A Throne of Swans by Katherine and Elizabeth Corr
From Goodreads: In a world where the flightless are ruled by those who can fly…
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.
First up, thanks so much to Hot Key Books for this ARC. I actually won it at YALC waaay wayyy back in July, but didn’t want to read it too far away from the release date. Instead, I completely lost track of time and only got around to it just after the book was published. But at least I finally read it.
I also wanted to take a second to talk about the gorgeous cover. I know this is an ARC but yikes, it’s so pretty 😀 Blue and gold is possibly my favourite cover colours for books, so this was just really nice to see. And the ARC is very simple, but it looks really elegant and majestic.
I went into this not really knowing what to expect. Swan Lake isn’t a tale I’m at all familiar with, so I honestly can’t say how close this re-telling [is it even a re-telling or more of an inspired by?] is to the original. But even so, that didn’t really hold back from the story at all. It’s possible if you’re familiar with the story you might enjoy this even more, but it doesn’t seem to be a requirement.
Anyhow, my favourite part of A Throne of Swans was the characters. The main character Aderyn is incredibly consistent, and I never thought she did anything that went against her character. She’s brave and bold and clearly quite troubled by her past, which made her a very compelling character. It also cranked up the pacing and the tension a lot, since she spends a fair chunk of the book being rightfully paranoid and scared about her predicament. I’m not going into any spoilers, since the book has just come out, but hoo boy, there’s a lot going on here, even at the start of the novel. Aderyn is possibly my favourite character, if only because she manages to be kind and relatable even though she’s a noble in this world. What made her more believable as a character was her naivety. There were lots of moments when she made mistakes– some minor, some serious, but she also felt very much like a teenage girl who has been thrust into an impossible situation. Then there’s the fact that she clearly grows as a character. At the start of the novel, it’s possible to see her as a bit sheltered and pampered, but by the end she’s more aware of how her status as a noble means she’s never really noticed the poverty and unfairness of life as one of the ruled flightless. Lucien was also awesome. Again, his behaviour made a lot of sense, given his social standing. And I liked that he had a certain air of mystery to him throughout most of the novel. He also managed to be quite brooding, which is a trope I still enjoy in YA.
Probably the only character I didn’t really like [beyond the ones we’re not supposed to like] was the princess. She’s possibly even more naive than Aderyn in some ways, and the book spent a lot of time telling us how good friends they were, although it rarely included scenes of them together. And in the scenes where they talk, nothing much gets said, and it usually turns to talk about the princess’ betrothed. Which bothered me a fair bit. I like when books, especially YA books, include a big variety of characters, but I couldn’t help but get damsel in distress vibes from this character almost the entire way through. There are some moments when she comes into her own, but they’re few and far between.
The pacing of the book was also a tiny bit off for me. The first good chunk of the novel was quite slow. Once Aderyn leaves her home, the narrative slows right down for at least another 50 pages or so. Besides the slow opening, the pacing of ATOS is actually pretty good, and it kept me hooked for the rest of the story.
There were also moments when it was super predictable. Perhaps it’s because I’m getting old and I spend so much of my life reading YA, so I’m getting good at spotting plot twists, but this one didn’t seem particularly clever. The ending also bothered me a bit. While there’s a big twist right at the end and a lot of tension, it also felt like the main plot of the book became more of a subplot by the end, and the original subplot took over as we reached the end of the book. I know that sounds odd, but it seemed like, throughout the story, there were very specific reasons why characters had to do things a certain way, and the obstacles that got in their way made sense. By the end of the book though, it seemed like the authors wanted to take the narrative in a different direction, and in order to do so, they quickly resolved the main plot, ignoring the still very understandable obstacles so they could just skip to the good stuff. And like, I’m not super mad about that, but it did feel like there was a bit of an anticlimax with that particular plot stuff, even as the subplot got a lot more tense and interesting.
Overall, I’m giving A Throne of Swans a 7.5/10. I thought the plot was really gripping once it got going, and the main characters were overall very interesting and realistic. My only issues were the character of the princess, who I really didn’t like, and the shift in plot focus towards the end of the book. It’s a duology though, so I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt. And you can bet that I’ll be picking up book two when it comes out.
Has anyone else read this book already or plans to? What do you all think of it? Let me know in the comment section down below ❤