I read and reviewed Zoe Marriott's Shadows on the Moon earlier this year (my review) and decided to track down some of her other novels. I started with The Swan Kingdom, a retelling of "The Wild Swans", because I like fairy tale retellings.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
When Alexandra’s mother
is slain by an unnatural beast, shadows fall on the once-lush kingdom.
Too soon the widowed king is entranced by a cunning stranger — and in
one chilling moment Alexandra’s beloved brothers disappear, and she is
banished to a barren land. Rich in visual detail, sparked by a
formidable evil, and sweetened with familial and romantic love, here is
the tale of a girl who discovers powerful healing gifts — and the
courage to use them to save her ailing kingdom.
The story is basically a longer version of the original giving a more detailed accounting between the time the brothers are turned to swans and Alexandra sets them free. Marriott does end her own little spin on the end to how this happens and that is tied up in the magic Alexandra possesses herself. This was an interesting addition but felt a bit rushed in its conclusion. The language is lyrical and the descriptions vivid. The characters were a little flat and typical for a story like this. The handsome prince is all goodness and light. Alexandra is under appreciated. Basic fairy tale stuff, but it is told well.
Fans of Juliet Marillier's Daughter of the Forest might find this to be too simple in comparison. The Swan Kingdom would work well even with a much younger audience. Middle schoolers who like this sort of book would feel right at home in its pages.