The Swan Kingdom by Zoë Marriott

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The Swan Kingdom is a YA Fantasy adaptation of the Germanic tale about brothers turned into swans and their sister on the mission to save them. There’s simply many adaptations of the story which tell a lot about its popularity.

Its a story about Alexandra, an awkward little girl growing up with her brothers and beloved by her mother but in a complicated relationship to her father the king. One fateful day, her mother was attacked by a monster and died from the wound. In his grief, he choose to venture into the woods for the beast who killed his wife but found instead a woman named Zella who had enchanted him with her dark magic. Alex recognize that Zella wasn’t what she seem to be and when she and her brothers decided to prove her treachery, she failed. Her brothers disappeared and she was sent away from her kingdom with a heavy heart.

I used to adore stories like this as a child and I still read YA Fantasy to this day but I would see my younger self would have enjoyed this more as I do. It is a coming of age story of a really young girl suffering tragedies in her life that snatch her loved ones away from her and her country in utter ruins. With the conflicts in her life, her character grew along with her finding love, her self-identity and bravery. All which the changes she went through from miserable plain awkwardness to a woman with responsibility and strength to fight the evil that had continuously hell-bent on destroying her.

For some weird reason, I did notice there were some typos and grammar inconsistencies within the published copy. But I wasn’t one of those who get too distracted by it while reading novels. Marriott’s storytelling reminded me of Gail Carson Levine, Diana Wayne Jones and Tamora Pierce and some others YA Fantasy authors I used to grow up reading. Probably because they’re women authors writing female-centric YA fantasy books. There were heavy emphasis on the environment in the books which work well with the Middle Ages setting.

The Swan Kingdom was a character-driven story probably due to the POV but as the plot developed, the greater emphasis was on the development of Alexandra as a character. Which is why it was appealing to me since much of today’s YA seem to concentrate on writing in serials without any main character development which will be stagnant until the next books or so with cliffhangers. Since this is a stand-alone, the main character didn’t spend the whole book obsessing about her love interest and the story was paced itself around its plot and character discovery which made it a good reading in one sitting.

There were some parts of the world-building that was confusing but overall its a good adaptation of the story. I actually use this book to make my nieces interested in “books with a lot of words” and I know Afia was frustrated about it being unillustrated. She adored princess books and this one is a good book about a princess finding her strength and standing up for all those she love. Way better and more satisfying than the Barbie movies.

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