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The Swan Maiden Paperback – February 24, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This modern retelling of a tragic Irish myth is rich in well-researched detail but moves too slowly and reverently. Deirdre, a young woman prophesied to bring down the kingdom of Ulster, is torn between druidical mysticism and her love for Naisi, a warrior prince who flees with her to protect her from Ulster's covetous king. Watson (The Song of the North) emphasizes the sensuality suggested in the myth and carefully recreates the culture and people of Iron Age Ireland, but the grandeur and elegance of the original are lost in overwriting, clichéd scenes of passion and an interminable build to the inevitable conclusion. (Feb.)
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"In this graceful retelling of the Irish legend of Deirdre of the Sorrows, the young woman whose birth laid a curse upon the kingdom of Ulster and its aging king, Conor, the author of The White Mare captures the sense of tragedy, nobility, and the acceptance of destiny that permeates Celtic myth. Watson's characters have both a larger-than-life appeal and a commonality that emphasizes their human frailty as well as their dedication to life and love."—Library Journal

“Wonderful. Watson does not tell the story, she lives it.  Mystical and poetic, a tour de force. A magical and compelling recreation of the lost Celtic world.”—Rosalind Miles, author of Isolde, queen of the Western Isles

“Jules Watson has conjured up the mythic past, a land of Celtic legend and stark grandeur.  Readers will find her world and characters fascinating and unforgettable.”—Sharon K. Penman, author of Dragon’s Lair

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Original edition (February 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553384643
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553384642
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #256,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jules's parents emigrated from England to Australia, where she was born. She grew up surrounded by beaches, desert, and flies - but dreamed of misty Celtic lands, mountains, snow, and blackberries. Always writing stories, she gained college degrees in archaeology and public relations. She also worked as a cocktail waitress, personal assistant, mine worker, archaeologist, PR consultant, and business writer. Most bizarre job: driving 50-ton tip trucks through a gold mine on the edge of the desert: very hot. Best job (before author): Digging up a Roman army fort in Germany: very cold.

Jules was inspired to write novels by the "Mists of Avalon", a bestselling book steeped in ancient Celtic spirituality, sword-fighting and of course, romance. Jules waited for someone to write more books with that mix..but no one did, so she wrote her own, based on her background in archaeology. The story - historical fiction with a hint of fantasy - tells the tale of a Scottish priestess and Irish prince fighting the invading Romans. It grew into The White Mare and The Dawn Stag; and a third book The Song of the North (The Boar Stone in UK) joined it to make The Dalriada Trilogy. The trilogy has enjoyed great success all over the world, and been translated into French, Spanish, Dutch, German and Portugese.

Jules's latest books are two re-tellings of ancient Irish myths. The first, The Swan Maiden, depicts the romantic tale of Deirdre of the Sorrows. The Raven Queen, due in 2010, tells the story of the ruthless warrior Queen Maeve.

After much travelling, Jules convinced her husband that she had to move to the misty highlands of Scotland or die. She now lives surrounded by snowy hills, hairy cows, heather - and blackberries.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Angie, When will those clouds all disappear? on October 19, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is the first, and probably the last, book I'll be reading by this author. I picked it up because I love a tragic love story, and I love Celtic lore. I suppose I was expecting something with the same feel of the Sevenwaters books, and that was way too high a bar for me to have set.

I thought it seemed a bit more obsessed with sex than reading the cover had led me to believe, and found myself somewhat embarrassed for the author when I read about Deirdre being molested by the wind early on in the book. It really seemed out of place in here.

I kept at it, though, and found throughout it that I had a great deal of difficulty identifying with or caring about a single one of the characters. I managed to keep going out of righteous feminist anger on Deirdre's behalf, I suppose, since there was so much about who she belonged to, and demanding her lover to give her up without anyone ever suggesting that she had any say whatsoever in her own fate.

I disliked her as a character, because I would have preferred to read about a flawed, human character than this person who speaks with the voice of the goddess and is therefore always right. I thought most people preferred characters they could relate to rather than paragons of beauty and wisdom, but maybe I was mistaken.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By J.T.B. on June 1, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was my first experience with this particular writer, and I have to say that I was deeply disappointed. What I had expected to read was a celtic lore love story. What i got, for lack of a better term, was a bodice ripping romance novel. I completely lost the story of the main character as the world of lust and passion crashed in from all sides. I read the entire novel in hopes that the story I had thought I would find was buried in the folds, but unfortunately, the best part was when the book was finally over. Perhaps this is just the authors style, but as a heads up for anyone who is interested, this book is less about adventurer folklore and more about the bedroom scene then the cover or back summery would dare to suggest.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amy M. Bruno on April 29, 2009
Format: Paperback
The Swan Maiden is a novel based on the Irish legend of "Deirdre of the Sorrows", written by J.M. Synge. When Deirdre was a babe, the druid Cathbad prophesied that she would grow into a great beauty and bring about the downfall of their land. Ignoring requests that the babe be killed, the King of the Ulaids, Conor decides to hide the child with plans to marry her when she becomes of age. Conor enlists the help of Levercham, who teaches Dierdre the ways of the Druids. Attempts to dissuade Conor from his mission of marrying Deirdre fail time and again, much to Levercham's dismay. When Dierdre hears of this, she can no longer wait around, being fattened up like a pig for the day when Conor comes to collect her. She runs away and crosses paths with three brothers, Red Branch soldiers famous for their fighting skills, and they decide to help her. When Conor hears that Deirdre has fled and who she is with, he is beyond furious and pulls no stops to get her back. Naisi and Deirdre eventually fall in love and despite the brothers' aching for home and their fellow Red Branch soldiers, they find a place of their own and settle in (for a while at least). They are found and persuaded home with the promises of forgiveness, only to be betrayed by their King, again. The rest you should read for yourself, I don't want to give it all away!

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this book!!! See, I even put three exclamation points after that sentence, just to make sure you grasp the emotion! Ha!

What I really enjoyed about The Swan Maiden was the way Jules writes about the connection with nature and animals that Deirdre feels. She describes scenes and it's like you're there (or at least you really, really want to be). I could even stomach the hunting scenes which I usually skim over.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Reg on December 30, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I agree with Angie- I love Celtic lore and enjoy a good romance, but I just couldn't stand all the time spent with Deirdre wandering around communing with nature. I also found it hard to connect with her perfect, Goddess channeling character. At least in The Mists of Avalon, Viviane is flawed. Not so with Deirdre. I just couldn't wait to get to the end of this book. I gave it an extra star since it didn't have a happy ending.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen on August 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
I have to say I was really looking forward to this book because I loved Watson's Dalriada Trilogy. Don't get me wrong, this book is beautifully written, poetic almost and Jules Watson is now one of my favorite authors. But I just was so sad at how the whole thing ended that I am still reeling. However, I could not put this book down and there were so many twists and turns that I truly did not know where it was going to go (good or bad). I will recover-- and I will continue to read Watson-- I just need to have tougher skin!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on March 5, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really wanted to like this book since it's based off of one of my favorite tales, but what should have been a great story was spun into as one previous reviewer called 'a bodice ripping romance novel.' One thing that drove me bonkers was the lack of vocabulary. I got really tired of reading the same descriptive words over and over. I felt like the novel dragged on, and I couldn't empathize with the characters.
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