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The Flight of Swans

The Flight of Swans
Sarah McGuire By (author)
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Lerner Publishing Group

Limited ***

8.3 X 5.5 in
448 pg

JUVENILE FICTION / Fairy Tales & Folklore / Adaptations
JUVENILE FICTION / Family / Siblings
JUVENILE FICTION / Fantasy & Magic


Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children — 2019 — Winner
New York Public Library Best Books for Kids — 2018 — Winner


Based on the Brothers Grimm's fairy tale Six Swans, The Flight of Swans follows Ryn's journey to save her family and their kingdom.

Princess Andaryn's six older brothers have always been her protectors—until her father takes a new Queen, a frightening, mysterious woman who enchants the men in the royal family. When Ryn's attempt to break the enchantment fails, she makes a bargain: the Queen will spare her brothers' lives if Ryn remains silent for six years.

Ryn thinks she freed her brothers, but she never thought the Queen would turn her brothers into swans. And she never thought she'd have to undo the Queen's spell alone, without speaking.


"Twelve-year-old Princess Andaryn will do anything to save her father, her six older brothers, and her kingdom from her father's new 'witch-wife,' even if it means her silence. Her father hasn't been the same since he was lost in the forest and then rescued by the imperious woman he then married. Once kind and attentive, he is now distracted; once gentle and just, he now permits brutal, capricious punishments. When the queen threatens to kill her brothers, Ryn bargains for their lives. She agrees to remain silent for six years while her brothers are changed into swans. Rather than stay at the castle to be tormented, Ryn flees, fakes her own death, and disappears into the countryside. There, she seeks the help of the queen's mentor, a strange, addled old woman living in the midst of a nettle bush. She learns that the only way to break the spell is to fashion tunics made of nettles for each of her brothers. Relentlessly pursued by Otherworldly creatures drawn from the Great Hunt, Ryn is forced to stay on the move. She is soon joined by a hen, her sister-in-law, and later by her baby nephew, but it is not until she meets a ruler from another land that she begins to turn her eyes toward home again. Ryn is depicted as white on the cover; diversity in this Europe-esque fantasy land is limited to magical creatures. This imaginative retelling of a familiar Brothers Grimm story is filled with magic, romance, and peril, but where it shines is in the quiet moments. Ryn's strength, love, and sacrifice make her heroic, but her fear, fatigue, and insecurity make her human. An imaginative retelling with an unforgettable heroine."—Kirkus ReviewsJournal

"For fans of reworked fairy tales, McGuire takes on Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Wild Swans.' Princess Andaryn, aka Ryn, is the youngest in her family, which includes her widower father and her six older brothers. When her father remarries a beautiful witch who enchants him and the rest of the kingdom, they are all in jeopardy. A showdown with the witch puts Ryn's prince brothers into danger, so the princess strikes a bargain with her stepmother: to spare her brothers' lives, Ryn must remain silent for six years. During that time, her brothers will live as swans. Now Ryn must run away and try to discover how to thwart the evil queen before the six years are up—all without endangering the lives of her brothers. Darker than most contemporary reworkings of classic tales, McGuire hews closely to the source material and keeps it in the original time and place. It is refreshing to see the princess (and youngest sibling at that) save the princes. She is clever, courageous, and persistent, and she experiences much growth and maturity as the novel progresses. At first, the identities of the brothers seem confusing, but they are written distinctly enough that readers will be able to tell them apart as the story progresses. There is some violence and romance, yet nothing too intense, making it an acceptable choice for older elementary and middle school students, especially those interested in the world of Game of Thrones, but not mature enough to watch the show. VERDICT A finely crafted and compelling fairy-tale retelling. Hand to voracious fantasy readers and fans of Gail Carson Levine and Shannon Hale."—School Library JournalJournal

"In this retelling of the Grimms' tale 'The Six Swans,' princess Ryn is the only one of the king's seven children who isn't beguiled by her father's new wife. When they see how the queen treats Ryn, however, her older brothers begin to fight back, only to be turned into swans. The story of how Ryn escapes her stepmother and works in silence for six years making shirts out of nettles to break her brothers' enchantment is fleshed out with a fantasy framework that employs believable catalysts to unpack some of the fairy tale's more mystical plot points, bringing readers into close sympathy with the protagonist. The brothers return to human form at every full moon, giving them an active presence in the story's events, while the supernatural conditions of their imprisonment and the unearthly danger posed by their stepmother contrast with grounded descriptions of real-life textile creation from plant to cloth. Inventive twists on the original tale and a few last-minute reversals bring vitality to the well-known ending, and Ryn's sustained silence and use of sign language are entirely convincing."—The Horn Book MagazineJournal

"A girl does not speak for six years to save her brothers' lives in this riveting retelling of the Brothers Grimm's Six Swans. Princess Andaryn's idyllic life with her six older brothers comes to a disturbing end when a mind-controlling enchantress marries her father. When the enchantress turns her brothers into swans, Andaryn promises silence for six years in order to free them. Over those six years, Andaryn goes on the run to escape the enchantress-queen's army, sees her brothers in their human forms on full moons, and figures out how to defeat the enchantress. Even though Andaryn does not speak for most of the book, she is far from voiceless. Her discovery of how to fight back with seemingly useless weapons such as silence, spindles, and stinging nettles sends an empowering message. Andaryn's change from a protected princess to a resilient woman adds a poignant coming-of-age element to the story, and her relationships with her six brothers offer plenty of humor and depth. A captivating adventure about power, memory, and love."—BooklistJournal

"The Flight of Swans whisked me into a medieval world where magic seeps from forests and evil lurks in the most unexpected places. As a fanatic of all things Grimm, I loved how this story wove a fresh take on the classic tale of the Six Swans, showing the power that a determined and courageous girl can have. McGuire's spellbinding writing will embark you on a grand adventure through enchanted forests, far-away lakes, dark caves, and ruined fortresses. (Just be wary of nettles, and keep a stash of cloves close at hand.)"—Christina Farley, author of the Gilded series and The Princess and the Page
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"Taking one of the loveliest of the Grimm canon, tale #49, The Six Swans (one of my favorites), Sarah McGuire has grounded it with not just one strong young woman but three against a verago who could best Malificent at her evil games. McGuire has the right balance of heroics, poetics, and pratfalls. But it is the long center of the tale, where Ryn—sister to the swans—has to be silent for six long years else her brothers will die—that is simply a tour de force where in other, less sure hands, it would certainly have been a tour de farce. Brava performance!"—Jane Yolen

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Author Bio

Sarah McGuire is a nomadic math teacher who sailed around the world aboard a floating college campus. She writes fairy tale retellings and still hopes that one day she'll open a wardrobe and stumble into another world. Coffee and chocolate are her rocket fuel. She wishes Florida had mountains, but she lives there anyway with her husband (who wrote this bio in less than three minutes!) and their family.