After the death of her father, Aderyn becomes proctor of the dominion of Atratys and one step nearer to inheriting the kingdom ruled by her uncle, a despot. The ruling nobility have the power to shapeshift into birds – each according to their family group. Aderyn is a swan but has not been able to transform since the death of her mother when they were both attacked by hawks.
The trauma has physically and mentally scarred her but she must hide her disability otherwise she will be exiled from the kingdom. There are strict rules and penalties for those who can fly and those who can’t. Up until now Aderyn has been kept safe in her father’s castle but she realises the only way she can find the answers to her mother’s death is to go court to the Silver Citadel to meet her uncle and cousins despite the terrible danger this puts her in. She is unprepared and naive but with determination, her trusty servant and childhood friend Letya by her side, plus the help of Lancelin, the somewhat cynical and patronising son of her father’s steward she sets off on her quest. Once there she begins to uncover a web of treachery, intrigue and deceit and realises she can trust no-one. Yet as she becomes closer to Lancelin she finds she is beginning to have feelings for him.
Loosely based on the Swan Lake story this first-person narrative does everything a good high fantasy novel should do. There is a flawed but fascinating heroine, an unfulfilled romance and a fight to regain a kingdom ruled over by an evil king. It is a highly visual story rich in detail with twists and turns aplenty and some excellent lines in witty dialogue. All the familiar tropes are there which at times makes the story just a little predictable but fantasy fans will love this and will be eager for the sequel.