Black Swan Rising is a book I missed last year and stumbled on in England during one of my automatic book-store stops. I devoured it in a day and bought the sequel, The Watch Tower, the day it came out this month. The tone is both the book’s greatest strength and weakness. It reads more like a literary urban fantasy than most offerings in this genre and when it works, it’s perfect. Unfortunately, the tone sometimes causes a slump in pacing. Truthfully, it is a mildly nit-picky flaw as the slow-downs are few and far between; however, they did jerk me out of the story several times. They remain the only reason the book did not get another star and I have high hopes that the author smoothed these edges out in the sequel.
From page one, the main character and first-person narrator, Garet James, grabs the reader’s interest and sympathy. She finds herself in a creepy antique store and in an unfamiliar neighborhood after having a very topical conversation with the family accountant about her staggering debt and her father’s rapidly slumping art dealership. The owner of the store quickly sets off alarm bells in the reader’s mind as he draws James into agreeing to open a mysterious box stamped with a rising swan– the same symbol on a piece of jewelry given to her by her deceased Mother. As a jeweler and from an interest in discovering the connection to her Mother, James can’t resist the deal. Cue the infiltration of the supernatural and magic into her quiet life as well as the mysterious love interest, Will Hughes.
Jame’s burgeoning awareness of the supernatural, revelations of her lineage and that of Hughes as well as the motivations of the dark figure of the Antique store owner makes for a compelling plot that reads like a cross between Urban Fantasy, Chik-Lit, and Historical Mystery akin to The Red Violin. It is a surprisingly interesting blend despite the aforementioned, and few, pacing problems.
Overall, I recommend the series as it makes a nice change of pace from the more break-neck and action-heavy offerings out there. The world-building is great, the magic believable, and the plot remains compelling through-out. Best of all, the sequel is already available and in my TBR pile. Between Carroll’s novel and, the next to be reviewed, Incubus by Goodman, I have high hopes for the developing trend towards more literary Urban Fantasy. I love the genre as is, kick-ass action and all, but greatly enjoyed the change in pace and style offered by these two authors.