A Warning About Swans

Peachtree Teen. Jul. 2023. 384p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781682634837.
Gr 9 Up–At 16, Hilde (the youngest of Odin’s “wish-maidens”) leaves behind the safety and sisterhood of the “vast green wood” for the “great graying world.” She meets Richter, a handsome and ambitious 18-year-old baron. A deal is struck: Richter teaches Hilde to be human; she brings his sapphire-dreams to life. As the pair journeys from Bavaria to Munich in this work set in 1880, Hilde worries that she may never belong—that is, until she meets Franz, a Jewish, nonbinary teen whose skillful portraiture reveals Hilde’s true form. Richter’s jealousy becomes yet another cage. Will Hilde ever truly be free? Romero blends elements of Swan Lake with German history and Norse mythology to weave a wholly original queer fairy tale. The beautifully descriptive free verse is as luxurious as Richter’s jewels, though the pace may be slow for some readers.
VERDICT A queer, feminist spin on familiar fairy-tale elements. Highly recommended.

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