The Swan Kingdom

( 16 )

Overview

"Marriott notes Andersen’s ‘The Wild Swans’ as her inspiration, but the novel is entirely her own, full of narrative power and magic." — BOOKLIST

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 ...

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Overview

"Marriott notes Andersen’s ‘The Wild Swans’ as her inspiration, but the novel is entirely her own, full of narrative power and magic." — BOOKLIST

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.

Joe and Gram grow a garden, with the help of the good brown earth.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
You probably know me already. In every story you've ever been told, someone like me exists. A figure in the background, barely noticed by the main players. A talentless, unwanted child. The ugly one. The ugly one only gets in the way. She is as out of place as a sparrow in a clutch of swans. This was the role I had in my father's hall.

It was the role my father gave me.

I have a memory. It's smudgy, almost faded into nothing now. It's a memory of my father. I can remember him picking me up in his big arms and whirling me around until I shrieked with laughter. I can remember him calling me his sweeting. But that's the last-the only-time I can ever remember him holding me.

I don't know what changed. Maybe it was me. I was not like my brothers-whom, it must be said, he did love a great deal. I must have been a great disappointment as a king's daughter. I could not be married to his advantage, for who would want to wed a creature so plain? And I was a strange little girl, always talking to things other people couldn't see, running out on my own, never listening to his orders. I can understand why he might have despaired of me. But I don't understand why he stopped loving me.

Yet I adapted, in the way that children do. For I held another place in my father's hall-the place my mother and brothers gave me. It's not enough to say that my mother was beautiful, though she was, almost unbelievably so. But her beauty was the least that people said of her. She was a wise woman, renowned throughout the Kingdom. That was why my father, the king, had wed her. In truth, her compassion and gentleness made her better loved than Father, with his harsh ideas of justice and his brusque manner, could ever have been. Everyone adored her. I idolized her.

And then there were my brothers. I loved them almost as dearly as I did my mother.
David was the eldest, my father's heir and the most like him, with his dark hair and eyes. He was calm and steady, and it was he who endeavored to keep my dresses unmuddied and the twigs from my hair.

Next came Hugh, the tallest and most handsome, with golden hair and the careless, flashing smile of our mother. He was quick and witty and could tease even our father from a black mood. He was the inventor- and victor-of all our childhood games. Robin was the closest to me in age as well as temperament. He was not a brilliant swordsman like David or a fine horseman like Hugh. He was a thinker and kept his nose in a book as often as he could manage; but for me he always had time-to talk, paint pictures, play games.

When I found the sparrow with a broken wing, it was Robin I ran to, and he put aside his book and showed me how to splint its bone and feed it, his hands and voice gentle. Robin and I were alike in many ways. We had the same deep auburn hair. We had both inherited Mother's eyes, the vivid green of newly unfurled leaves. But there, I'm afraid, my resemblance to Robin or my mother ended. When I said I was ugly, I meant it. Though I had my mother's hair and eyes and her pale skin, somehow I was . . . ugly. Or perhaps that's too strong a word. It was just that my small white face, with its delicate features, faded into insignificance, especially next to the dazzling charms of the rest of my family. They said David would make a wonderful king, in time. There was no doubt that Hugh would be a fine lord and defend his brother's lands well. And Robin, of course, would be a great scholar.

No one said what I would become. They looked at me with pity, I think. I was nothing. I was the wanderer, the dreamer who listened to the tides of magic in her sleep. I knew it was not my destiny to be great. I would only be Alexandra, and I would be free. So I wasn't unhappy, then. The wood-frame Hall, with its curved walls and thatching that almost reached the ground in places, was a true home to me, and I loved it, especially Mother's beautiful gardens that spread out over most of the hillside. I grew up running wild through the amber fields of the Kingdom, sleeping in the green and silver shadows of its forests, diving through the clear sweetness of its waters. My brothers ran with me, and my mother watched over us all. When I look back now, my memories of that time seem to stream and dance like dust motes gilded by the sun.

I remember one afternoon in late summer when I was about ten. Robin and I lay next to each other in the grasses by the hawthorn hedge, watching the clouds wheel above us in the sky. The hump of thatching that was the roof of the Hall was just out of sight over the curve of the hill, and below us was wild land dotted with daisies, forget-me-nots, and ammemnon flowers. Hugh and David had found some long sticks and were mock dueling nearby. Their shouts and swearing didn't disturb me-I was far too used to them-but Hugh's

yelp of pain at David's blow to his knuckles was particularly loud, and I rolled my eyes at Robin as Hugh proceeded to curse his opponent soundly. "How can David's father have been a mongrel cur with one leg?" I called lazily. "He's your father too."

