It is occasionally difficult to define why you don’t like a book. It might be otherwise well written and the story might be interesting, but there is something about the book–something in the narration or characterization maybe–that feels a little off. This was largely my reaction to Black Swan Rising. It was a difficult book to start, a difficult book to continue, and I didn’t much care for the ending which is of the “everything goes back to normal wrap-up” variety.
We start with our non-genre-savvy heroine, Garet James, who wanders into one of those stores that turn up and then disappear. She is in a very bad financial situation due to some bad business deals made by her art-gallery-owning father. She is a jewelry designer and has certain tools that would be useful for opening a sealed box that the owner of the little shop would like to have opened and he is willing to pay her good money for doing it.
The box has an emblem on it that is identical to a ring that had been owned by her mother and it turns out that Garet is the latest in a long line of sorceresses who must save the world on a regular basis.(Apparently, her mother never told her this very important information because she wanted her daughter to be able to live her own life.) Garet manages to open the box–then the box is stolen by mysterious thieves who have apparently shot her father. This leads into Garet and her father being suspected of arranging to have the gallery burglarized in order to collect the insurance money.
Meanwhile, Garet is getting involved with vampires and faeries and learning to use magic. She’s drawn along from one situation to the next and throughout, learns about her mother and being a sorceress while she tries to solve the case and prove that her father hadn’t arranged the burglary. There is also John Dee, pint-sized manticores and a fairy named Lol who is apparently responsible for the acronym.
It was as if someone took a bunch of the standard storylines from various urban fantasies, rolled them up with Shakespeare and the Melusine legend, and then tried to write magical realism. I ended up reading this in fits and stutters because I found one thing or another frustrating or annoying. There were a few interesting moments, such as Garet’s encounter with a couple of dragons but otherwise, the book felt very flat and uninteresting to me. I didn’t like any of the characters and I didn’t hate any of the characters, not even the ones the narrative wanted me to like or hate. Which makes this book a very frustrating book to read, because my dislike is more aesthetic than any other reason, aside from a few incidents that didn’t make sense to me (would someone raised in the US, even if British, see a blurry word ending in “mist” as “chemist?”) it is a very well written book, I just don’t like it.