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I have had Black Swan Rising on my wish-list since the publishers, Transworld, mentioned its release. So when it was listed as one of the books to choose from in Transworld's Book Group Reading Challenge, I picked it as my first book for the challenge.
So, was my first choice a good one? Definitely! Did it live up to my expectations? It did! I can safely say that I really enjoyed reading Black Swan Rising.
The setting of New York and the creepy fog that drifts in is the perfect setting and atmosphere for this story. We follow Garet James as her life goes from bad to worse.
For a young woman, Gary has her fair share of problems... money-issues, a struggling business and an elderly father to look after. On her way home after receiving bad news from her lawyer, Garet is forced to duck into an antiques shop by unexpected weather. The store owner recognises Garet and asks for her help in opening an old silver box which has been sealed shut. She agrees, but upon opening it things start to change... Garet's world, once normal like yours or mine, is now a world in which magic, fairies, vampires, dragons and the like exist.
Black Swan Rising takes Garet and the reader on a journey of discovery, hope, love, possibilities and more. The story makes use of real-life historical events (including more recent ones) and characters throughout, which I found added an interesting aspect to the book. Black Swan Rising doesn't just rely on one type of fantasy creature either, there's a whole array of them.
This book encompasses a number of my favourite fiction genres... urban fantasy, crime, adventure and a little bit of love thrown in (OK, maybe more than a bit)! But it's not just my favourite genres all rolled into one that made me love this book, it's the atmospheric story and the ease with which I could read it.
Black Swan Rising is the first book in a trilogy, and, conveniently, the second book The Watchtower has just been released. My paperback copy of Black Swan Rising contains a sneak preview of The Watchtower's first chapter and I've no doubt it's a book I'll be reading in the near future!
Synopsis: From Amazon
Jeweller Garet James isn't the same as everyone else.
She just doesn't know it yet.
With her fair share of problems - money (lack of), an elderly father, a struggling business - Garet should be just like any other young, feisty, single New Yorker. If only it was that simple...
It begins with the old silver box that had been soldered shut. All Garet has to do is open it. A favour for the frail owner of the antiques shop. Who wouldn't help?
Only it's then that things start to change. Garet doesn't notice at first, the shifts barely perceptible. But the city in which she grew up is beginning to reveal a long-hidden side - darker, and altogether more dangerous: parallel world of chaos, smoke and blood.
And now it's out of the box...and it has no intention of going back in.
Written in first person narrative from Garet's perspective. In her mid-twenties she has shied away from relationships since her mothers death, which she feels partly responsible for. She is highly talented and gifted creatively, although very critical of herself, she does not see herself as those around her do. I immediately felt compassion for her and this carried throughout the book, plus I adored her music taste [ : D ]. I could totally relate to the shock of finding yourself in a negative economic situation. Topical reference to the global economic crisis added to the sense of realism, plus the use of Despair and Discord paralleled the way in which the world appears on occasions.
The scene setting was excellent right from the very beginning; descriptive writing captivating the imagination with lovely use of similes to aid the imagery. The sinister and the sensuous were mixed together rounding out the whole good versus evil ideology. The rise and fall of tension mirrored the rise and fall of emotions brilliantly. Visually enchanting with the gorgeous type face used at the chapter headings.
The jewellery/art/history/literature reference were well researched adding to the narrative and aiding the sense of realism. Richly woven historical events within the plot were easy to picture in the way they were portrayed, supernatural/paranormal influences adding to the action. In a nut shell myth and magic woven into history embellished with wonderful literature and art references.
I loved the way people were portrayed as guides; they come into our lives at the moment we need them akin to little miracles in people form. The descriptions of auras and their meanings was fascinating; the whole 'pay it forward' aspect of the effect aura's have was heart warming, I wished it happened in real life. It would be nice to be able to blame the world's horrors on myth and magic while being able to dispel it with positivity.
