Saturday, April 28, 2012

Review: Princess of the Wild Swans - Diane Zahler

Princess of the Wild Swans by Diane Zahler
Genre: Middle Grade, fairy tale retelling
Published on January 31, 2012
Published by HarperCollins
Pages: 224
Read From: 4.6.12 - 4.7.12

Princess Meriel's brothers have been cursed. A terrible enchantment - cast by their conniving new stepmother - has transformed the handsome princes into swans. They now swim forlornly on a beautiful heart-shaped lake that lies just beyond the castle walls. 
Meriel will do whatever it takes to rescue her beloved brothers. But she must act quickly. If Heart Lake freezes, her brothers will be forced to fly south or perish. 
With help from her newfound friends Riona and Liam - a pretty half-witch and her clever brother - Meriel vows to finish a seemingly impossible task. If she completes it, her brothers may be saved. But if she fails, all will be lost.


The Wild Swans was one of my all-time favorite Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, and I have always wished that someone would do a retelling of it. I am pleased to say that Diane Zahler did an excellent job in reworking this magical tale. Meriel is a strong heroine who is quick to understand what the Queen is trying to do, while the rest of her family is blind to it. And when Meriel is ignored and the Queen changes her brothers into swans, Meriel doesn't waste any time in getting help. She is a bit of a spoiled young girl, but she learns to swallow her pride quick enough that the Reader does not get irritated with her.

Compared to other Authors who have written fairy tale retellings, Diane Zahler's style is perhaps not the most enchanting or magical out of them all, but it works well enough for the story and her "supporting cast" makes up for what may be lacking in imagery. Liam is kind and funny and very helpful and selfless, and his sister Riona just as likable. Her love for Meriel's brother Cullan feels genuine. And while it is true that the Author cut down on the number of brothers that are supposed to be in the story (the original fairy tale has eleven), Cullan, Aidan, Darrock, and Druce all have very different personalities, which play off each other well, rather than clashing. It is very obvious that they are all brothers, despite their differences, and their affection for their little sister seems real, even if they don't believe her about the Queen.

Fairy tale retelling-fans will enjoy this story a great deal, if only because it is a fairy tale that hasn't yet been retold in large quantities, like Beauty and the Beast or The Twelve Dancing Princesses. It's unique, and populated with lots of characters that are easy to fall in love with.

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