"I refuse to believe it," Hugh said dramatically.

"Obviously David is a goblin child that Mother found by the wayside one day and took pity on."

"Unlikely," David said, lowering his stick. He leaned on it, continuing thoughtfully, "But it might be true that one of us is a changeling."

I blinked in shock and sat up. "Do you mean me?" I asked, my voice sounding too high-pitched even to my own ears.

"Don't be stupid," Hugh said hastily. "You're the living spit of Mother."

"I mean Hugh, of course," David agreed calmly. "You and Robin both look like Mother, and I obviously take after Father. But who does Hugh look like?"

Publishers Weekly

Exactly what this British first novelist is up to in this elaboration of the Hans Christian Andersen tale "The Wild Swans" is not clear. Does the royal heroine, Alexandra, have magical gifts? A special destiny with the enaid-"currents of life"-and a connection to the sacred place called the "Circle of Ancestors"? Alexandra, the ugly duckling of the family, and her three brothers lose their beloved mother to an attack by a frightening creature in the forest, but only when the mysterious Zella arrives and bewitches Alexandra's father and his entire kingdom does the story's pace quicken. Zella threatens the four siblings-Alexandra is exiled and her three brothers turned into swans-an interesting but inopportune development. Just as readers find that they, too, are enthralled by Zella and the havoc she wreaks, Alexandra is banished from the action. Luckily, the handsome Gabriel enters, adding romance and intrigue, reigniting that page-turner impulse-but his appearance, too, is brief. Readers will be impatient for both Zella and Gabriel to return and reinvigorate what is otherwise the solitary story of Alexandra's struggle to understand herself, her powers and how she might wrest her family's kingdom back from the evil Zella. Even with the uneven pacing, however, the mix of magic, royalty and romance will compel many teens. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007Reed Business Information
Children's Literature
This gentle story, beautifully illustrated in mixed media, shows Gram and young Joe gardening in a rural patch through the year, fall to fall. Each season has its own tasks, such as spading the earth, hoeing, planting, or harvesting, and after each visit, "the good brown earth got on doing what the good brown earth does best." The mixed-media illustrations show the colors and textures of the changing seasons, the animals in and around the garden, the scarecrow she and Joe make to discourage them, and a wintry hat the two placed on a snowman early in the book but which shows up in various spots. Gram is remarkably tolerant and cheerful about the exuberant way Joe digs, gardens, and generally has a great time. And indeed, while Gram has planted in the traditional way, Joe hurls his seeds all around and both gardens come up full of produce which they harvest together. Great for preschoolers who are interested in plants and growth, perfect for nursery school science programs, and a visual treat for families, gardeners or not. 2004, Candlewick Press, Ages 3 to 6.
—Susan Hepler, Ph.D.
KLIATT
AGERANGE: Ages 12 to 18.

Inspired by one of the darkest of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, “The Wild Swans,” this has enormous gothic appeal for YA readers. It is Marriott’s first novel, and her use of language is distinctive and impressive. The cover art is appropriately mysterious and lovely. The basic story is one of a happy family destroyed by Zella, a shapeshifter who kills the queen, seduces the king, and tries to kill the children and take over the kingdom. The narrator is the princess, Alexandra, a child when this tragedy occurs. Her beloved brothers are turned into swans and she is exiled to a neighboring place, to the home of her cold aunt. There is an overriding theme of ecological disaster, as the Old Ways of healing and magic are replaced by selfish evil. Alexandra is the only hope, because within her is the power to heal and to restore the earth, but she has to learn who she is and what she is able to do. Throughout her childhood and adolescence, Alexandra often dreams of swans hovering near, protecting her, but it takes some time before she understands the swans are her own brothers, caught in a spell that keeps them from their human bodies. There is romance, of course, and terrible suffering before the evil Zella is destroyed and the land turns green once more. The overall theme is one of a young woman finding how she can empower herself, becoming the person she is meant to be, able to heal, to love, and to restore the earth so that life is able to flourish. Marriott draws from myth and magic to retell this exciting story, perfectly suited to adolescent fears and dreams. Reviewer: Claire Rosser
March 2008 (Vol. 42, No.2)

