Review: The Sorcerer and the Swan Princess

The Sorcerer and the Swan Princess is the third book that I have read in the Villain's Ever After series. I've been skipping around because the series contains too many books to keep up with on a regular basis. This one stood out to me after enjoying several of Lucy Tempest's recent fairy tale books and because the story of "Swan Lake" has always fascinated me due to its many possible interpretations. While this book follows the same basic structure as the others I've read in which the prince or princess falls in love with the villain instead of their traditional love interest, it also had a few clever twists that made it stand out. It takes place in the same fairy tale world as Lucy Tempest's other books, so it can be interpreted as the latest installment in the Fairy Tales of Folkshore series just as easily as the Villain's Ever After series.

The Sorcerer and the Swan Princess by Lucy Tempest

Princess Ava's sister, Lina, has always been jealous of her claim to the throne, but Ava never realized how far Lina would be willing to go to get it. It was a clever twist to make the Odette and Odile counterparts twin sisters, especially since Odile is mistaken for Odette in almost every version of the story. Usually, this character has a closer connection with the sorcerer Rothbart than she does with Odette. The Barbie version made Odile Rothbart's daughter. Since this version of the story turns Rothbart into the main love interest, it makes sense to separate him from Lina's wicked intent. When Lina makes a deal with the infamous sorcerer to get rid of Ava at her coronation so she can take her sister's place, Ava refuses to believe that her own sister would do something so awful and blames Rothbart, who turns her into a swan to give her time to cool off.

The swan transformation is not a daily curse in this story like it is in other versions. Ava is only transformed into a full swan twice, and only one of those times is out of spite. This is the book's first clue that Rothbart will be a more sympathetic villain than in other interpretations. He does not trap Ava on the lake nor does he try to force her to marry him to lift the curse. Instead, he reveals his true identity as Dietrich, the headmaster of a school for troubled children gifted with magical powers like himself. He uses the school to protect them from the kingdom's anti-magic laws and to protect Ava from her nefarious sister. When Ava learns that her swan transformation was an attempt on Dietrich's part to save her life rather than punish her, she begins to see Dietrich in a new light.

This adaptation also places some focus on the ballet roots of "Swan Lake" by making Ava a ballerina princess whose dance career was cut tragically short due to an injury that permanently disabled one of her ankles. In this respect, the book reminded me of Pirouette by Kenley Davidson, another fairy tale adaptation about a disabled princess who longed to dance again. Dietrich helps Ava with her dream in the most magical way that truly made this book a delight to read. Though he treats her kindly at his hidden school, her feelings toward him despite her captivity could be interpreted as Stockholm Syndrome until Dietrich makes a very "Beauty and the Beast" inspired decision that justifies his happy ending with her.

The Sorcerer and the Swan Princess is a charming installment in the Villain's Ever After series. It has all the qualities of a villain redemption arc with some extra magic that appears in unexpected ways. It isn't very similar to the "Swan Lake" story overall, but I didn't mind that because the story it does tell is so engaging. Plus, I loved the little nods to the origins of "Swan Lake" like the prince named Siegfried and the princess's love of ballet. Dietrich reminded me of Cedric from Sofia the First, who does bad things with his magic because he is misguided by a troubled past, but not because he is a bad person. If you are at all intrigued by the concept of A Villain's Ever After, this book is a must-read.


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