Title – Black Swan Rising
Author – Lee Carroll
Published – 2010
Genre – Fantasy fiction
I was lucky to get a copy of this book as part of the Transworld Book Group Reading Challenge. I have to confess that I’m not a huge fan of “fantasy” fiction, so I was surprised at enjoyable I found it.
New York jeweller Garet James has her fair share of problems: money, an elderly father, a struggling business. One day she comes across an antiques shop she’d never noticed before. The owner possesses an old silver box that’s been sealed shut. Would she help an old man and open it, perhaps? She does…and that night strange things begin to happen. It’s as if her world – our world – has shifted slightly, revealing another, parallel place that co-exists without our knowledge: the world of the Fey…Garet learns that one of her ancestors was ‘the Watchtower’: an immortal chosen to stand guard over the human and the fey worlds – a role that she has, it seems, inherited from her mother. But the equilibrium between these two existences is under threat. The 16th-century magician and necromancer Dr John Dee has returned, the box has been opened and the demons of Despair and Discord released. In a race against time and impending apocalypse, it is Garet who must find Dee…and close the box.
To be honest I found the story got off to a bit of a shaky start. I guess I was as confused as Garet, our heroine, over what was happening. The first chapter packs in a mysterious antiques dealer, background on Garet’s family and their current financial difficulties, her education, and her business as a jewellery designer. When the antiques dealer shows her a mysterious silver box things happen which are obviously not normal. It all felt like too much too soon, but perseverance paid off and in the next couple of chapters things started to become clearer.
Garet’s elderly father runs an art gallery from their house and the night after her encounter with the antiques dealer the gallery and house are burgled. Her father is hospitalised and the family’s financial difficulties lead to the conclusion that this was all part of an insurance scam, but Garet is determined to prove that this isn’t the case.
As the story gathers (some) pace it becomes clear that the burglary is linked to her mysterious encounter and a world is revealed to Garet that she had never anticipated, where her destiny is to act as the “Watchtower” between the human and supernatural worlds. We’re introduced to a vampire (handsome, of course) and some fairies who range from the conventional small, winged sort, to those living and working as normal people in New York
In order to battle the demons about to be unleashed on the city she has to learn a series of skills. These are taught by a group of unusual characters and while I did find this all quite fascinating and imaginative, she was a very quick learner, and only once can I remember someone actually telling her how to do something. She also seemed to forget later in the book that she had some of these powers, but I’m an irregular reader of fantasy fiction so perhaps it goes with the genre. On a personal note it felt like a huge coincidence that the legend of Melusine / Melusina as this also featured in The Lady of the Rivers.
In the latter half of the book there’s more background on how she came to be the “Watchtower” as well as action in the battle to save New York. I actually liked Garet a lot – she seemed to have a credible mix of awe and disbelief at what she was being asked to do, as well as some excitement at the abilities she found herself with. Not so keen on the romantic entanglement with the vampire – shades of Twilight.
Bearing in mind that I’m not a huge fan of fantasy fiction I found this an enjoyable read but I’m guessing it may be aimed at a post-Twilight audience, and I’m afraid that’s not me.
Score – 4/5