Sarah's Stars

Heather Tomlinson. The Swan Maiden
Henry Holt  $21.00  ISBN 978-0-8050-8275-3  304 pg.
Reviewed by Emma, Age 15

He cupped Doucette’s chin in his hand and tilted her face to meet his gaze. The awkward position hurt her neck, but Doucette didn’t complain. She was trying to breathe. It felt as though something important within her was being ripped away.

Doucette’s two sisters, Cecilia and Azelais, are swan maidens—sorceresses. They are able to cast spells and raise eyebrows and fly free through the sky. They are glamorous, haughty, and powerful; they are dramatic, dangerous. They are permitted to marry for love instead of duty.

Doucette is a chastelaine—she will be a noblewoman, head of a respectable and well-oiled household. But that is all. To be a swan maiden is everything Doucette has ever wanted, and ever impossible too. As she watches her sisters depart on their annual journey: to their aunt’s house, to learn the mysteries of magic, Doucette must bow her head and perform her tasks. And in doing so discover a formidable secret…

Heather Tomlinson, author of The Swan Maiden, makes her home in the United States. She has taught both English and French in the past, and was inspired to write this novel by the French folklore and mystique she encountered in those pursuits.

Yes, this book is clichéd and yes, it’s unrealistic, but it’s a fairy tale, and that is what you have to remember. This is Cinderella; this is Beowulf; this is Romeo and Juliet. These are all the stories you’ve heard a thousand times before, the stories you forgot you loved so much. Wrenching, elegant, unpredictable, tender, intoxicating, and astonishingly well written, The Swan Maiden is a classical, magnetic story told with breathtaking eloquence. Its vast and intricate mindscapes awe, entice, and betray you.

A fantastical, poetic novel, if not entirely original—The Swan Maiden very much deserves five stars.


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