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Lee Carroll – Black Swan Rising

Book Cover

Vampires and fairies take the demons down one by one.

Publisher: Bantam Books (Random House)
Pages: 417
Type: Fiction
Age: Young Adult
ISBN: 978-0-553-82557-2
First Published: 2010
Date Reviewed: 15th September 2011
Rating: 3.5/5

Please note that Lee Carroll is a name for the husband and wife team, Lee Slonimsky and Carol Goodman, and thus when I reference Carroll I am alluding to the both of them.

Garet Jones was just a jeweller when she stepped into an antiques store that she later found didn’t actually exist. The owner gave her a box, wanting her to open it, but when she looks inside it weird things happen. However it’s not so much the box at this time, but those who seem out to destroy the city that is on her mind. And who is in the right, the vampire or the fairy king?

Black Swan Rising is a mass of different ideas, stories, cultures, and time periods put together in one book, and while the first half is relatively weak and relies far too much on contemporary elements, the second half is rather special and moves away from reality to become a proper fantasy. Drawing on tales as far apart as Dracula and Swan Lake, Carroll builds a story that will see an ordinary girl take on the extraordinary.

A lot of work has been done to make the book up-to-date so that things from our era – such as Twitter, the usage of LOL on the Internet, and IPhones – are mentioned, and while it makes the book accessible to teenagers it grants the book a very short shelf life. There are also times where the contemporary just does not work, for example when a bad guy is about to unleash evil and this gets compared to a particular basketball player. It may be humorous in its own way, but it jolts you out of the story for a moment especially if you’ve never heard of the player before, which you don’t want happening when you’re speed-reading to find out what’s going to ensue.

For the most part the fantastical elements are those well-used by a lot of contemporary paranormal fantasy writers, and so many similarities can be drawn with books such as The Iron King, Jasmyn, and The Forbidden Game. However there comes a point where a true originality takes over and it is stunning. Carroll uses physics to a good extent in the book, and episodes, such as the one in the water, are quite simply excellent. So too is a later episode on land that is in a way related.

The writing is strictly okay. Garet uses the word “though” far too often, and Carroll could do with using a thesaurus instead of using the same word several times over on one page. The romance is also just all right, because the set up is rather yucky; the idea of someone being with a person who’s already slept with the family tree isn’t very nice.

It is the maturity of the latter stages of the story that make it a worthwhile read, because the writers haven’t been afraid to shock and write material that is gritty, evil, and sometimes downright disgusting yet very good – for this last one I refer to the conclusion of the water episode, it put me off my food but I couldn’t stop reading it.

It is also the concoction of history – factual, legendary, and fiction – with fantasy which makes Black Swan Rising end well and make it a book in which you are truly looking forward to the sequel. That Carroll used an older heroine – Garet is twenty-six – means the story moves a lot quicker because there is more knowledge of the world in advance; and there is a good state of confusion for the reader at the end, where you know enough, but not all, and are therefore happy to want to read on.

Black Swan Rising isn’t perfect by any means, but although it shares a great deal with other books, there is a real sense that this is just to help set some ground before it flies off in a new direction in the next book. And if it does, more power to it.

It may take a while to get into it but if you throw caution to the wind, as Garet does, you shouldn’t be disappointed.

I received this book for review from Transworld Publishing, Random House.

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September 16, 2011, 11:57 am

I think this is one of my Transworld Challenge selections – so disorganised I don’t even know what I chose! I hovered over it for a while and if it does arrive, I will throw caution to the wind as you wisely advise! ;-)

Charlie: I haven’t forgotten what I chose – but the order I listed them, I don’t know which my next will be! I think if you go into this one knowing it’s going to be similar it helps makes the better sections better. That said though, what I’ve listed as my favourite elements, a lot of people don’t seem to like at all!


September 17, 2011, 9:48 am

I really enjoy Carol Goodman’s books but I am not sure if I want to read this one or not!

Charlie: After reading Black Swan Rising and having read reviews of it where people are describing her other novels, I am wondering if a little was lost in this creation.



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