Children's Literature - Denise Daley
Alexandra lives in a beautiful but bewitching kingdom. Her life is peaceful and carefree until her magical mother, the queen, dies suddenly and mysteriously. Within days of the queen's death, an evil woman virtually appears out of nowhere and enchants Alexandra's father, the king, convincing him to marry her. Alexandra is sent away from the kingdom, and her three brothers inexplicably disappear. Years later, Alexandra is summoned back to her father's kingdom, only to learn of the treachery that has reigned in her absence. Villagers, ancestors, and even estranged relatives all tell Alexandra that she is the only one with the power necessary to defeat the wicked queen and to bring the kingdom back to its original harmony. Alexandra has to convince herself that she does indeed have the strength and talent needed to free her brothers' souls and to restore the kingdom. This fast-paced fantasy adventure story is extremely well-written. Readers will identify with the main character as she bravely overcomes her insecurities to find the magic that is within her. Reviewer: Denise Daley
School Library Journal

Gr 6-10

A story loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Wild Swans." Alexandra, 15, is the daughter of a powerful king and a wise queen. Like her mother, she has the gift of the ancient ways, but her talents aren't fully developed. The queen takes her into the ancient woods to celebrate her coming-of-age, and while there is attacked by an unnatural beast. Alexandra, in spite of her magic and healing skills, cannot save her mother. The king, plunged into despair, spends every day hunting for this beast. One day he returns with a beautiful woman who seems to charm everyone in the kingdom, except his children. Even though they believe that Zella is the shape-shifting beast that killed their mother, their father marries her. When they try to break her enchantment, Alexandra is banished to live with her aunt, and her brothers are turned into swans. It is with her aunt that the teen begins to understand her power, grow in maturity, believe in herself, and find love. She also realizes that if she is to save her family and her kingdom, she must take matters into her own hands and fight. Well written with vivid details, this rich tale has a little something for everyone-love, adventure, intrigue, betrayal, friendship, and murder. Fans of Robin McKinley and Donna Jo Napoli will love it.-Donna Rosenblum, Floral Park Memorial High School, NY

School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2-Through the seasons, from late fall ("Now's digging time") until late summer ("Now's gathering time"), Gram and Joe visit the vegetable patch together, and the boy learns by observing, then does things in his own playful way. His grandmother is a patient and avid gardener whose energy and enthusiasm match Joe's joie de vivre. The poetic text, with its repetitive phrases and homey exclamations, flows nicely off the tongue. Soothing brown-toned, veined leaf prints on the endpapers lead into soft paintings that show a wide expanse of rural acreage, the leafless branches of winter, the greening and flowering of spring, the lush foliage of summer, and the jeweled colors of fall. Henderson has achieved a textured look by creatively using paint in crackling and spattering techniques-perhaps adding some oil pastel, as well. The simply drawn figures of Gram and Joe, clearly the focus on story-centered white pages, blend into the panoramic scenes on the full spreads. Perfect for storytime and for one-on-one sharing, this treasure of a book highlights the bonds between the generations and between gardeners and the earth.-Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
As a year turns, Gran and little Joe tend adjacent garden patches-Gran digging, planting careful rows, and methodically tending to business, Joe exuberantly broadcasting his seeds, fooling around with the hose, pulling whatever catches his eye. The passage of time, marked not by months or conventional seasons, but by Gram-designated stretches of thinking, planting, weeding, watering, and resting while "the good brown earth" gets on "with doing what the good brown earth does best," culminates at last in a richly satisfying gathering of berries, vegetables, and one gigantic pumpkin from Gran's tidy garden and delighted Joe's "higglety-pigglety, tangly, FANTASTIC" jungle. Henderson depicts the two gardeners amid pale, impressionistic, increasingly lush plantings, framed by tall grasses and a curvy apple tree; the effect is both intimate and visually lyrical. However Gram and Joe may differ in their methods, their shared pleasure in the bounteous results comes through clearly. (Picture book. 6-8)
Kirkus Reviews
Marriott offers a romantic expansion of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Wild Swans." Alexandra is a classic king's daughter: green-eyed and red-haired, intelligent and homely. She romps through the fields with her wonderful brothers and studies herb lore with her wise mother. After a mystifying coming-of-age ceremony that Alexandra doesn't understand, a beast with chestnut fur attacks and kills her mother. Her father sets out to hunt the beast but is instead ensnared by a bewitching woman with chestnut hair. Alexandra's banished to an austere aunt's house and awaits her brothers' rescue. When the beast/enchanter comes after her again, Alexandra escapes to an abandoned cottage and begins weaving nettle shirts to restore her brothers' bodies, still unaware of her own vast magical power. The prose tends toward formality and can sound haughty, and one theme (magical Ancestors) is superfluous. However, abundant visual details create richly evocative settings, and emotional connection is clear and tender, both between siblings and between Alexandra and an adoring young stranger. (Fantasy. 11-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763642938
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,401,613
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Zoë Marriott makes her fantasy debut with this luscious novel inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s THE WILD SWANS. She lives in England.

