The Black Swan

Another mad week of rushing for an important regional meeting taking place next week in Thailand and planning the roll-out of our pilot batch of new sites just went by in a blink. I managed to squeeze in only two books on those bus journeys to work and back.

Oops, I did IT Again!

But before I get to those, let me first clear the backlog of reviews, starting with The Black Swan by Mercedes Lackey.

Reading this book sure brought back girlish dreams of a world where honour, chivalry and love are the fabric that weaves together a fantasy setting where magic prevails and good will always triumph over evil. It also brought back sweet memories of my teenage obsession over ballets and operas. My favourites then and even now are Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and The Phantom of the Opera.

Swan Lake, the ballet, varies in its ending, quite a few of which are tragic and had either Odette remaining cursed in swan form or one or both lovers dying, so I’m mightily glad that Ms Lackey has chosen to give this old tale a fresh new perspective from Odile’s POV and a happy ending. For both the lovers and Odile.

I’m going to be a lazy here by paraphrasing the synopsis on the back cover:

As the only child of a powerful sorcerer, Odile Von Rothbart has studied the magical arts under her father’s stern tutelage all her life. Yet she feels only fear toward him. Considering his wife’s untimely death the ultimate betrayal, Baron Von Rothbart scours the land in the shape of a great bird of prey, capturing women who arouse his wrath and turning them into swans, allowing them to regain human forms briefly each night by moonlight. 

Odile, although terrified of him, has learned far more than her father intended to teach her. As both a woman and the guardian of his swan flock, her heart goes out to each and every young maiden ensorcelled by her vindictive father.

Then, the noblest of the evil sorcerer’s enchanted flock, the Princess Odette, finally plucks up the courage to confront her captor, wresting from him a pact which could lead to freedom for herself and all the swan-maidens. Knowing Von Rothbart will use all his magical cunning to avoid honouring the pact, will Odile have the strength to face him in a magical confrontation which, if she fails, will lead to her death and the murder of all in her flock?

Ms Lackey’s retelling of this German folktale sticks pretty much close to the original plot, but chose to relate the story through Odile as the central character. The heroine began the story as a rather dispassionate, even pitiful shadow of the powerful magician she will become, always seeking to please her father and gather a praise from him in her studies. However, as the evil magician led his daughter and the swans on a perilous journey to hunt down the bait (Prince Siegfried) that will be Odette’s downfall, the reader sees her breaking out of her shell to really care for the unfortunate swan-maidens.

Her selfless love for Odette and her girls, led her to sacrifice her father to save them but in the end she found her true self and powers. Her journey of discovery is quite inspiring and engaging, aside from the romance of Siegfried and Odette, and I enjoyed this re-acquaintance with Lackey. This is strictly for ballet and fantasy fans who have been waiting to hear Odile’s part of the story.

And what a good one it is!


One thought on “The Black Swan

  1. This one sounds really interesting! I read her latest 500 Kingdoms story last month, and the Swan Maidens made a very intriguing appearance there, too.

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