Goodreads: Swan Lake: Quest for the Kingdoms
Age Category: Middle Grade
Odette and Dillie are the princesses of two kingdoms that have been on the brink of war for years. Then, the two have a chance encounter, and realize that the other nation and their people might not be so bad, after all. Soon, Odette and Dillie are off on an adventure to lift the curse that has Odette turning into a talking swan during the day. They will encounter many perils on their journey, but the greatest test will come at the end. Because both princesses have a wish–but only one can come true.
Swan Lake: Quest for the Kingdoms reimagines the ballet of Swan Lake with two feuding princesses who bridge their differences and come to value each other for who they are. Odette is the princess of Bloom, but her parents keep her alone and trapped in her tower, so no one can learn that she is cursed to be a swan during the day. Dillie is the princess of Rotbart, upset that her mother wants her to sit in a throne room all day instead of having adventures. Though tensions right high between their countries, the princesses bond over their parents who just do not seem to understand them. And this is the start of a fun retold tale sure to charm audiences not only with its fast paced action and colorful illustrations, but also with its determination to overturn stereotypical gender roles.
The beauty of Swan Lake: Quest for the Kingdoms is the way in which it presents differences not as something to be tolerated, but as something to be celebrated. The kingdom of Bloom is full of cute butterflies and plenty of color, and Princess Odette is a more feminine character who wears pink dresses and wishes she could be a ballerina. The kingdom of Rotbart, meanwhile, is a grey and dismal place where the people dislike and even fear cute things like butterflies and kittens. Dillie is a princess who prefers swordfights to sitting on a throne. But the book makes it clear that no way is better than the other way. It is okay to like cute things and to like ballet. It is also okay not to like cute things and to like adventures and quests. Additionally, they meet a prince who eschews the toxic masculinity that says only a killer of beasts is worthy to rule the throne, and who proves that bravery goes beyond hunting wildlife. The entire book shouts the message that individuals do not need to adhere to stereotypical gender roles to be valued.
Readers will fall in love with more than the characters, however. The action is fast paced with a hint of old-fashioned fairy tale magic, as the three protagonists must pass three tests in order to complete their quest. And the images are fun and vibrant– just the thing to appeal to tween audiences. The worldbuilding relies mostly on contrasting the colors of Bloom with the greys of Rotbart, but readers still glimpse enough magic to make the world seem wonderful. Altogether, this is a book that begs for a sequel!
With so many middle grade comics flooding the market, sometimes it feels harder to find that sparkling gem among the rest. Swan Lake: Quest for the Kingdoms, however, captures that magic I love, from its colorful illustrations to its action-packed quest.