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Read an Excerpt

You probably know me already. In every story you've ever been told, someone like me exists. A figure in the background, barely noticed by the main players. A talentless, unwanted child. The ugly one. The ugly one only gets in the way. She is as out of place as a sparrow in a clutch of swans. This was the role I had in my father's hall.

It was the role my father gave me.

I have a memory. It's smudgy, almost faded into nothing now. It's a memory of my father. I can remember him picking me up in his big arms and whirling me around until I shrieked with laughter. I can remember him calling me his sweeting. But that's the last-the only-time I can ever remember him holding me.

I don't know what changed. Maybe it was me. I was not like my brothers-whom, it must be said, he did love a great deal. I must have been a great disappointment as a king's daughter. I could not be married to his advantage, for who would want to wed a creature so plain? And I was a strange little girl, always talking to things other people couldn't see, running out on my own, never listening to his orders. I can understand why he might have despaired of me. But I don't understand why he stopped loving me.

Yet I adapted, in the way that children do. For I held another place in my father's hall-the place my mother and brothers gave me. It's not enough to say that my mother was beautiful, though she was, almost unbelievably so. But her beauty was the least that people said of her. She was a wise woman, renowned throughout the Kingdom. That was why my father, the king, had wed her. In truth, her compassion and gentleness made her better loved than Father, with his harsh ideas of justice and his brusque manner, could ever have been. Everyone adored her. I idolized her.

And then there were my brothers. I loved them almost as dearly as I did my mother.
David was the eldest, my father's heir and the most like him, with his dark hair and eyes. He was calm and steady, and it was he who endeavored to keep my dresses unmuddied and the twigs from my hair.

Next came Hugh, the tallest and most handsome, with golden hair and the careless, flashing smile of our mother. He was quick and witty and could tease even our father from a black mood. He was the inventor- and victor-of all our childhood games. Robin was the closest to me in age as well as temperament. He was not a brilliant swordsman like David or a fine horseman like Hugh. He was a thinker and kept his nose in a book as often as he could manage; but for me he always had time-to talk, paint pictures, play games.

When I found the sparrow with a broken wing, it was Robin I ran to, and he put aside his book and showed me how to splint its bone and feed it, his hands and voice gentle. Robin and I were alike in many ways. We had the same deep auburn hair. We had both inherited Mother's eyes, the vivid green of newly unfurled leaves. But there, I'm afraid, my resemblance to Robin or my mother ended. When I said I was ugly, I meant it. Though I had my mother's hair and eyes and her pale skin, somehow I was . . . ugly. Or perhaps that's too strong a word. It was just that my small white face, with its delicate features, faded into insignificance, especially next to the dazzling charms of the rest of my family. They said David would make a wonderful king, in time. There was no doubt that Hugh would be a fine lord and defend his brother's lands well. And Robin, of course, would be a great scholar.

No one said what I would become. They looked at me with pity, I think. I was nothing. I was the wanderer, the dreamer who listened to the tides of magic in her sleep. I knew it was not my destiny to be great. I would only be Alexandra, and I would be free. So I wasn't unhappy, then. The wood-frame Hall, with its curved walls and thatching that almost reached the ground in places, was a true home to me, and I loved it, especially Mother's beautiful gardens that spread out over most of the hillside. I grew up running wild through the amber fields of the Kingdom, sleeping in the green and silver shadows of its forests, diving through the clear sweetness of its waters. My brothers ran with me, and my mother watched over us all. When I look back now, my memories of that time seem to stream and dance like dust motes gilded by the sun.

I remember one afternoon in late summer when I was about ten. Robin and I lay next to each other in the grasses by the hawthorn hedge, watching the clouds wheel above us in the sky. The hump of thatching that was the roof of the Hall was just out of sight over the curve of the hill, and below us was wild land dotted with daisies, forget-me-nots, and ammemnon flowers. Hugh and David had found some long sticks and were mock dueling nearby. Their shouts and swearing didn't disturb me-I was far too used to them-but Hugh's

yelp of pain at David's blow to his knuckles was particularly loud, and I rolled my eyes at Robin as Hugh proceeded to curse his opponent soundly. "How can David's father have been a mongrel cur with one leg?" I called lazily. "He's your father too."