The use of Shakespearean fairies was totally fantastic, I am completely in love with A Mid Summers Night Dream. The whole way that the characters were not all they appeared was ingenious. The entire plot is kept under tight control with nice recaps of events sporadically placed throughout. Some ingenious twists and turns kept me on my toes, I couldn't make any assumptions. Further hints to future plots are entwined making me desperate for the next installment.
All the characters were well rounded and individual, their interactions completely believable. It was difficult to tell who was good and who was bad, there was no black and white definition just all shades of grey. The issue of nurture was brought into question portraying the reality of how well do we really know our parents just as people and the skeletons hidden in family closets.
Engrossing narrative, a completely seductive page turner, in short I could not put it down.
PS Can I have that alchemy recipe NOW please [ ; D ]
Black Swan Rising is the first book in a trilogy by Lee Carroll. Lee Carroll is actually a pseudonym for the writing partnership between Carol Goodman and her husband, Lee Slonimsk. It was published on 25th November by Bantam Press and the book is 400 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy for review.
Garet is young, single and lives in New York but she has a far from an easy life. Her family has major money problems, their art gallery business is struggling due to the recession and her widowed father isn't getting any younger.
On a weirdly misty day in New York, Garet finds herself not very sure of where she is. Deciding to ask for directions in an antiques shop could be the worst decision she ever makes. When the frail old shop owner asks Garet for help in opening a silver box that has been welded shut, she can't say no. The box has the same crest as the one of the necklace that her mother gave her.
After taking the box home, strange things begin to happen, even if they are extremely hard to notice. New York is hiding a lot but Garet is different from everyone else. Opening the box unleashes a world of chaos and now Garet is stuck right in the middle of it all.
What I thought
I hadn't heard about this book before receiving it for review but as soon as I read the press release, I knew that it was something that would interest me. The plot summary didn't give away too much so I was pretty much going into this one blind, not really knowing what to expect. I got a lot more than I bargained for though with a complex plot, amazing characters and a fantastic mix of evil and fantasy.
Garet was far from perfect but those imperfections were a big part of what I liked about her. She wasn't afraid to make mistakes along the way, even though deep down she knew she probably wasn't doing the right thing. Not all of her bad choices were good though. She had a tendency to let people in too easily, people she really didn't know very well, and that made me question her at times. On a positive note though, Garet had a fantastic sense of humour, was witty and fiery tempered. I think a lot of this was because she was an older protagonist than most in the YA genre and at 26, she had more life experience than teenagers as well as having a lot to deal with because of her family.
There were a lot of secondary characters to keep up with but the pace between meeting them was well done and I never felt like I was being introduced to too many people at once. Garet meets a lot of interesting characters along the way and they are all completely different to each other. Two of my favourites were Will, the vampire love interest and a little fairy that was extremely cute. Will isn't your typical vampire though and is nothing like any other I have ever read about. Yes, he is still smoking hot and so smooth I don't think anyone could resist him but there was something else behind all of that. There was something about Will that I couldn't quite put my finger on, which helped add to the mystery in the rest of the story. I know I said he's a love interest but the romance doesn't overpower the overall story like it does in other YA books. I am hoping that this gets expanded on in the other books in the trilogy though.
I loved the amount of mystery in this book. As Garet has no idea what is going on herself, it always seemed as though I was right there with her, finding everything out at the last minute. Although this frustrated me a lot at times, I also really liked it too. The way that the story is told makes it possible to believe that anyone could be the good guy and anyone could be the bad guy. Black Swan Rising kept me on my toes throughout and I liked the how the suspense was kept up.
A lot of work was put into the history of what was happening as well as mythology. Characters from Shakespeare were involved as well as some extremely well known artists. This was something that I really loved about Lesley Livingston's Wondrous Strange so I knew immediately that I was also going to love it in this book. I really enjoyed how these kinds of things helped fuse the story with the real world while keeping the fantasy aspects at the same time. It was very interesting to see how all of the different aspects fit together to make the overall story.
Black Swan Rising did take a little while to completely get in to but once I had, I was hooked and I couldn't put it down. It is beautifully written but what else would you expect from a best selling author and a poet writing team. I cant wait to find out what will happen to Garet next.