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The Swan Kingdom Paperback – 5 Mar 2007


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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books Ltd (5 Mar 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0744529271
  • ISBN-13: 978-0744529272
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 947,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

You probably know me already. In every story you've ever been told, someone like me exists. A figure in the background, barely noticed by the main players. A talentless, unwanted child. The ugly one. The ugly one only gets in the way. She is as out of place as a sparrow in a clutch of swans. This was the role I had in my father's hall. It was the role my father gave me. Yet I adapted, in the way that children do. For I held another place in my father's hall-the place my mother and brothers gave me. It's not enough to say that my mother was beautiful, though she was, almost unbelievably so. But her beauty was the least that people said of her. She was a wise woman, renowned throughout the Kingdom. That was why my father, the king, had wed her. In truth, her compassion and gentleness made her better loved than Father, with his harsh ideas of justice and hisbrusquemanner, could ever have been. Everyone adored her. I idolized her. And then there were my brothers. I loved them almost as dearly as I did my mother.David was the eldest, my father's heir and the most like him, with his dark hair and eyes. He was calm and steady, and it was he who endeavored to keep my dressesunmuddied and the twigs from my hair. Next came Hugh, the tallest and most handsome, with golden hair and the careless, flashing smile of our mother. He was quick and witty and could tease even our father from a black mood. He was the inventor- and victor-of all our childhood games. Robin was the closest to me in age as well as temperament. He was not a brilliant swordsman like David or a fine horseman like Hugh. He was a thinker and kept his nose in a book as often as he could manage; but for me he always had time-to talk, paint pictures, play games. When I found the sparrow with a broken wing, it was Robin I ran to, and he put aside his book and showed me how to splint its bone and feed it, his hands and voice gentle. Robin and I were alike in many ways. We had the same deep auburn hair. We had both inherited Mother's eyes, the vivid green of newly unfurled leaves. But there, I'm afraid, my resemblance to Robin or my mother ended. When I said I was ugly, I meant it. Though I had my mother's hair and eyes and her pale skin, somehow I was . . . ugly. Or perhaps that's too strong a word. It was just that my small white face, with its delicate features, faded into insignificance, especially next to the dazzling charms of the rest of my family. They said David would make a wonderful king, in time. There was no doubt that Hugh would be a fine lord anddefend his brother's lands well. And Robin, of course, would be a great scholar. No one said what I would become. They looked at me with pity, I think. I was nothing. I was the wanderer, the dreamer who listened to the tides of magic in her sleep. I knew it was not my destiny to be great. I would only be Alexandra, and I would be free. So I wasn't unhappy, then. The wood-frame Hall, with its curved walls and thatching that almost reached the ground in places, was a true home to me, and I loved it, especially Mother's beautiful gardens that spread out over most of the hillside. I grew up running wild through the amber fields of the Kingdom, sleeping in the green and silver shadows of its forests, diving through the clear sweetness of its waters. My brothers ran with me, and my mother watched over us all. When I look back now, my memories of that time seem to stream and dance like dust motes gilded by the sun. yelp of pain at David's blow to his knuckles was particularly loud, and I rolled my eyes at Robin as Hugh proceeded to curse his opponent soundly. "How can David's father have been a mongrel cur with one leg?" I called lazily. "He's your father too." "Irefuse to believe it," Hugh said dramatically. "Obviously David is a goblin child that Mother found by the wayside one day and took pity on." "Unlikely," David said, lowering his stick. He leaned on it, continuing thoughtfully, "But it might be true that one of us is a changeling." "Don't be stupid," Hugh said hastily. "You're the living spit of Mother." "I mean Hugh, of course," David agreed calmly. "You and Robin both look like Mother, and I obviously take after Father. But who does Hugh look like?"

Book Description

Romance and adventure combine in a breathtaking reworking of a classic fairy tale. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Rubbah on 19 Feb 2007
Format: Paperback
This book is now among my other favourite books that are also retold fairytales, for example the Goose Girl by Shannon Hale and Beauty by Robin Mckinley.

The book is really well written with some really nice pieces of description and though the ending is a little rushed I think there is little you could do to improve it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 10 Jan 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book, and it kept me riveted start to finish. I love the descriptions of the workings, and the land, as well as the rules that the magic follows. It is easy to see why this book has been recognised and praised. It is a wonderful début novel. The only thing that I would say is that the romance that is central to the story seems forced at times, and this may have been because although we are told that they spent a lot of time together we don't see much of it, and Rose's character didn't ring true for me.

