The Swan Kingdom by Zoe Marriott is the second book by this author that I read (I had the delight of reading Shadows on the Moon a couple of years ago), but it is her first published work. Comparing both titles, the reader can tell this is her first book. Marriott writes beautifully, and the story comes out strong, but it does suffer from a few plot and story lacks that are not evident in Marriott’s later works.
The Swan Kingdom is set on an ancient land that for some reason reminded me of Atlantis, because the main protagonist (and her mother, the Queen) have the gift of connecting with nature and feeding the land with their magical powers, which is something that–myth has it–atlanteans were known to do.
The main character describes herself as plain, which is a YA trope that I don’t like, because it just denotes insecurity and frivolity. Especially when the character, it turns out, isn’t so plain as she believes herself to be, as is the case in this book. Less focus on the character’s looks would have been better.
The main character’s kingdom falls into a great disgrace and curse from an evil sorceress, and her three older brothers are turned into swans, stuck between the realm of the living and the dead, while the girl is sentenced to live in exile. The concept of being stuck in a realm between the living and the dead fascinated me. In fact, it kept me reading until the end of the novel because I had to find out what happened to the three brothers that had turned into these incorporeal swans. The story is loosely based on the fairy tale of the same kind.
There were a couple of scenes that didn’t make much sense to me and that I didn’t think were relevant to the plot, such as when the main character contacts her ancestors through magic. It felt like the story could have done without this, like it wasn’t all that necessary for the plot. I expected more to come from it rather than just several inane conversations.
Also, the ending didn’t quite do it for me. It felt much too gratifying, while the tone of the book was tragic throughout. I’m not saying she should have ended it on a tragic note, but the change of tone between the rest of the book and the ending was a little jarring to me.
I would recommend Zoe Marriott’s other books to readers, rather than this book. Shadows on the Moon is a beautiful work of art that I absolutely recommend. The Swan Kingdom, although delightful at times, isn’t nearly as masterful or complete.