I downloaded The Swan Kingdom on my Kindle a long time ago and feeling in the mood for fairy tales …
In the prologue we learn about Alexandra’s mother’s skills and that she has been teaching Alex herbal/earth lore since she was about 2. It is her mother’s skill as a wise women that has kept the land alive and flourishing. Alex herself awakens to the power of the enaid. We then get to learn about Alex’ role in the family. The day after her 15th birthday her first menstruation starts and her mother takes her to the Circle of Ancestors. It is while Alex is ‘journeying’ here that her mother is attacked by a creature. The King goes out day after day hunting the creature … and comes back besotted with Zella - a beautiful and enchanting young women he found asleep in the forest. After the banishment of her brothers, it is not long before Alex herself is sent off to live with her mother’s sister in Midland. Midland’s power has been weakened and Alex is surprised to find how different it is from her homeland. Glass for windows, tasteless food, concrete and marble in place of thatch and daub. It’s here that she meets Gabriel, a young man staying for a brief time who also has power and can do magical workings. Before she can meet him again, her life takes an unexpected turn and she finds herself living isolated in the forest. She remembers a spell from her mother’s book and starts to collect the nettles and weaves tunics for her brothers to bring them back to her. Another unexpected turn brings Gabriel back into her life and ultimately leads to Alex realising the power of who she is.
I enjoyed this reworking of The Wild Swans. I loved it that a King would choose a wife based on her skill as a wise woman (for the land to thrive) rather than the politics! The energy (enaid) of the world is so cleverly written you feel as if you can sense it yourself.
Alex as a character grows. I enjoyed it when she realised that all her life she has done as other people had said she must instead of what she knew to be right … and so starts to make her own choices.
The love between Alex and Gabriel is innocent and pure (just as it should be in a fairytale!)
I also enjoyed the difference shown between the old ways in Alex’ homeland and the ‘modern’ world in Midland. Not just in the things that we can see and touch …
I have quite a few favourite scenes. The Circle of Ancestors gave me goosebumps (both times) and the magical battles with Zella are tense and draw you in.
The Swan Kingdom for me is a story about our connection to nature and the ways in which our connection to civilisation interferes with it. It’s about facing who you are and acceptance. A story of love and sacrifice.