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Black Swan (The Elemental Masters Fairy Tales) School & Library Binding – May, 2000
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|School & Library Binding, May, 2000||
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Mercedes Lackey takes readers back to the ballet with her latest fairy tale fantasy, The Black Swan, which retells the story of Swan Lake. Lackey preserves much of the ballet's action but provides a happier ending than the original German folktale had. She also gives the characters depth and motivation by providing them with histories.
Baron Eric von Rothbart, a powerful sorcerer, hunts down women who have betrayed men and transforms them into swans who can only resume their true forms by moonlight. His lonely daughter Odile, who watches the flock and studies spells, longs vainly for his approval. One day von Rothbart tells Odette, the swan princess, that she can break the spell by winning and holding a man's faithful love for one month. He's even chosen a candidate, Prince Siegfried. Unfortunately, the prince is a womanizing hedonist. Should Odette succeed nevertheless, von Rothbart secretly plans a trap for them and the prince's ambitious mother, Queen Clothilde, who schemes to rule in her own right. But he must use Odile, who has befriended Odette and is no longer her father's puppet.
Some readers may find the descriptions of dancing and costumes tedious--and Prince Siegfried a questionable hero. Odile, however, is as vivid a heroine as any Lackey's written. --Nona Vero --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From School Library Journal
YA-In this novelization of the ballet "Swan Lake," Odile von Rothbart, daughter of a vengeful sorcerer, lives on an isolated medieval estate with her father's prisoners, unfaithful young women who are swans by day and human while the moon shines. Unexpectedly, after years of living without hope, the swan maidens are offered their freedom if the Swan Queen, Odette, can win the faithful love of an eligible prince. Themes of marital and filial (in)fidelity combine to create a dark and tension-filled coming-of-age story. The sorcerer is obsessed with punishing women he deems untrustworthy, while his daughter has spent her life trying in vain to win his approval and affection. Odile initially makes excuses for her father's dishonorable behavior, but is forced to view him honestly as the story progresses. The prince has long ignored his own avaricious and callous mother and all royal duties. Both Odile and the prince discover that the growing responsibilities of adulthood require that they examine their consciences and make painful choices about loyalty to friends and family and self-sacrifice. The callous use of women and theme of sexual fidelity combined with the moody romance and story of betrayal make for a compelling read.
Marsha Masone, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, VA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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I've been on somewhat of a fairy tale binge recently, looking for more modern re-tellings that might be a little more fun in the reading. I randomly decided on Swan Lake, and a quick search brought up this one. I have to admit that I wasn't disappointed.
While the main characters from Swan Lake (Siegfried and Odette) do make a presence here as viewpoint characters, the protagonist here is Odile, the sorcerer's daughter. Really, I think this is what made the book for me. Giving it a fresh viewpoint and opinion helped flesh things out a little more beyond the simple star-crossed lovers plot that is the meat of the legend.
I DO have a few complaints with it, however. The first is that it is very pro-female. Not in the usual way where all the male characters are stupid and the women are always right; here the men are shown to be intelligent, but all start out with a similar opinion of women: that women are lower than them, not as capable as them, and are only their for man's pleasure and use (physical or otherwise.)Sure that's ultimately resolved by character or story progression for most, but you still do have to work your way through quite a bit of this opinion before any of the characters (male or female) start seeing the error of their assessment.
My other gripe is that the book has a tendency to tell rather than show. This means that, all things considered, not much happens. The major portion of the text is all inside of character's heads as they reflect on past events, their opinions of others, what they're currently thinking about their present situation, you get the idea... Which is also why you can see the previous gripe being a problem. A character's opinion is not going to be a simple line of dialogue or inner-thought that gets quickly passed as the plot progresses; here you'll get a couple of paragraphs expounding on that. It's great for character and setting back-story, but it doesn't do much to make things happen, or get you out and away from a particular scene that you might be finding boring.
While I greatly enjoyed it, I have to admit that it felt like quite a bit of work to get where we were going for such a short novel.
So, should you read this book? Do you like re-imagined fairy tales, The Swan Princess or other retellings of Swan Lake? Do you want a one-off to spend a weekend with? Then yes. If you've already seen any version of Swan Lake and felt like that was enough, don't bother; you already know what happens. While I'll probably end up reading more from this author, I'm not sure if I'd recommend this one as a good example of what she's capable of.
I've had experience reading Mercedes Lackey books before: "The Fairy Godmother" for instance was one that I reviewed favorably on Amazon with 4 stars, in spite of the fact that I was looking for romance and found an adventure instead.
This book "The Black Swan" was something that I got because of my familiarity with the Swan Lake story (and was currently in a Swan Lake mood). Everything that happens in the most common versions of Swan Lake happen here. Odette is a white swan, Siegfried is a prince, Rothbart is the evil magician who turned Odette into a swan and tries to stop Siegfried from saving her, and Odile is Rothbart's daughter who helps him in his scheme.
There are always twists to the way Swan Lake is told. The sheer number of ways it could end from one ballet production to the next are numerous. And like most adaptations this book also has it's own things to add. In this one, Odile, the black swan, is now the focus.
At least Odile is the focus according to the tile. In truth though, you have to deal with 3 viewpoints that sometimes have little to do with the titular character. The time you spend with the 2 other viewpoints is horribly long and not that interesting really. Mostly they just add flavor. The good news is that Odile's story is enough of a carrot on a stick to keep you going in spite of those chapters.
She goes thorough so much and she feels like a real person. A real person who is a bit sick in the head, but aren't we all. By the end of the book I really wanted more Odile stories.
Another thing to note is the world building that Mercedes Lackey does in this book. It's fascinating. It really makes you feel like you're living in that time, old customs, beliefs and all. Beautifully written in that respect.
One last note before I conclude: THIS IS NOT A ROMANCE. There is romance in this book but this isn't really about that. So don't read it as that. I wasn't looking for a romance this time, from this Mercedes Lackey book, which is why I enjoyed it so much. IT IS AN ADVENTURE, and should be read as such.
4 stars. A great adventure that makes me, once again, want to give her books another shot.
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This is a great piece of literature. It has rotating first point of views, and is written so beautifully, and gives you a perfect image...Read more