A Throne of Swans took me completely by surprise and ended up being one of my highest rated books of the year so far. It’s unique, imaginative and absolutely compelling. Usually I have something pithy and creative to say here… but I’ve got nothing. Other than you must read this book.
Plot summary for A Throne of Swans:
When her father dies just before her birthday, seventeen-year-old Aderyn inherits the role of Protector of Atratys, a dominion in a kingdom where nobles are able to transform at will into the bird that represents their family bloodline. Aderyn’s ancestral bird is a swan. But she has not transformed for years, not since witnessing the death of her mother – ripped apart by hawks that have supposedly been extinct since the long-ago War of the Raptors.
With the benevolent shelter of her mother and her father now lost, Aderyn is at the mercy of her brutal uncle, the King, and his royal court. Driven by revenge and love, she must venture into the malevolent heart of the Citadel in order to seek the truth about the attack that so nearly destroyed her, to fight for the only home she has ever known and for the land she has vowed to protect.
Star Rating for A Throne of Swans: * * * * 1/2 (four and a half stars)
So the basic premise is that every noble family can transform it will into certain birds. Aderyn’s family are swans, her advisor’s family can turn into ravens… etc. Noble family = bird. The non-nobility are known as ‘the flightless,’ and are generally seen to be lesser by the majority of the upper classes. Aderyn, however, cannot fly, which is a secret she must desperately protect in order to retain control of her homeland.
That in itself is a fairly unique concept. Not the shapeshifting itself, as there are all sorts of Swan Lake allusions in A Throne of Swans, but that’s just what forms the background of a fascinating, twisting story with political machinations, backstabbing and evil doings. Sometimes the villains are obvious in fairytale-esque novels like this one – not so in A Throne of Swans. I had no idea who would betray Aderyn, or who was plotting against whom. It was fantastically done and every twist was a genuine surprise.
It’s written reasonably well, with some beautiful descriptions. The prose flows and the dialogue is unstilted. It’s well-paced and an absolute page-turner – I ‘flew’ (ha) through this in two days, and could have done so much quicker if I didn’t have to work. I honestly regretted every moment that I wasn’t reading this book.
The ending is perfect, and I loved how grey it is. It’s not an idyllic, romantic rainbow ending, nor is it an awful, dark cliffhanger. It’s an ending that makes absolute logical sense in the circumstances, and I really, really appreciated the authors’ willingness to go down the path of realism. So much respect for that ending, honestly.
My only criticism is a sort of vague one. Oh, aside from the fact that the romance springs out of nowhere and I didn’t like it. But that aside… I just think this book could have been so much more if it was written in less of a YA style. I’d have loved more detail, more character development, more explanation of the romance… just more. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with A Throne of Swans, far from it. I think it’s just that I loved the world and the story so much, that I think it could have been even better if it were more adult.
I honestly cannot wait for the next book, A Crown of Talons, although I don’t think there’s even a tenuous release date on it yet. I’ll definitely be pre-ordering it so I can read it immediatley. I do hope the authors don’t somehow backtrack from the ending that I loved – it’s perfect and it will be interesting to see how the characters make the best of what happened.