A compelling, fast-paced murder mystery, The Shattered Swan, by Krystiana Stacy Kelly, follows the complex life of young dance student Tamara Acosta Villanueva as she deals with both the aftermath of a devastating earthquake and the unfolding enigma of her aunt’s untimely death. On her journey to uncover the truth, Tamara learns the importance of family as well as the dangers of secrecy.
One of the most interesting features of this novel can be found in the different perspectives from which Kelly reveals the various elements of the mystery. From chapter to chapter the narration switches from first-person through Tamara to omnipotent third-person. This not only furthers the plot but also keeps the story fresh and offers a variety of angles from which to view the action. Unfortunately, the flow of language is often interrupted by awkward word choice and questionable grammar. For instance, in one scene in which two characters are plotting as to how to transport an important item, Laura says that Mario “can present it to me as a gift for Mother’s Day which would be completely natural (88).” Here, more natural phrasing and punctuation would not only allow the writing to flow freer, but also clarify the meaning behind the words. Still, Kelly’s use of vivid description bring the text alive and create an intense reading experience that is sure to draw in the reader within the first few pages.
One of the most intriguing qualities of this story is its connection to reality. The devastating Peruvian earthquake of 2007 is featured as a key plot point without being disrespectful. On the contrary, Kelly depicts the surreal aftermath with visceral clarity that both gives accurate description of the event as well as its traumatizing effects on the people of Peru. Unfortunately, Kelly takes uses less subtlety in her planting of evidence that reveals the mystery.
Though the concepts are unique and interesting, they are so blatantly drawn out before the reader that little is left to be deciphered. For instance, after Tamara has been kidnapped, she notices something interesting about her attacker. Instead of letting the reader piece this realization together, Kelly emphasizes her point with, “they [the attacker’s gloves] has smelled of cologne – the same cologne that both Mario’s dad and Rodolfo Vega used! (141)”
Despite this slightly heavy-handed placement of clues, this mystery takes many unexpected twists and turns that leave the reader pleasantly surprised, but never confused. This careful planning displays both the creativity and the ingenuity of the author.
A stimulating, exhilarating page-turner, The Shattered Swan delivers cinematic action as well as more complex themes in an easily digestible format. In addition to this, it offers perceptive insight into Peruvian culture and tradition, both surprisingly vital elements to this modern thriller. With such a plethora of qualities, this story might resound with adults and young adults alike, and very well might leave readers in eager anticipation for the next installments in the series.
Reviewed by Claire Colburn for IndieReader