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TALES OF THE BIG BAD WOLF - QUEEN OF SWANS

Classic High Fantasy

By Fiona Gregory, editor

Sep 15, 2013: This is classic high fantasy, in the tradition of early 20th Century classics like Tolkien and Lord Dunsany’s "The King of Elfland’s Daughter". Like them, the author selects certain characters and ideas from traditional fairy tales or myths, and like a musical composer, uses them as a starting point to riff off, expand, and embellish into her own version of a mythical world. The intent is not to spoof or invert the themes, but to explore and expand them, and perhaps, eventually return to them from a completely different place. The relationship with traditional fairy tales is quite oblique; don’t expect "Queen of Swans" or its prequel, "Red Riding Hood" to be retellings of stories you recognize, any more than "The Lord of the Rings" is a retelling of the Germanic myths that also inspired "The Ring of the Nibelungs".

The tone is stately, cool and unhurried, elegant and yet straightforward. Selected background details are dropped into the telling, never in great blocks of exposition but as titbits of context that deepen the sense of wonder. Magic is everpresent in a visceral way, often below but never far from the surface, as is an uneasiness, a sense of threat. While the cool, somewhat formal style adds to the classic high fantasy atmosphere, it can come across as stilted, and the pace of the story demands some patience. It will be interesting to see what role the mysterious Queen of Swans, who seems to be a distant derivative of Fionuala from the Irish myth The Children of Lir, will play against the ominous Unthings and perhaps, an unending winter.

Queen of Swans offers an immersion in an dreamlike magical world that is refreshingly free of Dungeons and Dragons cliches. Beautiful paintings, sketches, spin-off short stories, and a map of the world enhance the well designed website.

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