A warning about swans

R. M. Romero, 1987-

Book - 2023

Swan maiden Hilde sacrifices her magical wings to seek freedom in the human world, but when her pact with an upstart baron takes her to the court of Ludwig II, she struggles to fit in, and only Jewish artist Franz, who has the power to paint souls, can help her escape her newfound prison.

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Location Call Number   Status
Young Adult Area YOUNG ADULT FICTION/Romero, R. M. Checked In
Fantasy fiction
Queer fiction
Novels in verse
Fairy tales
Atlanta, Georgia : Peachtree Teen [2023]
Main Author
R. M. Romero, 1987- (author)
Physical Description
377 pages ; 21 cm
Ages 14 and up.
Grades 10-12.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Hilde, the youngest of six swan-human sisters dreamed by the god Odin, lives in a forest where she ushers dying souls to the afterlife. Resentful that her destiny involves so much death (while her sisters attend to births, speed, strength, music, and languages), she flees her home and meets Richter, a young baron who becomes infatuated with Hilde and what her magic can do for him and his wealth. At first, Hilde relishes her new human existence, but gradually she realizes Richter means only to control her. Romero's reimagining of "Tristan and Isolde" features Franz, a nonbinary Jewish artist who falls in love with Hilde, and she with them. Set in 1880s Bavaria, this novel in verse touches on themes of true love, beauty, magic, and personal agency. "I belong / (first and foremost, / tonight and always) / to myself. / And there is no stronger magic / than refusal," Hilde tells Richter in their final confrontation. Filled with romance and betrayal, enchantment and the natural world, this will appeal to fairy-tale lovers everywhere.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

At age nine, each of the god Odin's six daughters, whom he dreamed into existence, receives a cloak of starlight that allows them to shape-shift into swans and also bestows them with a magical gift. Hilde, the youngest, receives the ability to "coax souls from bodies," after which she comforts and guides them into the afterlife. But her power soon becomes a burden she longs to escape, yearning to leave her forest home and live as a human. Hilde is 16 when handsome, debt-ridden Baron Maximillian von Richter invites her to his crumbling castle, and then to the Munich royal court, where she passes as human. When Jewish nonbinary artist Franz Mendelsohn, whose portraits reveal their subjects' true spirits, paints Hilde with swan wings, though, she fears they know her secret. Still, the two grow close as Richter's dark motives begin to emerge. Narrated by Hilde in poetic verse by Romero (The Ghosts of Rose Hill), the story smoothly melds contemporary understandings of gender equality, exploration, and representation with fairy tale--like ambiance and language, making for a gratifying read. Ages 14--up. Agent: Rena Rossner, Deborah Harris Agency. (July)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Hilde may look like a human girl, but she's not one--though sometimes, she is a swan. Set in our human past as well as the mystical world of spirits and gods, Hilde's story takes her from her magical and secluded woodland home into late-1800s Bavaria. Hilde and her five sisters are the daughters of the god Odin, the All-Father. Each of the young women has been endowed with a special gift as well as the ability to turn dreams into reality. Hilde's desire to distance herself from her particularly macabre skill--"The gift / of greeting / death"--sparks her desire to flee with her new friend, the human boy Baron Maximilian von Richter, leaving behind her duties in favor of human girlhood. When Richter takes Hilde to the great and bustling city of Munich and the court of melancholy King Ludwig II, she meets Franz Mendelsohn, a nonbinary Jewish teen artist. As Hilde and Franz grow close, they strive to create a successful balance between magic and reality, encountering surprising kindness and deep betrayal along the way. Written in sparse free verse, this character-driven queer narrative is an original yet slow-moving story of an otherworldly being trying to find her place in the universe. Though lyrical, the simple poetry and unembellished plot make this milquetoast historical fantasy ultimately fall flat. Main human characters are presumed White; Hilde is darker skinned and has red hair. A lukewarm historical fairy-tale fantasy. (Verse fantasy. 14-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.