“‘I believe in magic too, Mitzi, but a different kind. An everyday magic, when people are their best selves and all things become possible.'”
This is one of those reads that makes me so glad to be a Netgalley member and being able to discover these treasures.
Mitzi Fairweather, who is a journalist, is surprised by the ferocity of storm Odile, which apparently is a weather anomaly. What surprised her next is witnessing a huge, beautiful white swan battling the storm and crashing head first through her window, getting itself cut by millions of shards of glass in the process. After a trip to the vets and an attempt to nurse the swan by herself, regardless of her lack of avian knowledge, she lets the swan rest in her home.
Next, she hears the sound of footsteps in the next room after coming to from a dreary slumber. Mitzi lets her ambitious, curious nature get the best of her and she goes to investigate. She is met by Odette, who has beautiful, pale skin, a grace deserving of royalty, an innocuous wonder in her eyes, and raven silky hair, that looks as soft as feathers.
Odette, in a broken, Russian accent, tries to tell Mitzi her origin, she is the swan that crashed through Mitzi’s window and she is under a spell by the manipulative Baron, who traps her as a swan by day, and allows her to be human at night. Odette feels that Mitzi is kind, and seeks her help.
Odette is a modern adaptation of Swan Lake. In 1852, Odette was held captive by a spell that turns her into a swan by daylight, and human by dark, 166 years later, Odette finds herself carried to Cygnford by the storm, much to her fear and dismay. Soon, the swan princess has to meet the real world. A world of cynical doubt, prejudice, and self interest.
Over the course of the story, my heart literally ached for Odette. I felt that Jessica Duchen enforced the purity and naivety in her voice which in turn groomed my emotional investment in her. I desperately wanted her to have her happy ending.
I found myself happily rooting for each of the characters in turn, such was their authenticity. Mitzi with her good heart, Odette with her mystical, tragic past. Harry with his good nature and love for Shakespeare. They were each worthy of a readers admiration.
My favourite aspect of this novel is the writing. There is a genuine clarity and beauty to it that’s really rare to see and completely necessary when retelling a fairy tale. There was a hauntingly ethereal quality to the prose that was as graceful as the curve of a swan’s neck, and as fast paced as it’s flight.
“The full moon would rise alongside the setting sun, but she would see it only from her lakeside haunt. She waited on the shore, wings folded, shivering, watching the fiery malingerer sink, the sky around it turning from aquamarine to gold to lilac, moment by slow moment.”
I found myself flying through this book (get it? Flying? Swan reference? Clever, I know) it was completely enriching. I couldn’t get enough. I absolutely adored this modern take on one of the most highly regarded fairy tales in the world.
“‘We grow up with fairy stories and they stay with us throughout our lives. I don’t believe, though, that they’re just escapism. I believe that fairy tales, folklore and the traditional mythology of any and every world religion enrich us, help us learn life lessons and allow us to see the magic in our world, all around us, every day. Some people would even say that everything in this world is based on legends and myths – essentially, magical stories.'”
The smart use of magical realism was as enchanting as it was captivating. Obviously, swans mate for life so reading about Odette trying to find her footing a century after she had even interacted with anyone other than her captor the Baron, was utterly intriguing. Her high standards of love are inspiring and infectious. Odette is heartbroken at the casual, empty declarations of love that plague people in these times – her grief made me relate.
The ending was incredible. I was
Unashamedly reading this book during down times in work whilst slyly fielding one call after another so I could reach the peak. The Baron may as well have put me under a spell for a hundred years – that is how absorbed I was reading this book.
Thank you to Net Galley and Unbound for a copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review.