A Warning About Swans
R. M. Romero
About A Warning About Swans
Swan Lake meets The Last Unicorn by way of the Brothers Grimm in a dreamy, original fairytale in verse which transports readers to the Bavarian Alps.
Bavaria. 1880. Hilde was dreamed into existence by the god Odin, and along with her five sisters, granted cloaks that transform them into swans. Each sister’s cloak is imbued with a unique gift, but Hilde rejects her gift which connects her to the souls of dying creatures and forces her to shepherd them into the afterlife—the “Other Wood.”
While guiding the soul of a hawk to the Other Wood, Hilde meets the handsome Baron Maximilian von Richter, whose father was once a favorite of the king and left him no inheritance. Hilde is intrigued by Richter’s longing for a greater life and strikes a deal with him: She will manifest his dreams of riches, and in return, he will take her to the human world, where she will never have to guide souls again.
But at the court of King Ludwig II in Munich, Hilde struggles to fit in. After learning that fashionable ladies are having themselves painted, she hires non-binary Jewish artist Franz Mendelson, and is stunned when Franz renders her with swan wings. The more time she spends with Franz, the more she feels drawn to the artist’s warm, understanding nature, and the more controlling Richter becomes. When Hilde’s swan cloak suddenly goes missing, only Franz’s ability to paint souls can help Hilde escape her newfound prison.
Last year I read R. M. Romero’s THE GHOSTS OF ROSE HILL, and it was one of my favorites of the whole year. As soon as I heard she had another book coming out this year, I could not wait to read it. Her writing has this whimsical yet dark, very fairytale-ish feel to it that I can’t get enough of.
It took a minute for the story of A WARNING ABOUT SWANS to really build momentum. The opening sets up the story by showing Hilde and her sisters and their relationship with Odin, who created them, and their lives in the forest. As the story moved into Hilde’s experiences in the world, I felt like it picked up speed and really drew me in.
I loved Hilde’s curiosity and her otherworldliness. She alarms a room full of people at court by dancing as though she isn’t quite human. She has to remember to breathe. And then, there’s Franz. I loved the way their paintings are described and the magical feel of them. It was easy to root for Hilde and Franz to find their way to happiness.
If you liked THE GHOSTS OF ROSE HILL or have been meaning to try a book by R. M. Romero, definitely pick this one up. If you love fairytales or whimsical, otherworldly stories, especially those in verse, A WARNING ABOUT SWANS checks all those boxes and more.
Recommended for Ages 12 up.
Hilde is described as having brown skin. Franz is nonbinary and Jewish. One minor character is gay.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Kissing between two characters.
Hilde and her sisters were created by Odin and have the ability to make someone’s dreams a reality. They also have magical cloaks which give them the ability to serve the forest in some way. Hilde helps to guide a creature’s spirit to the afterlife.
Brief descriptions of domestic violence, gaslighting, and verbal abuse.
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