When her father dies just before her birthday, seventeen-year-old Aderyn inherits the role of Protector of Atratys, a dominion in a kingdom where nobles are able to transform at will into the bird that represents their family bloodline. Aderyn’s ancestral bird is a swan. But she has not transformed for years, not since witnessing the death of her mother – ripped apart by hawks that have supposedly been extinct since the long-ago War of the Raptors.
With the benevolent shelter of her mother and her father now lost, Aderyn is at the mercy of her brutal uncle, the King, and his royal court. Driven by revenge and love, she must venture into the malevolent heart of the Citadel in order to seek the truth about the attack that so nearly destroyed her, to fight for the only home she has ever known and for the land she has vowed to protect.
Firstly I would like to say a huge thank you to Darkroom Tours and Hot Key Books for sending me a copy of this fantastic book for review. I mean I just took one look at the cover and fell in love with it. It’s apparently inspired by Swan Lake which I have to admit I really know little about which probably helped with how original and intriguing I found this story. From the first page I was totally drawn into the story in way I’ve not been for a long while. I just didn’t want to put it down as everything felt on a knife edge from start to finish.
Aderyn may at first seem like a typical sheltered teen, naive and a little selfish at times, however I adored how her story and character developed. She needs to get savvy and quickly. She does learn by making many mistakes at the start but her adaptability and fortitude really get the chance to shine as she becomes more adept at life at court. I felt that her flightless status was actually handled in a considered way, not only down to the physical aspect but the deep seated emotional trauma from what she was forced to watch. Add on top of that the likely overwhelming anxiety of leaving home to attend a strange place with a need to prove herself, its small wonder that she finds herself overwhelmed, especially with the attentions she receives. I really had a lot of time for her and her situation.
I really liked the concept of the Nobles being able to shift into birds and indeed different types of birds depending on their family line. The powers of the nobles being able to totally rule out a particularly overused YA trope, which was a nice touch, either by design or not. If there is one thing that this story has in spades it’s tension. I started by saying that I felt the story was on a knife edge and I can’t think of a better way to describe it, so many secrets, lies, whispers and rumours. Everyone has an agenda and the times where Aderyn is left without her Clerk, Lucian, I felt terribly anxious about what would happen to her her next. There are so many layers of deceit and simmering revenge, showing a much deeper thread to the tale. In retrospect there were a number of breadcrumbs laid and I loved how things started to slot together revealing a truly terrible but exciting puzzle underneath.. The plot went far deeper than I thought it would for a YA book, it has a real maturity and darkness to it at times, but also some sweet romance and plenty of dancing!
For a book that was so glorious though I have marked it down slightly because I felt frustrated with Aderyn at times as she was so unable to follow a singular piece of advice – trust no one. I accept a level of naivety on her part but I would have hoped for more caution. I’m also not a huge fan of cliffhanger style chapter endings and I felt that too many chapters finished mid conversation, it was a dramatic flare that I didn’t feel the story needed. This is of course down to reader preference but these things did bug me a little. What I did find incredibly helpful though was the beautiful map and family tree at the beginning, I think there is a place for a family tree in plenty of books and it was a real help here at understanding the history and putting Aderyn’s findings into context.
A Throne of Swans is a wonderfully complex tale of intrigue and revenge and it completely wrapped me up in its world. I still feel a little heartbroken and wronged by the way certain things came to pass, I’m totally on a particular characters team and the sneak peak of book 2 at the end has left me totally desperate to find out what happens next with them. The quote on the front from the wonderful V.V James describes it as a Dark and Glittering Fantasy, and I would have to wholeheartedly agree.