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Thursday, August 22, 2013

"Black Swan Rising: Black Swan Rising #1" by Lee Carroll (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

 Visit Carol Goodman's Official Website Here

Note: Lee Carroll is a pseudonym for the collaboration between Carol Goodman and Lee Slonimsky.

OVERVIEW: When New York City jewelry designer Garet James stumbles into a strange antiques shop in her neighborhood, her life is about to be turned upside down. John Dee, the enigmatic shopkeeper, commissions her to open a vintage silver box for a generous sum of money. Oddly, the symbol of a swan on the box exactly matches the ring given to her by her deceased mother. Garet can’t believe her luck and this eerie coincidence until she opens the box and otherworldly things start happening. . . .

That evening, the precious silver box is stolen. When Garet begins to investigate, she learns that she has been pulled into a prophecy that is hundreds of years old, and opening the box has unleashed an evil force onto the streets of Manhattan and the world at large. Gradually, Garet pieces together her true identity—one that her deceased mother desperately tried to protect her from. Generations of women in Garet’s family, including her beloved mother, suffered and died at the hands of this prevailing evil. Does Garet possess the power to reclaim the box and defeat this devastating force?

On her journey, she will meet the fey folk who walk unnoticed among humans and a sexy vampire who also happens to be a hedge fund manager that she can’t stop thinking about. But the fairies reveal a desire to overpower mere humans and the seductive vampire has the power to steal the life from her body. Whom can Garet trust to guide her? Using her newfound powers and sharp wit, Garet will muster everything she’s got to shut down the evil taking over her friends, family, New York City, and the world.

FORMAT: Black Swan Rising is the first book in an urban fantasy trilogy. It combines vampires, supernatural characters, fantasy, and a little romance. It stands at 396 pages and was published by Tor Books on August 3, 2010.

ANALYSIS: The minute a book is labeled 'urban fantasy' and the main character is a woman, people automatically assume they are going to get this smart-ass, sassy heroine who can do anything and everything under the sun. Mix in a few werewolves/vampires or a handsome guy who works for the FBI/law enforcement and you have the whole book wrapped up in a nutshell – but Black Swan Rising is not like that.

Black Swan Rising shows that urban fantasy – good urban fantasy – doesn't have to follow the cookie cutter layout that has become so popular. It has an interesting plot, mixture of everyone's favorite vampires, fairies, demons, and the like, the use of history/art and modern-day NYC, and characters that are written in a way that readers almost instantly fall in love with them.

The first thing that attracted my attention upon reading Black Swan Rising was the characters. There was just something about Garet James – our leading lady – and her friends and family members that just clicked. I found them likeable and easy to relate to, which lead to the easy ability to connect with this book.

Garet James is strong, but not in the sense that she would win a fist fight or be the class bully. She's strong and independent in other ways. I think this is where Black Swan Rising veers from other urban fantasy books, as it has a relatively normal, yet strong woman in the lead. The novel was able to stand on its own without having this major, super-strong, sassy woman at the wheel of the ship and it did just fine.

Another intriguing aspect of Black Swan Rising was the setting of the novel. It takes place in NYC. There are lots of major landmarks and attractions used in various scenes throughout the novel, which really added character to the whole book. It was nice to see a novel that focused on the historical aspect, without drowning readers in boring, dull facts.

There were a handful of times where I did feel a little like an outsider with the whole NYC setting. I have never visited there and have no ability to reference some of the locations mentioned, but I was able to breeze through those sections and not feel totally lost.

While Black Swan Rising is an amazing novel, it is not without its faults. Some of the novel revolves around Garet discovering all these magical elemental skills. I have to admit, this part wasn't as captivating as I would have imagined. Maybe it is because some of the stuff was so technical and out there that it was hard as a reader to follow along or maybe I just couldn't seem to follow it. Either way, it wasn't – in my opinion – one of the stronger parts of the book.

Another weakness of the book was its habit to throw multiple fantasy creatures at the reader. There are vampires, fairies, and demons. While all play a part in the plot, they do seem a little 'thrown out there'. I would have liked to see them a little more integrated into the book and not so random.

Overall, Black Swan Rising was a surprising novel. I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected and found the artistic elements, underground fantasy world, and loveable characters captivating until the last page. This is definitely a gentler/slower urban fantasy, but do not let that prevent you from reading it.


SilverRaindrops said...

I really enjoyed this book, for the same reasons you did!
I have read the other two in the series, and they let me down a bit. It became confusing and very plot-orientated. But I really loved the first book, so I'm now treating it as a kind of stand-alone novel so I can enjoy it all over again :).

Cindy said...

I just started reading the second novel. I have to agree. I'm not 'awed' by it. But I am glad that Black Swan Rising could be read as a stand-alone. It really was amazing :)


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