Review: A Captive of Wing and Feather

Melanie Cellier had been on hiatus from her Beyond the Four Kingdoms series of fairy tale retellings to work on Elena's adventures in The Spoken Mage books. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she went back to her fairy tales sooner than I was expecting with A Captive of Wing and Feather. This adaptation of "Swan Lake" is set in Melanie Cellier's extended fairy tale universe, where Princess Adelaide takes on the role of Odette. Adelaide is the sister of Prince Dominic, the "Beast" character from her book A Tale of Beauty and the Beast, linking her story to the rest of the books in the series. Unfortunately, Melanie has a tendency to shy away from full human-to-animal transformation sequences, which took some of the magic and mystery out of this version of "Swan Lake."

A Captive of Wing and Feather is hard to follow at first because there is so much information to digest about Adelaide's situation. Little by little, we learn that she was cursed by an evil sorcerer named Leander to only be able to speak the language of the swans during the daytime and is considered a mute by all intents and purposes among her peers (similar to the little mermaid). She lives in a haven with a colorful group of women that she considers her adoptive family, even though none of them know that she's a runaway princess. At night, she recovers her ability to speak, but her curse forces her to return to Swan Lake, where the only person she is able to speak to is Leander. The curse also gives her a special connection to the swans who live at the lake, allowing her to communicate with them. Unlike the original story, which often implies that the swans are cursed maidens like Odette, these are real swans that take a liking to Adelaide due to their bond.

I found it a struggle to get through the first portion of the book because there were so many characters to keep track of at the haven. It also starts after many major events in the story have already taken place. I would have preferred to experience the moment Adelaide was cursed instead of reading about it after the fact. It gets a little more interesting after Prince Gabe shows up. Gabe agreed to search for Adelaide on behalf of her brother, Dominic. Like Prince Siegfried from "Swan Lake," Gabe is a skilled archer. He is also extremely impetuous and acts without considering the consequences, such as when he follows Adelaide to Swan Lake the night he discovers her whereabouts at the haven. He quickly the details of the curse and is determined to do everything in his power to help her break it. The two make a charming couple that is reminiscent of Tiana and Naveen from The Princess and the Frog. Adelaide judges Gabe at first for his recklessness, but she eventually accepts that it is sometimes necessary to get the job done.

One thing that surprised me about this book was the character that took on the role of Odile, the black swan. In other versions of "Swan Lake," Odile is a woman who is immensely loyal to Rothbart. In the Barbie version, she was his daughter. There did not seem to be a single woman who was close enough with Leander to take on such a role in this book, so I thought that perhaps Melanie had changed that element of the story. I was caught completely off guard by the twist ending, but I'm not sure I liked how easily it was resolved. The story ended just how you would expect a modern fairy tale to in a way that was reminiscent of other versions I've seen in the past, not counting the original ballet. For such a powerful wizard, I was a little disappointed that Leander never turned Adelaide full swan, even for a short period of time.

Overall, A Captive of Wing and Feather was not my one of my favorite Melanie Cellier books. I found Adelaide difficult to relate to because she hid so much of her past that it felt less significant when it was revealed piecemeal later on. I didn't feel that this story captured the grace or enchantment of the "Swan Lake" ballet. Swans are beautiful and elegant because of the way they move and float on the water. Their trumpets are the least ethereal thing about them, and that was the only aspect that Adelaide inherited from her curse. I would have preferred to see her as a skilled dancer or possess some other ability that makes swans so alluring. The next book in the Beyond the Four Kingdoms series will be A Princess of Wind and Wave, based on my favorite fairy tale, "The Little Mermaid!" I am far more eager to read that adaptation than I was for this one.


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