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Black Swan Rising by Lee Carroll

August 4, 2011

New York jeweller Garet James has her fair share of problems: money, an elderly father, a struggling business. One day she comes across an antiques shop she’d never noticed before. The owner possesses an old silver box that’s been sealed shut. Would she help an old man and open it, perhaps? She does…and that night strange things begin to happen. It’s as if her world – our world – has shifted slightly, revealing another, parallel place that co-exists without our knowledge: the world of the Fey…

Garet learns that one of her ancestors was ‘the Watchtower’: an immortal chosen to stand guard over the human and the fey worlds – a role that she has, it seems, inherited from her mother. But the equilibrium between these two existences is under threat. The 16th-century magician and necromancer Dr John Dee has returned, the box has been opened and the demons of Despair and Discord released. In a race against time and impending apocalypse, it is Garet who must find Dee…and close the box.


Black Swan Rising is the first book in a new urban fantasy trilogy, with the second book The Watchtower being released this month. Lee Carroll, the author, is actually a pseudonym for husband and wife Carol Goodman (a novelist) and Lee Slonimsky (a poet). I often wonder how exactly it works when a number of authors collaborate together on a book, but it’s easy to see how well it obviously works for Carol and Lee, as Black Swan Rising is one of the best urban fantasy novels I’ve read for quite some time.

There are a whole host of fantastical creatures in this novel, including fairies, sylphs, vampires, dragons and a rather evil alchemist called John Dee, who in real life was in fact a consultant to Queen Elizabeth I, (and who even shares my birthday as I just discovered!). We are discovering this whole other world just as Garet herself is, after she is tricked into opening a beautiful silver box that has unleashed demons into the world at the hands of the infamous John Dee. This leads Garet to find out that her mother belonged to a long line of ancestors who were known as ‘watchtowers’ and chosen to guard the line between the fey and human worlds.

What really makes this story so special is the richness of the writing and plot, and all the historical elements that come into play. There are a lot of historical details regarding John Dee the famous alchemist, Garet’s own family who moved toNew Yorkafter the War, the history of Garet’s ancestors, the small details about famous artists and paintings, and not forgetting the inclusion of some rather important characters such as Shakespeare himself!

Garet herself is very likeable, as she struggles with an ailing father and a whole load of money problems. She’s in her mid-twenties, an age that means she’s had enough life experiences to make her that little bit more interesting, and now she has to deal with the mundane stuff just like the rest of us. The only thing I didn’t like so much in the book were her friends Becky and Jay who have their own rock band which is slowly becoming more and more famous. The scenes that involved any talk of the band just seemed like the kind of thing that would be put in a YA novel rather than an adult fantasy book. It was a little cheesy and not up to the standards of the rest of the novel.

There are two men that begin to play a big role in Garet’s life, the more she learns about the world of the fey. Oberon, a nurse at the local hospital who is tending to Garet’s father, slowly reveals himself to be one of the fey – in fact the King of the Fey. Then there is Will Hughes, a vampire who has lived for centuries, who has been in love with Garet’s ancestor, and who is slowly capturing Garet’s own heart. However, both men are in dire need of the box, and no matter how much they profess to care for Garet, and how innocent they may seem, there is always the doubt that they are using her just to get the box.

This isn’t your typical fantasy book – it’s not a long, relentless journey where we only meet one or two fantastical creatures. This novel has so many elements and so many different characters that there is a constant fast pace, and always something to make you want to read on. I feel like this is a book I’ve been waiting a long time for, and I’m so glad I read it. The characters of Oberon and Will Hughes are very intriguing and I can’t wait to see how they develop in the next book, which I will most definitely be buying!  Black Swan Rising ends on a really good note, leaving you wanting more and wondering where it’s going to go next. If you love urban fantasy that’s just a little bit different from your average read, then you should definitely give this a go! I couldn’t recommend it more.

Black Swan Rising is out now, published by Bantam, and the second book in the trilogy, The Watchtower is out today! If you want to check out more of Carol Goodman’s own novels, she also has a new one out released last month called Incubus.


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