The Song of the Swan
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Published October 24, 2023
About The Song of the Swan
A magical retelling of Swan Lake, featuring a clever orphan, a castle filled with enchanted swans, and a quest to unearth the secrets of the past.
Olga is an orphan and a thief, relying on trickery and sleight of hand to make her way in the world. But it’s magic, not thievery, that could get her into trouble.
When Olga and her partner-in-crime Pavel learn of a valuable jewel kept in a secluded castle, Olga sees an opportunity to change their lives: a prize so big, they’d never have to steal again. But the castle is not as it seems, ruled by an enchanter who hosts grand balls every night, only for the guests to disappear each morning, replaced by swans. Guided by cryptic clues from the palace spiders, Olga soon realizes she’s in over her head—torn between a bargain with the enchanter, loyalty to Pavel, and determination to understand how the enchanted swans are linked to her own fate.
One thing is certain: there is dark magic behind the castle’s mysteries, and Olga will stop at nothing to unmask it.
The cover copy lists this book as a retelling of SWAN LAKE, and I definitely see some of the elements from the ballet in the story, but I’m not sure it would really be classified as a straight-up retelling. It had some elements, but other elements are absent or very changed.
The biggest change is probably that there’s no prince in this story, and it doesn’t center around a romance. There’s a minor romance plot, and the main character does impersonate the love interest at one point to trick the boy into thinking she doesn’t love him, but it happens really quickly and is a minor point in the story, rather than the big, critical moment that it is in the ballet.
The other big difference is the addition of the spiders and the heartstring magic. I really liked those parts. I felt like it added a whole new layer to the story. The story is also broken into parts. Each part begins with a short tale told by a spider that reveals some important parts of the history of the story world. I really liked the way that structure set the pace of the story. It felt like a really quick read because there were only a few chapters per part.
I also liked Olga, the main character, a lot. She’s flawed and scrappy. But she learns and grows so much. I guessed some of the relationship connections between characters before they were revealed, and I thought they were cleverly done.
All in all, I had a great time reading this book. I loved the fairytale feel of the narrative and Olga’s emotional journey. I think readers who enjoy fairytales will love this one.
Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.
Major characters are white. Some characters are spiders. Readers with a strong aversion to spiders might struggle with some scenes that describe the way spiders move and in which spiders sometimes climb on other characters.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
A boy and girl are in love.
Long ago, a spider gifted a piece of silk to a person, and it became their heartstring, a magical string that a person can pull magic from. Some characters have the ability to perform magic which can be used for good or evil.
Situations of peril. In one scene, a soldier shoots a swan with an arrow. In another, a soldier shoots a person with an arrow.
Brief mentions of party attendees drinking alcoholic drinks.
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