On the rocky cliffs near their cottage in the Scottish Highlands, Rowenna witnesses her mother Mairead’s death at the hands of a gruesome sea creature. Afterward, she mourns not only the loss of her mother but also her only chance to learn how to master and control the magical craft they share. But the morning after Rowenna rescues a stranger named Gawen from a storm, Mairead miraculously returns, rosy-cheeked and claiming to have rejected her craft entirely.
Although her grasp of the craft is merely rudimentary, Rowenna can tell that whatever has come back from the sea is not her mother; it’s not even human. The monster steals Rowenna’s voice and curses her brothers and Gawen, transforming them into swans. To break the curse, Rowenna sets off for the city of Inverness, where she’s heard of a wise woman who might be able to help her before the monster’s curse becomes permanent and her whole village succumbs to its malevolence.
Laura E. Weymouth’s A Rush of Wings is an immersive retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Wild Swans.” Weymouth’s writing is rich with sensory details, lush descriptions and prose that often feels like poetry. She creates a beautiful world that straddles the line between the real and the unreal. Here, the sea teems with otherworldly creatures, the wind speaks to women, and magic seems truly possible. Although Weymouth’s story has plenty of high stakes and horrifying villains, she tells it in an unhurried, intimate way, balancing heart-pumping battles with hushed, hopeful conversations.
Rowenna is an unusual fairy-tale hero who is curious about the limits of her abilities yet hesitates to use their full potential when doing so would harm others. She recognizes that her lack of control makes her weak but also fears what could happen should she become more powerful. Some characters believe her to be naive, while others accuse her of deceit, but Rowenna recognizes the complicated, contradictory aspects of her own identity and longs to bring them into balance.
It’s easy to lose track of time while reading A Rush of Wings. It’s a mesmerizing story with wonderful ambiance that asks readers to question their preconceived notions of heroes and villains. Readers looking for something both fresh and familiar are sure to enjoy this powerful retelling.