Welcome to the last stop on the Thomas Allen & Son blog tour for Sarah McGuire’s novel, The Flight of Swans. Please read on for my thoughts; I’ll put up the blog tour postcard on the bottom of the post so you can check out what other participants of the tour have written and posted. Enjoy!
Review: The Flight of Swans by Sarah McGuire
Source: ARC courtesy of Thomas Allen & Son. Thank you!
Publication: October 1, 2018 by Carolrhoda Books, imprint of Lerner Publishing Group. Available in Canada through Thomas Allen & Son
Based on the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale Six Swans, The Flight of Swans follows Ryn’s journey to save her family and their kingdom. Princess Andaryn’s six older brothers have always been her protectors—until her father takes a new Queen, a frightening, mysterious woman who enchants the men in the royal family. When Ryn’s attempt to break the enchantment fails, she makes a bargain: the Queen will spare her brothers’ lives if Ryn remains silent for six years. Ryn thinks she freed her brothers, but she never thought the Queen would turn her brothers into swans. And she never thought she’d have to undo the Queen’s spell alone, without speaking.
The Brothers Grimm fairy tale The Six Swans gets a fantastic, sweeping reworking in Sarah McGuire’s sophomore novel The Flight of Swans.
As The Flight of Swans opens, readers are swiftly carried into the world of Princess Andaryn, her six brothers, their kingdom of Lacharra, and the danger she and her brothers are facing against their father’s threatening, intensely malicious new Queen. In but a few unsettling scenes, the world that Ryn has known for the first twelve years of her life- her mother deceased, but with her father’s ever-present love and support, and the safety and protection offered by her brothers- is gone. A binding promise of six years of silence from Ryn saves her brothers from death at the hands of the Queen’s men; only the Queen negotiates her own terms by having Ryn’s brothers turn into black swans save for one night a month, and Ryn has no choice but to escape. The Flight of Swans is incredibly rich in detail, with Ryn’s first-person narrative propelling the story from the time she is twelve- when the binding promise of silence begins- to the age of eighteen. As Ryn grows up, surprising and terrific new characters are brought into the story, the six brothers’ voices become more distinct and lovable, and new stakes (including one involving Ryn and somewhat terrifying matters of the heart) are introduced. The mysteries surrounding her brothers’ fate as swans, the Queen’s sinister history, and the strange methods predicted to take down the Queen all expand as the story goes on. It is quite something to consider the expanse of time covered in the story with Ryn unable to break her bind of silence with even an utter for fear (and certain knowledge) that the Queen will kill her brothers. Which is why it so worth noting how carefully- meticulously- McGuire works with Ryn’s silence and has Ryn express and narrate- through sketches in dust, mud, grime; facial expressions, practiced signing, body movements- her remarkable, close-to-unbelievable story to those around her…and to make them believe her.
Overall, The Flight of Swans is a marvelous, intricately written, satisfying tale with a tremendous protagonist in Princess Ryn at its core. As is the wont of fairy tales, heartbreak and darkness line the overarching story: there are moments of violence and surprise that will leave an ache, but there is indeed so much love, hope and courageous fight echoing throughout the story. In The Flight of Swans, Ryn is the crux, the heart of the story; for everything Ryn endures, her narrative illuminates the darkness and perceived impossibilities through her tenacity, tirelessness, and fierce, unyielding love for her family. If you are unfamiliar with the Grimm fairy tale The Flight of Swans is based upon, I would actually hold off reading until after McGuire’s novel! I read and reread all of the Brothers Grimm tales growing up, yet I couldn’t remember the details of The Six Swans– and I am so happy that I let it all be a surprise. Readers who adore fairy tales, fairy tale retellings, or the work of authors such Karen Foxlee, Tracey Baptiste, Gail Carson Levine, Shannon Hale, Anne Ursu, and Claire Legrand might especially love being swept up in the thrilling magic of The Flight of Swans.
About the Author:
Sarah McGuire is a nomadic math teacher who sailed around the world aboard a floating college campus. She writes fairy tale retellings and still hopes that one day she’ll open a wardrobe and stumble into another world. Coffee and chocolate are her rocket fuel. She wishes Florida had mountains, but she lives there anyway with her husband (who wrote this bio in less than three minutes!) and their family.
I received a copy of this title courtesy of Thomas Allen & Son in exchange for an honest review and for the purposes of this blog tour. All opinions and comments are my own.