A THRONE OF SWANS (A Throne of Swans #1) - by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr

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Published: January 2019 - Hot Key Books.
Genre: Young adult / romance / fantasy.
Pages: 352.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Violence. 
Format: eARC.
Source: Netgalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed this book. All thoughts are my own. 

In a world where the flightless are ruled by those who can fly... When her father dies just before her birthday, seventeen-year-old Aderyn inherits the role of Protector of Atratys, a dominion in a kingdom where nobles are able to transform at will into the bird that represents their family bloodline. Aderyn's ancestral bird is a swan. But she has not transformed for years, not since witnessing the death of her mother - ripped apart by hawks that have supposedly been extinct since the long-ago War of the Raptors.

With the benevolent shelter of her mother and her father now lost, Aderyn is at the mercy of her brutal uncle, the King, and his royal court. Driven by revenge and love, she must venture into the malevolent heart of the Citadel in order to seek the truth about the attack that so nearly destroyed her, to fight for the only home she has ever known and for the land she has vowed to protect.

I love retellings, but I've never read a Swan Lake retelling. This premise excited me and I couldn't wait to jump into the story.

Corr's writing is disappointing. The sentences are often clumsily put together, and it's simple; not in an incisive, concise way, but rather just the dull bare bones of what is happening on the page. In a book featuring castles, royals, and a vast and lush fantasy world, you expect the prose to do it justice (this is high fantasy after all), but Corr squanders the opportunity. She barely describes the setting. She doesn't even bother to flesh it out for the reader. Never mind that the magical system (within the extent of the royals transforming into creatures) is vague and underdeveloped, too, I at least wanted to lose myself in some tangible description. I wanted to taste, feel, and consume this promising fantasy world. Alas, the writing never gave me the chance.

The plot is fine. Fine, because it never quite surprises, delights, and chills despite the apparently high stakes of the story. I was never invested, to be honest. The pacing is inconsistent, the action only comes at the end, and the so-called intrigue is just sloppy, vague mystery that does nothing to keep you turning the pages. I also didn't appreciate how Aderyn (although the heroine of the novel) always seemed to be just on the outskirts of what was directly unfolding in the story; never quite integral, never quite irrelevant, and always weakly connected.

I think a few subplots might've helped round out the plot, too. 

Another issue with the story is the gratuitous violence. There isn't a lot of it, but whenever someone is tortured or killed it comes across contrived and there for shock value; it feels like it's just been thrown in to show how bad the bad guys are, without actually adding anything of value to the story. It's poorly done. It's the trope of "let's kill off some nameless characters who don't matter to show the evilness of the villain".  Which never quite makes the emotional impact it's meant to, let's be honest.   
The characters are boring and flat. Aderyn is defined by her desire for revenge, her anger at injustice, and her underdeveloped feelings for Letya, Lucien, and Siegfried. She's never convincing and never interesting. As for the other characters, they're all one dimensional with perhaps one defining trait.
Lucien and Aderyn's romance isn't well written, either. One minute he's blaming her for everything and the next he's claiming that he's deeply loyal to her and unable to abandon her. Maybe that's supposed to cause passionate drama and swoony angst? Well, it doesn't. It's confusing. Furthermore, the characters have no chemistry; what they see in each other I have no clue. Theirs just feels like a romance for the sake of a romance, and honestly, the novel would be more believable without it.

A Throne of Swans never takes flight. Its weighed down by poorly written characters, lacklustre world building, and weak character relationships. 

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