First published in 2007 by Walker Books Ltd. To be re released in July 2011.
Book: Library copy.
You probably know me already. In every story you've ever been told, someone like me exists. A figure in the background, barely noticed by the main players. A talentless, unwanted child. The ugly one. The ugly one only ever gets in the way. She is as out of place as a sparrow in a clutch of swans. This was the role I had in my father's Hall.
It was the role my father gave me.
As I mentioned yesterday, this book is a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's 'The Wild Swans.' I have never read the original story, but after reading Zoe's enchanting interpretation of it, I feel an urge to search out a collection of Hans Christian Anderson's short stories.
Alexandra is the only daughter of the king and feels that her father has never shown her any love. Fortunately she is satisfied with the amount of love she receives from her mother and three brothers, learning to accept her father's lack of emotion towards her.
Alexandra's world begins to fall apart, when her mother is killed by a terryifying beast whilst walking in the woods. Her father turns into a man possessed, desperate to kill the creature who murdered his wife. Until one day he returns with a strange young woman, who he instantly falls in love with. The woman has the power to charm her way into everyone's life within the castle and puts them all under a spell, apart from Alexandra and her brothers. Determined to discover the truth about this unusual woman, whom everyone has fallen in love with, they venture into her bedroom one night, only to find that their lives will be changed forever.
Alexandra finds herself banished from her family home and her brothers in exile. She must find a way to save her family from this evil woman whom her father has married and to help bring her brothers back home.
I loved this book completely. The story is beautifully written and I found myself in tears when Alexandra's mother was murdered. Through the words of the book, I could feel her pain as the whole story is told from her point of view, giving you first hand her thoughts and feelings. Alexandra suffers intensely throughout most of this book. However the saying 'what doesn't kill you makes you strong' is so apt for this character. By the end of the book she has found her inner strength and power and finds that she is capable of taking on her biggest enemy. I could almost imagine her glistening with power.
Alexandra's love interest Gabriel, is everything you would hope him to be. He is strong yet patient and caring. He protects her whilst letting her strength shine through. They make an elegant couple together and will definitely be in my Top Five Couples of the year.
I hated Zella, the evil stepmother as soon as she appeared in the book. I could see right through her from the beginning. She makes the Evil Stepmother from Snow White look like a pussy cat!
I found Zoe's magical world to be believable, hypnotic and enveloping. All my senses standing to attention as I read. Through her vivid descriptions, I could clearly picture the castles and the surrounding lands. I adore the way Zoe Marriott writes. I found the book just flowed. I want to share one of my favourite passages with you.
The rolling and sighing of the waves was almost hypnotic. My mind emptied, and I relaxed completely for the first time since reaching this place, savouring the breeze that gently lifted and stroked my hair. After a few more moments, I stood and went to the edge of the water, where the sea music drowned out all other sounds. I let out a shocked laugh as the cold water broke over my feet and soaked the hem of my gown. I jumped and twirled in the foam, my nightdress flying up above my knees in the wind.
Isn't that beautiful?
The ending crept up on me unexpectedly as I was expecting a different route completely, so I congratulate Zoe on an incredible red herring.
A beautiful retelling that made me reminiscent of the fairy tales of my childhood.
If you would like to know more about Zoe then you can read her blog here.