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Book Review

Book Cover

Black Swan Rising


Author: Lee Carroll
Bantam Press
RRP: £12.99, US $14.99
ISBN: 978 0 593 06596 9
Available 25 November 2010

Garet James has reached a turning point in her life, with the economic downturn, a bad purchasing decision has put the future of her father’s art gallery in doubt, with the banks looking towards reclaiming their money. On her way home from a poor meeting about their future Garet walks through the fog strewn streets of New York to find herself drawn into a small antiques shop. This chance meeting gets her a commission to repair and open a small silver box. The box turns out to have more significance for Garet as she is introduced to the world of the fey and her important part in a dangerous battle...

Black Swan Rising is a fantasy novel from Lee Carroll, which is the pseudonym of husband and wife team Carol Goodman and Lee Slonimsky.

Unfortunately, although the book is well written, its many faults prevent it from being the average fantasy fare, which presumably it’s set out to be. The overall problem with the book is its lack of an original voice.

The structure is that old chestnut of a young person, growing up in obscurity, unaware of their power, who suffers a tragic reversal of fortune. At this juncture in their life a wise elder appears who will teach them their true power, before the story wraps up with a final battle between good and evil, where good inevitably wins. It’s a structure which is popular in both fantasy novels and writing in general, being one of the few plots which humans have repeated through their history. This in itself isn’t a criticism, I could build a small mountain of books which have used the same premise, but to pull it off the author, or authors, have to have something else to say and I struggle to see what that was in this book.

Garet as a character also presents a problem. I’m not sure what part of her personality I was supposed to find attractive, her endless ticking off in her head of cultural reference which would be lost on a non-adult audience, even for an adult audience this tendency of both the authors and their main character to reference things soon get tiresome. Nor did I understand why she was written as dense as she appears to be. Half a dozen strange and unusual events happen to her before the penny drops that something new and unusual is happening, it’s not an endearing trait and I feel that by the second occurrence most readers would want to smack her across the back of the head, with the book, for her lack of insight.

When we do get introduced to mystical and magical creatures most of them turn out to be well worn clichés, the attractive vampire who longs for his lost humanity is probably the worst offender, but the others also lack anything which hasn’t been seen many times before.

The book starts well, but by the time I’d read about a third of it the pace had slowed and it became a chore to wade through the rest of the novel, as the piece becomes over written losing any tension which Garet should have felt from her predicament. I could see that the book may appeal to young female teenagers as a form of wish fulfilment, but I’m not sure how a well read adult audience would react.


Charles Packer

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