Gwen & Kate's Library

Two sisters' reviews of Young Adult and Middle Grade books, inspired by their lovely library.

Gwen’s Reflection on A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson

This book was loaned to me by a dear friend, in exchange for Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith.  If it wasn’t for her, I would not have gotten past the first twenty pages.


Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, Ballet

Rating: 3


For nineteen-year-old Harriet Morton, life in 1912 Cambridge is as dry and dull as a biscuit. Her stuffy father and her opressive aunt Louisa allow her only one outlet: ballet. When a Russian ballet master comes to class searching for dancers to fill the corps of his ballet company before their South American tour, Harriet’s world changes. Defying her father’s wishes and narrowly escaping the clutches of the man who wishes to marry her, Harriet sneaks off to join the ballet on their journey to the Amazon. There, in the wild, lush jungle, they perform Swan Lake in grand opera houses for the wealthy and culture-deprived rubber barons, and Harriet meets Rom Verney, the handsome and mysterious British exile who owns the most ornate opera house. Utterly enchanted by both the exotic surroundings and by Rom’s affections, Harriet is swept away by her new life, completely unaware that her father and would-be fiancé have begun to track her down…



This book was loaned to me by a dear friend, in exchange for Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith.  If it wasn’t for her, I would not have gotten past the first twenty pages.

The writing style of this book was very unique, but not really my favorite. The first few pages were crammed with allusions (references the author assumes the reader knows about), metaphors, unusual words and extremely long sentences. For example, a sentence on one of the first few pages reads, “though presumably acquainted with bright-eyed Nausicaa laughing with her maidens on the Aegean shore, with marvelous Sappho and her “love-loosened limbs”–and indeed with all those gallant girls who had welcomed Jupiter into the guise of Swan or Bull or Shower of Gold–the Merlin Professor of Classical Studies was a dry and narrow-minded pedant.”

I also had a few major problems with the story and the plot. I had a really hard time liking Rom, Harriet’s romantic interest, because he was twice her age and had already had many other love affairs, and seemed to not take love as seriously as I would expect from the “hero.” In addition, Harriet was not a very strong female main character. She did have the ability to make some major decisions on her own, but (minor spoiler) later her frail body had to be safely swept away by a handsome, daring man. The ending also felt very crammed, especially compared to the rest of the book.

There were parts however, where I couldn’t put the book down. I really enjoyed the ballet scenes, although ballet played a small part in the story compared to the themes of romance and historical fiction. There were some funny parts as well, and I really liked the humor that Edward Finch-Dutton, a zoologist and Harriet’s would-be fiancé, brought to the book.

Although this book was not for me, I could see why my friend recommended it, and I might someday try another book by this author. For lovers of books about ballet, I would also recommend Bunheads by Sophie Flack, On Pointe by Lorie Ann Grover, and To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel and Mark Siegel.


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This entry was posted on December 9, 2013 by in Author: Gwen, Book List, Review, Young Adult and tagged , .
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