"I refuse to believe it," Hugh said dramatically.

"Obviously David is a goblin child that Mother found by the wayside one day and took pity on."

"Unlikely," David said, lowering his stick. He leaned on it, continuing thoughtfully, "But it might be true that one of us is a changeling."

I blinked in shock and sat up. "Do you mean me?" I asked, my voice sounding too high-pitched even to my own ears.

"Don't be stupid," Hugh said hastily. "You're the living spit of Mother."

"I mean Hugh, of course," David agreed calmly. "You and Robin both look like Mother, and I obviously take after Father. But who does Hugh look like?"

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 16 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 25, 2011

    Very Good Book

    This book was very good, and intriguing and I just couldn't put it down!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 23, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A new twist on an old classic

    Fairy tale re-tellings often take on a life of their own. Some follow their roots more closely than others. Zoë Marriott's then-debut novel, The Swan Kingdom, is shaped after Hans Christian Anderson's The Wild Swans (which is a variation of The Six Swans by the Brothers Grimm). At the same time, The Swan Kingdom is like neither tale. It takes on a life of its own, full of lore that never existed in the original telling.

    For one thing, there are only three brothers here-not six, not eleven, three. The number is much more manageable. Besides, I pity the poor girl who winds up with such a gaggle of brothers, especially when she's the youngest. Talk about overprotective! Alexandra follows after her mother, a magical wise woman at one with nature. Whenever the two had scenes together as Alexandra learns more about the power of enaid, it brought to mind the type of magic used by Crysta and Magi Lune in one of my favorite childhood movies, FernGully: The Last Rainforest. Comparing the two, it was easy to visualize the enaid whenever it appeared in the novel. The addition of the Circle of Ancestors also brought tales of old to mind; I could picture this ancient, magical place perfectly. I always love when I can "see" what I'm reading, even if it's only due to my own weird way of categorization. Marriott also twists the traditional tale by killing the children's mother and showing us the way the King becomes besotted by the evil enchantress. I loved her creepy, disturbing descriptions when the three princes are transformed into swans.

    My favorite addition to the original tale is the fact that Alexandra and Gabriel connect before she takes her vow of silence. I loved seeing their relationship slowly build as they got to know one another. After Alexandra realizes what she had to do to restore her brothers' humanity, she can no longer speak until she has spun tunics out of dangerous wanton's needle by hand. The first tunic takes her four months to complete, and the needle has already scarred and destroyed her hands. When she's reunited with Gabriel and unable to tell him of her plight, I truly felt her pain and suffering. Marriott also twists the ending in a way that's much less violent than the original tales, but still full of breathless anticipation.

    If you like the original renditions or want to read another version of the tale once you finish The Swan Kingdom, be sure to also check out Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, which is a darker, grittier version of the tale. Marillier went on to write many companion novels, but only this first book follows a traditional fairy tale path.

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  • Posted November 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Wonderul Fantasy Novel for anyone!

    Besides the beautiful cover art, The Swan Kingdom itself was a dazzling story, a remake of a fairy tale but done in Marriott's own way. Full of magic, set in a fantasy world that you can practically picture just by reading the book, and with an added dose of action and adventure to keep the story alive, this book is truly worth your time to read.

    Marriott does a wonderful job with the characters, especially Alexandra , our heroine for this journey through the Kingdom. is a good example of a strong young woman, one that does not whine and allow others to push her around. She's got courage, and she's not afraid to face her fears-- even if that means her new (evil) stepmother. In a way, Alexandra reminds me a lot of Yelena, from Poison Study (by Maria V. Snyder), which is a compliment, really. If you enjoyed Snyders' magical world, then I'm sure you'll love The Swan Kingdom as well.

    I enjoy reading new takes on old fairy tales, and this one is no different. This time, the base for the novel is the story of the young boys, turned into swans by their stepmother, destined to stay cursed forever. Unless, of course, Alexandra , who was spared this curse (though still exiled from the kingdom), can save them and reverse the spell. Along the way, she meets new friends, finds more adventures, and, of course, falls in love, too.

    My only qualm lies in the romance- it felt a bit lacking most of the time, even for a YA novel. I wish Marriott had added more to this, showed us how they really fell for each other.

    The story flowed nicely, though there were a few action sequences where I almost felt a bit lost. But just as quickly, the confusion was gone and the writing was clear again. A few tiny flaws, but no where near enough to destroy the story or the readers' enjoyment!


