From the back Cover of A Company of Swans,
“For nineteen-year-old Harriet Morton, life in 1912 Cambridge is as dry and dull as a biscuit. Her stuffy academic father and her oppressive aunt Louisa allow her only one outlet: ballet. There, in Madame Lavarre’s famed school, Harriet is finally able to come to life for a few hours each week. When a Russian ballet master comes to class searching got dancers to fill the corps of his ballet company before their South American tour, Harriet’s world changes. He chooses her to be the “eighteenth swan.” Defying her father’s wishes to marry her, Harriet sneaks off to join the Russian ballet on their journey to the Amazon. There, in the wild, lush jungle, they perform Swan Lake in grand golden opera houses for the wealthy and culture-deprived rubber barons, and Harriet meets Rom Verney, the handsome and mysterious British Exile who owns the most ornate opera house. Utterly enchanted by both the exotic surroundings and by Rom’s affections, Harriet is swept away by her new life, completely unaware that her father and her would-be fiancé have begun to track her down…”
Hello again, this would be the INFAMOUS romance novel. Or maybe not so infamous. Anyways, I must say that reading this book was like eating mildly sweet candy, and then every now and then finding there’s a TACK in the candy. Some characters were great, (Henry, Simonova, *sniggers* Edward) and the plot itself wasn’t bad. It was tense at the right moments, had the proper ANGST of love, and so on, however…
IT WAS INFURIATING. I mean, in my area of experience, there are two kinds of romance plots.
Character driven and plot driven. Just like books, if any of you know that. In romance, I can enjoy it when it’s the outside forces causing the character to move through. But in character driven forces, such as this book, it makes the main character (who, for the most part, was rather sensible) act like an idiot to further the plot.
The Oh, he couldn’t possibly love me, and the Oh, she couldn’t want to stay with me if it ruined her dancing career got really old, really fast. Even the main character thought Romeo and Juliet was silly because Romeo didn’t bother to check if Juliet was still alive, and both of them did the same thing. They jumped to outrageous conclusions and thus amped up the tragic meter as well as the stupid meter.
And it’s not that I HATE romance. On the contrary, I love it when it doesn’t make the characters idiots. Example, the Princess Bride. FULL of romance. But none of the characters were stupid about it.
Anyways, I’m veering off topic.
More things I was pleased with were the correct usage of ballet terms, and ballets themselves. I myself am very fond of ballet, and was happy to understand every reference to it.
I also very much liked the descriptions of the Stavely estate, the Amazon and of Brazil itself. They did not overpower, yet were rich and gave a perfect image of what was to be seen.
Oh yes, and the ending was rather epic. I was pleasantly surprised to see so much action in the end, and the epilogue made me giggle. You’ll see why when you read it.
Narrative Pace: It’s much like a dance. Quick, quick, slow. Quick, quick, and then slow. In the times that required character interaction, (aka time for the characters to actually fall in love with each other) it was slow, and as necessary events took place, quickened to match the mood.
Writing Style: I have reviewed one of Eva Ibbotson’s books before, and I found that in either Young Adult or Independent reader, her writing style is quite the same. Although in this book, her euphemisms were a little hard to get straightaway. Things were to be inferred quite carefully.
Beginning: Depicts in a rather lengthy manner the dreary life poor Harriet lives in, and sets up the premise for her trip.
Ending: A suitably good ending, without the use of any childish duex e machinas.
There! I’m done! Now I can’t say I’ve never read a romance novel. BUT NEVER AGAIN. For all of you romance addicts, this is just what the doctor ordered. For those who enjoy a taste of romance with a big helping of action, find something else. Might I recommend the Princess Bride?
Till the Next Review,