now my father is dead, I am the only swan here.
And I do not fly.
First impressions: I was instantly intrigued to read this as soon as I read the summary – so any things about it just called out to me that I had to get my hands on a copy…luckily my request on Netgalley was approved so I was able to start reading straightaway. I was privileged to be invited to a blogger’s brunch at Hot Key Books, where we got to meet the authors and quiz them about this book, the sequel and everything in between. (At some point I will attempt to write up a post about that too!).
I love stories with political intrigue and courtly machinations and this book did not disappoint, with evefryone out to get everyone and poor Aderyn arriving at court with a naivete of being isolated in a remote province, while everyone else has learned not to wear their hearts on their sleeves. While I loved Lucien’s character and could understand his frustration, I do wish he had shown a bit more patience with Aderyn because she is like fresh meat thrown to the wolves. I have heard a few other reviewers say they found her difficult to like because she makes some stupid decisions, but for me her flaws made her more realistic and relatable. She is trying to do the best she can, at times for good reasons and at times for more selfish purposes, but she is truly human and I could understand where she was coming from. I was suspicious of pretty much everyone around her, including Siegfried, Odette, Aron Letya, etc. The first person narrative worked really well to keep you in suspense, as we discover secrets and betrayals alongside Aderyn, although it can, at times, add to your frustration as reader because you want to scream at her to do something different!
At the time I joined the Blogger Brunch, I had almost finished reading A Throne of Swans and could already tell that I was going to be counting the days until I could get my hands on Part 2 of the duology, A Crown of Talons! There are so many interesting threads started in the first book and I am excited to see how they will resolve in the continuation of the story,
It is full of intrigue, manipulation and questionable loyalties in a society where the Flighted and the Flightless can’t even touch without the ruling class inflicting pain on those they rule over.
Highly recommended so look out for it – published today!
My chest seizes up and, as I struggle to breathe, the glowing outline in my head disappears. My human body reasserts itself and snaps back into existence, solid and undeniable, leaving me gasping naked on the floor.
Lord Lancelin’s words come back to haunt me: You are, for all practical purposes, flightless . . . As I lie there, the carpet rough beneath me, I wonder for the first time whether I’m making a mistake. For years I’ve chafed against my father’s restrictions, against the physical walls of the castle and against the wall of silence he retreated behind. I’ve fantasised about leaving Merl and seeking justice for my mother. But to risk my dominion, my life, for what may be no more than a dream . . .
Will I be able to survive in the world that I’m about to enter, if I can’t even prove that I am truly one of them?
Twisting round, I examine the scars on my back, running my fingers across them as far as I am able. It’s been five years – no, closer to six – since the attack that left my skin so disfigured. And nearly four years since I last tried to shift my shape. Given the danger I put myself in at the beach, perhaps it is time for me to try again.
I take a deep breath, ignoring the bubble of panic beneath my ribcage, and close my eyes, recalling what my mother taught me. I focus on the current running underneath my skin, the power to transform that only nobles possess, that sets us apart from the flightless majority. I envisage the contours of my body, the glowing outline that would be left if you stripped away flesh and bone, concentrating on its flexibility, thinking my way into that state of pure energy that sits between each physical configuration. And I can feel that it’s working, that my form is beginning to alter, to melt from one shape to another, the bones lightening, lengthening, the skin morphing into feather – Pain flares from the ragged nerve endings in my scarred skin. Terror follows , as bitter and violent as I remember.
As swift as the hawks – two transformed nobles – who dropped out of the clouds and fell upon my mother and me, killing her and ripping my back apart.
What I liked: The darks twists in the storyline and that the authors weren’t afraid to explore these darker sides to the human psyche, Aderyn’s character and how she develops throughout the book, the relationship between Aderyn and her cousins, Lucien’s snark, the complex and fraught relationship between the Flighted and the Flightless, especially as the Flighted cannot even touch the Flightless without causing them physical pain. Aran and Odette were characters that I wanted to get to know better and I look forward to seeing how Aderyn continues to develop in the next book too.
Even better if: I need Book 2 now!
How you could use it in your classroom: I would recommend this for ages 15+, simply because of some of the darker content and with the ages of the main characters being around 17-20. It would be fascinating to read this with a class or group who are very familiar with the story of Swan Lake or the ballet, because there are so many little references to them throughout. I really enjoyed how ‘Odile’ (Aderyn)’s character is developed, especially as she is realistically flawed, and, if you know the story of Swan Lake, you will already have a sense of impending doom hanging over your head…
(Thank you to Hot Key Books and Netgalley for my e-ARC)
What did other people think?
Amy@Amy’s Reading Nook said:
“I highly recommend you read this intriguing and magical story!”
Nicola@Fantastic Book Dragon said:
” I adored everything about this book, seriously everything. The characters are full of life, the world building is so vivid and beautifully crafted it felt like I fell headfirst into the story, once I was there I never wanted to leave. ”
Jacqueline @The Puffle Huffle Kitteh said:
” The plot of this book was great. Full of mystery, intrigue, trust and betrayal. A Throne Of Swans takes the reader on a full ride of emotions. I go into a lot of books, not really trusting many characters, and whilst I did the same with this one, it still managed to catch me off guard. ”
While you’re here, why not check out my reviews of Love, Hate and Other Filters; Perfectly Preventable Deaths, Tangleweed and Brine, All The Things We Never Said, Nocturna, Stepsister, The Wise and the Wicked, Crown of Feathers or The Burning?
Thanks for reading!