A gender-bent Swan Lake retelling and sequel to Roses (2013).
Ode is born into the Taone tribe, whose society, though they inhabit a fantasy world, parallels multiple aspects of real Native American cultures. At his birth, the birther—always a woman—shocks everyone by announcing that Ode will be her apprentice. Such an upset in gender norms is too much for the chief (Ode’s father), the villagers, and eventually even his mother, Sunset By Forest, to accept. After his first public transformation into a swan, his ostracization is complete; only Cala, the birther who raises him, and his younger brother show him affection. That the Taone people are so uniformly and entirely unlikable makes for problematic cultural coding. When his tribesmen insist on fighting a people they don’t understand despite Ode’s dreams that warn of defeat, they’re nearly slaughtered. Through Ode’s intervention, they are integrated into the community of Magic refugees fleeing the Magical Cleansing. But Ode himself must flee into the wild, where he joins some missionaries, traveling with them across land and sea to their temple. Though the temple houses people from all over, the narrative falls into a tired and dubious trope: Ode falls for the petite, blue-eyed, blonde Briar, whose features are downright fetishized. The Magical Cleansing eventually reaches the temple, leading to a cliffhanger ending.
Here’s hoping the last installment isn’t such a quagmire of negative tropes and stereotypes. Disappointing. (Fantasy. 12-18)