***Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review***
I’m going to make this clear from the beginning. This is not a fantasy book. It is a surrealistic story at best and a jumbled mess at worst. I say this as someone who remained hopeful until the bitter end. Despite the characters just being down right horrible and the “fantasy” elements coming so late in the book that I completely forgot that was supposed to be a thing, I somehow managed to continue with a small shred of hope that I would get the answers I was so desperately seeking from this book. However, The Year the Swans Came by Barbara Spencer left me feeling upset and unfulfilled.
Our MC is Maidy, but you may as well call her Mary Sue. She comes from a line of mirror makers which is pushed at a lot in this book but proves to be non-essential. Her best friend is her next door neighbor Ruth who makes Regina George from Mean Girls look like a saint. They both are sixteen (though Ruth is slightly the older) and attend a college that is in a town next to the one they live in.
Maidy wants to be a writer and it is briefly mentioned that she has this favorite bridge, but that all gets jumbled in with the more important fact that Ruth is a floozy and hits on any human that looks male. This inherently isn’t an issue until you start watching on as she fucks with the heads and hearts of these guys. We are led to believe that Ruth may not have always been this way because way back when, she was in love and basically betrothed to Maidy’s older brother Pieter.
Now Pieter disappeared six years ago with no explanation and was basically assumed dead by – everyone. He then pops up randomly along with four other staggeringly handsome men who attend the college. The immediate issue is clear in that Ruth is an awful person and is stringing along the new boys at college while trying to rekindle her old spark with Pieter. Maidy is upset by all of it (as she should be!), but instead of standing up to her slut friend or even explaining what is happening to her brother (whom she claims to love more than anything) she lets this play out to the absolute worst conclusion.
GOOD POINT: I can’t deny that Spencer knows how to describe a scene. I fell in love with the scenery of the world she was creating, but a beautifully crafted scene cant disguise awful characters. I weep for the story this could have been.
There are some heavy handed religious views that sit under the surface of this story. Such as the idea that women should stay in the home, be pious, and only wear dresses or skirts…you know…like a lady. Ugh!
GOOD POINT: This isn’t so much a good point as it is more something I found frustratingly interesting. So Ruth who has money and arguably drop dead gorgeous looks; she can essentially get away with anything like wanting to travel, wear pants, and more importantly sleep around, but is considered this perfect lady. On the other hand we have Maidy who is actually devote to her family and their way of life, has her head on straight (for the most part), but simply wants to walk her own path. Of the two of them it is presumed that Maidy is the sinner and would be the one to fall pregnant. WTF?
I groaned a lot while reading this book, meaning I wasn’t happy reading it. I would have not finished it had I not promised to right this review. I feel like Spencer saw a production of Swan Lake and decided that she could throw her own twist on the story. Honestly, had she just focused on the swan/”fantasy” part of the story it probably would have come out better. As it was, it was too little way to late to redeem anything, especially the characters.
I’ve read in other reviews that this is supposedly the first book in a series. I don’t think I have the fortitude to try and finish a series involving these characters. Unless I am promised that Ruth gets what is coming to her in the most awful way imaginable, I’m not interested.
BAD POINT: Swan Man.
2.5 Out of 5 Stars
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