Type Eighteen Books

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THE SWAN HARP (Wings of Valenia Book One)

By Elizabeth Creith

IR Rating:
Fantasy skirting fairytale, Elizabeth Creith's young adult novel THE SWAN HARP (Wings of Valenia Book One) uses an unusual premise and some original and tender world-building to draw readers in.
Kiar, Swan Princess of Valenia, learns the art of ruling and the value of duty as her people, human and swanfolk alike, face internal and external threats.

When her sisters Adana and Orla both gain the ability to transform into swans like their mother, Kiar feels left out. As Princess of Valenia, she will inherit the kingdom from her father King Tir—but becoming queen is nothing compared to the ability to fly. This feeling intensifies when her family fosters three cygnets and it turns out that Orla is a black swan, a once-in-a-century phenomenon with powerful magic. As each of her sisters transitions into their new roles, one as the future leader of the swan folk and the other to train with a wisewoman, Kiar throws herself into learning swordplay, politics, and the finer points of ruling. An uneasy peace with the neighboring kingdom of Noermark hangs in the balance as its King begins to make attempts to take over, by marriage if not by force. Every decision the young queen in waiting makes must balance the needs of all her subjects, human and swanfolk alike.

Elizabeth Creith’s gentle world-building in THE SWAN HARP (Wings of Valenia Book One) firmly resists the trend of fantasy relying on violence and cliffhangers to keep readers hooked. Painted in broad brushstrokes, Valenia is at once comfortingly familiar and wonderfully original. Creith’s swanfolk, with all their fairytale qualities, are as complex as any new magical species, revealing quirks and characteristics in surprising ways as the novel progresses. The main characters are well fleshed out, with the protagonist presenting a realistic image of girlhood. Kiar is not a giddy teen bursting with rebellion, but her maturity has its limits and she has her dreams, desires, fears, and insecurities—just like any other young person. The Valenian royal family is not insulated from their subjects and the day-to-day minutia of medieval living. Readers expecting ballroom dancing and elaborate rituals are going to be disappointed.

Also, after a promising beginning, the novel sags in the middle, with pages of information about minor local traditions instead of the more interesting subjects of the swanfolk or the magic system. The relationship between the three sisters is not developed until the plot urgently requires it, making it difficult to sympathize with their motivations. Beyond the main cast of characters, the narrative feels strangely absent of life. Secondary characters have little personality beyond their immediate function, being dragged on and off stage as required. Many readers might feel this is too much to wade through before the final action-packed ending.

Fantasy skirting fairytale, Elizabeth Creith’s young adult novel THE SWAN HARP (Wings of Valenia Book One) uses an unusual premise and some original and tender world-building to draw readers in.

~Sakina Hassan for IndieReader

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