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.
I’d heard some amazing things about Zoe Marriott, and couldn’t believe I hadn’t discovered her books yet, so I settled down to start with her debut novel ‘The Swan Kingdom’ – and was completely captivated.
Marriott takes a very old style approach with both the story and the writing, it reads like some of the old fantasy’s and it’s an intriguing take on an old fairy tale. The backdrop of such a beautiful landscape with strong magic, evil step-mothers and kingdoms, princes and curses made me feel right at home. Whilst I love some urban fantasy most of the time, to step back into full fantasy reminiscent of Tamora Pierce is guaranteed to make me smile.
Alexandra is a lovely protagonist, just the right blend of strength, naivety and love to make her a truly wonderful character to follow. I did become a little frustrated with her at times as it takes her an awfully long time for her to finally start doing something to set things right. On the one hand you could argue that she needs that time to grow, mature and develop into herself and her power, but if that is the case I would have liked a little more storytelling around that, instead of the period of inactivity before it all kicks off.
I love the romance that unfurls at the books heart, it provides a perfect complement to the familial love that already makes up the core. It was a refreshing change to see such a close knit family in fiction, usually in these tales the brothers are not so willing to listen or protect their younger sister, so I really loved seeing these relationships develop and watch how they drive the book to its inevitable conclusion.
The book does have a few errors and passages that dragged a little when they could have been tighter, but these are inevitable with a first novel, and in truth it just left me more excited to read her next books. If this is what she wrote in her first book, and she continued to develop over the next few books, her writing would be truly exquisite!
So because of the little flaws, it’s knocked if off a five star review, but is a solid four star. A beautiful retelling of an old fairy tale, with very well developed characters, a beautiful narrative and a huge amount of excitement to see what Marriott writes next.