I would have happily given it a greater rating but it doesn't live up to Juliet Marillier's Daughter of the Forest, which is based on the same fairy tale. I'm sorry to say that as I delighted in reading this book, but if I had to pick one retelling to recommend it would be Marillier's.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo TOP 500 REVIEWER on 4 Jun 2008
Format: Hardcover
As the brightly colored cover suggests, Zoë Marriott's novel THE SWAN KINGDOM is a fantastical read. It is the retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's THE WILD SWANS, a fairy tale that I had never heard of, but that has all the familiar bits and pieces like the evil stepmother, enchanted gardens, and animal transformations. It also has a spunky, magically terrific but socially awkward princess-protagonist named Alexandra.

A few of my friends dislike retold fairy tales, because there is no surprise ending. But I think the whole point of reading rewrites is to focus on the journey, not the place. Anyway, that's why I love retold fairy tales, because it's a way to enjoy certain stories that I seemed to grow out of. After a few years in schoolyard politics, the characters that I loved just weren't complex enough to be satisfying anymore. Beauty, Cinderella, and Snow White were never unsure, impatient, or angry. Besides some serious magical malady that I had no hope of ever battling, they never seemed to have problems at all.

Alexandra, however, has real problems like pleasing her parents, being plain, and weird. With books like THE SWAN KINGDOM, I get my dosage of magic, and from a girl normal enough to be friends with.

Alexandra is an ugly duckling from a family of swans. Her parents are the just and admired rulers of the Kingdom and her three older brothers are kind, handsome, and brilliant. Her only claim to fame is the magical connection that she shares with the land, but even then her skills are dwarfed by her mother's great healing abilities. When the novel opens, she has pretty much settled for a life in the shadows, but when her mother is killed by a beast in the forest and her father marries a strange, beautiful woman, Alexa has to step up or be squashed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sarah (Feeling Fictional) TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 8 May 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Alexandra is youngest child and only daughter of the King & Queen and has always felt like an ugly duckling amongst her family. She loves spending time with her mother and brothers but doesn't get on so well with her father who finds her a disappointment because she isn't pretty enough. She loves learning about the healing properties of plants and how to use the magic of the earth from her mother and has become a skilled healer. Alexandra's life changes dramatically when her mother is killed by a horrific monster when walking in the woods. Her father is driven mad with grief and when he meets a beautiful woman he quickly re-marries. Alexandra's step-mother isn't all she seems though and soon Alexandra and her brothers find themselves separated and exiled from their home. Can Alexandra find her brothers and can she break the hold her step-mother has over her father and the rest of her people?

The Swan Kingdom is a re-telling of fairy tale The Wild Swans by Hans Christian Andersen but as I've never read the original I'm not going to compare the two stories in this review. I found The Swan Kingdom was a captivating and beautiful read and I finished it in one sitting. The writing is beautifully descriptive and made it easy to picture Alexandra's home and her country. I loved finding out about the magical abilities that Alexandra and her mother had and the way they were able to use the power of the earth. The story has a great fairytale feel to it that took me back to my childhood and would make great bedtime reading material for children.

Alexandra was a lovely heroine and it was easy spending time inside her head. Her mother's death devastates her but when her family and her people are under threat she will do anything it takes to help them.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Serendipity Reviews TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 9 Mar 2011
Format: Paperback
This book is a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's 'The Wild Swans.' I have never read the original story, but after reading Zoe's enchanting interpretation of it, I feel an urge to search out a collection of Hans Christian Anderson's short stories.

Alexandra is the only daughter of the king and feels that her father has never shown her any love. Fortunately she is satisfied with the amount of love she receives from her mother and three brothers, learning to accept her father's lack of emotion towards her.

Alexandra's world begins to fall apart, when her mother is killed by a terryifying beast whilst walking in the woods. Her father turns into a man possessed, desperate to kill the creature who murdered his wife. Until one day he returns with a strange young woman, who he instantly falls in love with. The woman has the power to charm her way into everyone's life within the castle and puts them all under a spell, apart from Alexandra and her brothers. Determined to discover the truth about this unusual woman, whom everyone has fallen in love with, they venture into her bedroom one night, only to find that their lives will be changed forever.

Alexandra finds herself banished from her family home and her brothers in exile. She must find a way to save her family from this evil woman whom her father has married and to help bring her brothers back home.

I loved this book completely. The story is beautifully written and I found myself in tears when Alexandra's mother was murdered. Through the words of the book, I could feel her pain as the whole story is told from her point of view, giving you first hand her thoughts and feelings. Alexandra suffers intensely throughout most of this book.
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