cover image A Warning About Swans

A Warning About Swans

R.M. Romero. Peachtree Teen, $18.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-68263-483-7

At age nine, each of the god Odin’s six daughters, whom he dreamed into existence, receives a cloak of starlight that allows them to shape-shift into swans and also bestows them with a magical gift. Hilde, the youngest, receives the ability to “coax souls from bodies,” after which she comforts and guides them into the afterlife. But her power soon becomes a burden she longs to escape, yearning to leave her forest home and live as a human. Hilde is 16 when handsome, debt-ridden Baron Maximillian von Richter invites her to his crumbling castle, and then to the Munich royal court, where she passes as human. When Jewish nonbinary artist Franz Mendelsohn, whose portraits reveal their subjects’ true spirits, paints Hilde with swan wings, though, she fears they know her secret. Still, the two grow close as Richter’s dark motives begin to emerge. Narrated by Hilde in poetic verse by Romero (The Ghosts of Rose Hill), the story smoothly melds contemporary understandings of gender equality, exploration, and representation with fairy tale–like ambiance and language, making for a gratifying read. Ages 14–up. Agent: Rena Rossner, Deborah Harris Agency. (July)