Russell F. Hirsch
BLOG TOUR: The Flight of Swans by Sarah McGuire
Six years of silence. Magic as dark as black swan feathers. Sacrifice, struggle, and the interweaving of worlds. Today Storythreads hosts the fourth stop on the blog tour for Sarah McGuire‘s middle grade novel The Flight of the Swans! McGuire’s retelling blends the Brothers Grimm with Welsh and Irish legend, producing a layered tale of inner strength.
Princess Andaryn’s six older brothers have always been her protectors—until her father takes a new Queen, a frightening, mysterious woman who enchants the men in the royal family. When Ryn’s attempt to break the enchantment fails, she makes a bargain: the Queen will spare her brothers’ lives if Ryn remains silent for six years.
Ryn thinks she freed her brothers, but she never thought the Queen would turn her brothers into swans. And she never thought she’d have to undo the Queen’s spell alone, without speaking.
Published 1 Oct 2018
by Carolrhoda Books (an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group)
Available in Canada through Thomas Allen & Son
Get your copy today! Amazon.ca | Amazon.com
Sarah McGuire is a nomadic math teacher who sailed around the world aboard a floating college campus. She writes fairy tale retellings and still hopes that one day she’ll open a wardrobe and stumble into another world. Coffee and chocolate are her rocket fuel. She wishes Florida had mountains, but she lives there anyway with her husband (who wrote this bio in less than three minutes!) and their family.
Connect with Sarah: @fireplusalgebra | Goodreads
~ REVIEW ~
I love fantasy with a historical flavour, especially when Celtic elements are involved, and The Flight of Swans provided exactly that. While paying homage to the Brothers Grimm’s tale, McGuire depicts a world with layered lore, windswept shores, and threads of the faerie world entwined with reality. This is not epic fantasy of the sort where huge armies clash together, but it is fantasy with depth, driven by the protagonist Ryn; her fears and her determination to overcome them.
The start of the Brothers Grimm tale.
After reading the summary, I was unsure how McGuire was going to manage a protagonist whose pact keeps her mute for most of the novel’s 450 pages. However, I needn’t have worried! The first-person narration offers plenty of insight into Ryn’s thoughts and feelings and the wide-ranging personalities of her six brothers fill the silence with banter every time they transform back to humans for the night of the full moon.
I was equally impressed with how the story spanned six years, from the time Ryn is twelve to when she is eighteen. It is no easy feat to chart a character’s growth over such a period of change, but Ryn’s development from girl to woman was compelling, particularly in the second half of the novel, when she must raise and protect her infant nephew, all while maintaining her vow of silence.
Over this part of the novel, romance also develops between Ryn and Corbin, a young clan King. This plotline too, was deftly handled. The romance is tender, respectful, and slow-burning, and despite Ryn’s silence, the relationship never felt one-sided.
McGuire’s novel also references the Irish legend, The Children of Lir. Pictured here, a version by Marie Heaney and P.J. Lynch from the collections of the Trinity College Library in Dublin.
In fact, throughout the novel, it was a pleasure seeing Ryn grow more confident and empowered, taking action when she could not speak. She shows continual resilience as she struggles to survive on the run, guard her swan brothers, and master her terror of the the queen who enchanted her. The queen provided a strong, manipulative villain, full of intimidating and enchanting presence, and this made Ryn’s efforts to protect her loved ones all the braver.
In a time of bombastic, superhero-style fantasy, I enjoyed the change of pace offered by The Flight of Swans. This is a compelling story of quiet courage. Words have power, but in silence, even small actions–from the spinning of yarn to the shake of a head–take on significance. McGuire dedicates her novel “To the quiet ones” and her story certainly speaks up for them.
Thank you to Thomas Allen and Son for providing me with an Advance Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review!
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