cover image Swanfolk


Kristín Ómarsdóttir, trans. from the Icelandic by Vala Thorodds. HarperVia, $

Ómarsdóttir (Children in Reindeer Woods) returns with an offbeat and uneven tale of secret committees and hybrid creatures. Narrator Elísabet Eva is a special agent for an unnamed country’s Ministry of the Interior. After she is attacked while on a mission in Paris, she’s assigned to report on the local stand-up comedy scene, and while visiting a park, she meets a handful of half-human, half-swan animals who periodically whisk her into their world. The “swanfolk,” as Elísabet calls them, are sometimes friendly, sometimes violent, and they long to live alongside humans. One day, a parcel arrives at the Ministry containing a swanfolk’s unhatched egg, which prompts Elísabet to report the swanfolk’s existence to her office. An investigation is launched, but no traces of the swanfolk are found, and despite the egg, Elísabet wonders if she imagined everything. Throughout, Ómarsdóttir hints at Elísabet’s unreliability, from the character conjuring an imaginary sister and pet dog to an occasional use of third-person narration. And while the author cleverly employs the swanfolk to explore Elísabet’s mental state, the story basically amounts to a series of odd details. The whole doesn’t quite live up to its parts. Agent: Anna Stein, ICM Partners. (July)