Review: Black Swan Rising by Lee Carroll

This is my first book from Transworld’s Book Group Reading Challenge, where bloggers were given the chance to choose four books from a list to review one at a time. I chose this one because of the pretty cover (I know, I know, but who hasn’t done that?) and the promise of fairy lore mixed with a bit of swan imagery.

Jeweller Garet James isn’t the same as everyone else. She just doesn’t know it yet. With her fair share of problems – money (lack of), an elderly father, a struggling business – Garet should be just like any other young, feisty, single New Yorker. If only it was that simple… It begins with the old silver box that had been soldered shut. All Garet has to do is open it. A favour for the frail owner of the antiques shop. Who wouldn’t help? Only it’s then that things start to change. Garet doesn’t notice at first, the shifts barely perceptible. But the city in which she grew up is beginning to reveal a long-hidden side – darker, and altogether more dangerous: parallel world of chaos, smoke and blood. And now it’s out of the box…and it has no intention of going back in.
Although the story took a bit of getting in to, I really liked the premise. Garet (short for Margaret) is a young-ish jewellery maker who runs an art gallery with her father. The authors have obviously put a lot of effort into researching different jewellery styles and various artists, as the detail mentioned is wonderful and very interesting. It makes the characters seem more believable and the book stand out a little more.
Unfortunately, that’s where the ‘standing-out’ ends. Aside from the jewellery, there is nothing that makes Black Swan Rising different from the 70+ other books I’ve read this year. There’s a vampire love interest complete with obligatory love triangle, a grumpy King Oberon, an evil Elizabethan John Dee and a protagonist who isn’t even slightly surprised at her new magical powers. I’ve read at least three books this year for each one of those plot points. There’s not a whole lot of swans either.
But hey, I guess certain stories are reused for a reason. It does work. The plot moves along at a fairly fast clip and it did hold my interest. There are a lot of mythical creatures in this, even lesser known ones like manticores. I especially liked Lol, the little fire fairy. I even liked Garet, and it’s rare for me to like a female protagonist in paranormal novels. In fact, I think it succeeded in not even having one overly irritating character.
It’s not very real though. I mean, I’m hardly expecting a novel about fairies and vampires to be true to life, but it just didn’t wash. As an example, they have seven days to put the demons back in their box or the world will be given over to the Demons of Despair and Discord… yet there’s no sense of urgency. Garet and King Oberon meander along quite happily while Garet learns some shiny new magical powers, with nairy a care in the world. If it were me, I’d be slightly more concerned about the fate of the world when leisurely arranging meetings with Oberon.
That’s the other thing. While I do credit the authors for making Garet at least mildly surprised at the existence of the supernatural world (it’s a pet hate of mine when characters treat the discovery of fairies and vampires as casually as bacon and eggs), it’s a small leap for her from that to ‘oh right, I have magical powers… What’d you have for lunch today?’ Not a direct quote, but you get the idea. She’s just not bothered. Not only that, but she gains control instantly and to be honest, the gaining-of-the-magical-powers-thing doesn’t really seem to come in to it much apart from filling up space.
There’s a sub-plot revolving around Garet’s two friends, Becky and Jay, and their struggles to promote their indie band. A lot of other reviewers have slated this part as too-YA, but I liked it. It brings it down to earth a little. I think Black Swan Rising struggles too hard to not be classed as a teenage book, while it would flow a lot better if it didn’t try as much. But anyway, I liked the sub-plot, it just seemed to fit somehow.
But then… sigh. You knew it was coming. The unnecessary vampire love interest, complete with pining away and blood drinking. Look, I like Twilight. We all did. But you can stop now. Adding vampire!sex does not make your book good. The character of Will just doesn’t seem necessary – there was no atmosphere, no falling in love, no tension… argh. You don’t ever get to see why they’re attracted to each other. As always, head over in heels in love with no explanation. Apparently his character is going to be expanded upon in a sequel, so it will be interesting to see how his past affects Garet’s situation – in which case, I will retract all vampire-related whining.
I will be buying, by the way. The sequel, I mean. I did enjoy Black Swan Rising and I’m intrigued by the historical aspects. I hope The Watchtower will feature more about Garet’s lineage, as that will make the series feel slightly more original. To be fair though, the originality doesn’t bother me that much – it’s more the YA-esque parts that bother me.


  1. Hannah says:

    I really wish I hadn't set myself such a big task and dawdled on reading what I need to read because I'd *love* to join in with the Transworld reading group but I know I won't have time to read 4 *other* books in October but it sounds so fantastic /pine.

    *cough* Anyway, great review. I'm half interested in the idea of a historical urban fantasy/paranormal romancey thing, and half uninterested because I have the same gripes as you about vampires at the moment (though that will never explain my current craving to read The Vampire Diaries *shrug* my mind never ceases to amaze me some days) in that they feel unnecessary and they ARE overdone. I have heard good things about The Watchtower though, if that helps at all 🙂

  2. Hanna says:

    @Hannah – it's not that historical though, that was my problem. The blurb made it seem really mysterious and based on loads of historical swan-like legends… instead, there were vampires 😐

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