Review: Black Swan Rising

Posted: June 13, 2011 by in Books that are Mediocre (3/5 single_star) Meta: Lee Carroll, Urban Fantasy, Books for Chicks

Garet James is different, but she doesn’t know it. She leads a pretty normal life for a mid-twenties New Yorker: runs her elderly father’s gallery, has made a decent business for herself from making jewelry, hangs out with her friends.

Until she finds out that the debts on her father’s gallery are suddenly due and she doesn’t know how they’ll ever repay them in the current economic crisis. On the way home from the lawyer’s, she wanders into an antiques shop to ask for directions, and the mysterious owner asks her to help him open a sealed silver box using her talents. How could she refuse his generous monetary compensation?

But the box turns out to be important, a sort of gate to the supernatural, and when Garet opens it, demons are released to wreak havoc on New York.

Garet learns she’s descended from a long line of women ‘watchtowers’–those who stand as guardians on the border between humans and magic. And it will be up to her to stop John Dee from using the magic box and destroying New York and eventually the world.

As a result, Garet must learn the elemental magic from the Fae around the city: Ariel and wind, Melusine and water, Noam Eardmann and earth, Ddraik and fire. Her guide is Oberon. Do any of these names ring a bell? There’s an assortment of supernatural creatures: fairies, gnomes, and of course a vampire love interest.

Garet has a lot to learn before she’ll be ready to face John Dee. As a result Garet spends a lot of her time traipsing through New York and learning magic–so much time is spent on it, in fact, that there’s little time for deeper characterization and explaining the magic. Garet spends half of the novel learning about the different elemental magics, so my logical conclusion was that this knowledge would be used in the climax. It wasn’t. The over-saturation of magic throughout the book all dissipates during the last chapter, after the climax, as though it’s not important anymore. Almost as though there weren’t consequences to the demons unleashed, or her learning powerful magic, that it has no room in her mundane life. Which was rather a let-down.

In BLACK SWAN RISING, Garet learns about her magical heritage, how it's now her responsbility to keep demons from destroying the world.

Garet, as the main PoV character could have been better developed. I did like that she wasn’t a kick butt brassy typical urban fantasy heroine, but having spent the whole novel building up for her confrontation with John Dee and have it fall so flat means that she doesn’t really progress as a character. A problem I had with her was she would make random decisions, without really thinking about it, mostly for the sake of the plot’s tension for her to have trouble to get out of. The other secondary characters, while interesting and important to Garet, were also shallowly drawn. The ‘romance’ between Garet and rich vampire Will Hughes, while starting out fine, progressed awkwardly and their interactions were disappointingly emotionless. By the end of the novel, there was left a big enough hole in their relationship to leave room for sequels.

The prose and plot are very straightforward; and while the pace is pretty consistent, the flow lurches in places making it hard to follow as Garet travels from place to place, mostly because she moves around a lot through New York. However, I did enjoy the glimpse at New York, without making me feel like an idiot for never having been there. I was able to follow Garet’s movement through the city easily enough.

I read BLACK SWAN RISING (Amazon) pretty fast. It was fun, Lee Carroll obviously spent time researching in order to add the supernatural elements to the book, which made it fun to point out and look up later. But it’s similar in depth to other urban fantasy books, and may even be a fresh departure from the other uber-powerful heroines out there.

  • Recommended Age: 16+, this will appeal to older YA readers, as well
  • Language: Infrequent, and not very strong at that
  • Violence: Some peril and blood, but nothing intense or graphic
  • Sex: A brief scene

Lee Carrol is the pseudonym for the collaboration between mystery novelist Carol Goodman and her poet husband Lee Slonimsky.


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