The Legend of the Swan Children (Island Fiction) by Maureen Marks-Mendonca
|The Legend of the Swan Children (Island Fiction) by Maureen Marks-Mendonca|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Zoe Morris|
|Summary: Probably one to borrow rather than to buy but an enjoyable one-time read for the older confident reader. The settings are authentic, but the story rather muddled.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 191||Date: October 2008|
|Publisher: Macmillan Caribbean|
|External links: Author's website|
Ten year old Alex Springfeather lives with his mother, Tia Lucia, in the Caribbean. When his landlady, Senora Lagrima, is found dead in peculiar circumstances, his mother senses danger and quickly bundles them off on the next bus out of town. But, before she can formulate a plan that will keep them out of harm's way, she too disappears, leaving Alex alone to fend for himself, helped only by the beloved silver panman he inherited from his father before his death. Alex is determined to find his mother before she is hurt by her kidnappers, people he also believes were involved in Senora Lagrima's death, but when his investigations shed no light on the situation, and with no money or resources of his own to help him, things become difficult.
The thing that attracted me to this book was the Caribbean setting, and this is referred to throughout the book as Alex's journey takes him through small, ramshackle villages to the rainforests to a magical island where time stands still. The book also features a smattering of Spanish and indigenous languages, to give it a local flavour, and remind the reader that the whole thing is taking place literally in a land far, far, away. I think the book manages all of this in a reasonably authentic way – currently living in this region, nothing jumped out of me as wildly out of place as I read, and it all seemed quite believable. It helps that the author was born in South America, and has lived in this area for a while, thus having insider knowledge that really adds to the book.
This is a rather muddling story, as various new threads or leads emerge as the pages go by, along with a few too many twists, turns and double-crossings. It combines fantasy and science-fiction with the traditions and folklore of the Caribbean, which is an unusual blend but works to a certain extent. The basic story is about making decisions: do you save someone close to you, or save the world? Can the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one? and so on, typically set against a ticking clock making it a race against time too. Like all the stories in the Island Fiction series, the hero is a child making adult decisions, and while you sometimes forget just how young Alex is supposed to be, you never confuse him for a fully fledged grown-up.
Throughout everything, Alex remains remarkably upbeat. Remember, by this point his father has died, and his mother disappeared. He has lost his home, he has no money, his new best friend has disturbing criminal tendencies, and he gets the distinct impression that his own life is in danger, something not even his special powers can help him avoid. The book lacks subtlety when it comes to its moral messages (good vs. evil, stealing = bad) and even with the rather heavy karma focus of what goes around comes around. Nothing it preaches is anything most parents would object to, but at the same time it definitely does preach, which some older teens might find annoying.
This is not a book I think anyone would want to read twice, and therefore it wouldn't be my top choice of a gift for a young niece or nephew, but I would have no objections to them borrowing it from the library. And if they did, and liked it a lot, they can continue the fun at the official tie-in Swan Island website.
Our thanks go to the publishers for sending this book to The Bookbag.
If this book appeals then we can recommend Delroy in the Marog Kingdom.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Legend of the Swan Children (Island Fiction) by Maureen Marks-Mendonca at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Legend of the Swan Children (Island Fiction) by Maureen Marks-Mendonca at Amazon.com.
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