    4 STARS! For a first novel, Zoe Marriott did a wonderful job, and I'm looking forward to many future books from her. She has a talent for writing, and a unique story to tell the readers. Added to that her good fortune in cover art designs, and you've got a rising start to keep your eyes on!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    The Swan Kingdom

    The Swan Kingdom is a wonderful novel told in first person through a girl named Alexandra. The daughter of a king and queen, she must realize the powers that she has in order to save her kingdom. When her mother is killed, and everyone else in the kingdom becomes enchanted by a strange woman, it¿s up to Alexandra to bring peace back into the land.<BR/><BR/>I really enjoyed reading this novel. Even on a day when I didn¿t feel like reading at first, as soon as I picked up the book, I couldn¿t put it down. I was able to read the book for six hours straight and finish it after only two days. From the very beginning, the author¿s descriptive writing style pulled me into the book so that I was able to picture everything that was happening. The plot was also excellent, though I felt the climax of the story could have been made a bit longer.<BR/> <BR/>If you are looking for a great fantasy book to read, I would really encourage you to read Zoë Marriot¿s The Swan Kingdom for an exciting adventure that will keep your attention drawn into the story until the very end.

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  • Posted November 17, 2008

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    Reviewed by Natalie Tsang for TeensReadToo.com

    As the brightly colored cover suggests, Zoë Marriott's novel THE SWAN KINGDOM is a fantastical read. It is the retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's THE WILD SWANS, a fairy tale that I had never heard of, but that has all the familiar bits and pieces like the evil stepmother, enchanted gardens, and animal transformations. It also has a spunky, magically terrific but socially awkward princess-protagonist named Alexandra. <BR/><BR/>A few of my friends dislike retold fairy tales, because there is no surprise ending. But I think the whole point of reading rewrites is to focus on the journey, not the place. Anyway, that's why I love retold fairy tales, because it's a way to enjoy certain stories that I seemed to grow out of. After a few years in schoolyard politics, the characters that I loved just weren't complex enough to be satisfying anymore. Beauty, Cinderella, and Snow White were never unsure, impatient, or angry. Besides some serious magical malady that I had no hope of ever battling, they never seemed to have problems at all. <BR/><BR/>Alexandra, however, has real problems like pleasing her parents, being plain, and weird. With books like THE SWAN KINGDOM, I get my dosage of magic, and from a girl normal enough to be friends with. <BR/><BR/>Alexandra is an ugly duckling from a family of swans. Her parents are the just and admired rulers of the Kingdom and her three older brothers are kind, handsome, and brilliant. Her only claim to fame is the magical connection that she shares with the land, but even then her skills are dwarfed by her mother's great healing abilities. When the novel opens, she has pretty much settled for a life in the shadows, but when her mother is killed by a beast in the forest and her father marries a strange, beautiful woman, Alexa has to step up or be squashed. While this story follows the general formula of a fairytale (evil destroyed and kingdom restored), Zoë Marriott has charted a unique path to Happily Ever After. <BR/><BR/>There seems to be a lot of retold fairy tales on the shelves these days. Some are humorous, like Gail Carson Levine's PRINCESS TALES series. THE SWAN KINGDOM is one of the more serious ones, and readers who enjoyed Robin McKinley's or Donna Jo Napoli's books should try it out.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    BEAUTIFUL!

    Absolutely loved this! Juliet Marillier has a series called: "Sevenwaters" -the first book: "Daughter of the Forest"-that tells the same story, but they're both a different journey. "The Swan Kingdom" gives a new twist on the tale that I absolutely loved!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2008

    Girl Power Is Back. . .

    The dedication in this book reads: ¿This book is dedicated to ugly ducklings everywhere. Don¿t worry about those fluffy yellow morons: They¿ll never get to be swans.¿ And the tone is set. Alexandra is daughter to the king of Farland. Her mother is a strong woman who remains close to the earth. In spite of the fact that Alexandra does not consider herself beautiful or gifted, over the course of the story she begins to discover talents and uncommon beauty of which she was previously unaware. When her kingdom falls under the enchantment of an evil sorceress it becomes the ultimate showdown to see if Alexandra will be able to free her brothers and her country. This is a fantasy that reads like some of Marion Zimmer Bradley¿s works. At times the plot is a little too predictable for my taste, but it is, overall, an enjoyable read. The message to girls is clear¿you are stronger and more beautiful than you think you are, and for those students who long to lose themselves in fantasy, it¿s a message they can afford to hear.

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