In a magical tale woven by master storyteller Rafe Martin, characters have "fallen out of legend" into a story of extraordinary beauty and philosophical depth. An evil queen, an enchantress, a winged warrior, a gray-eyed goose girl who's really a princess, a snow lion, giants, mechanical men and a sarcastic talking horse mix it up in a fairy tale adventure as inventive and soaring as Harry Potter and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. The whole novel is a riff on "The Six Swans" by the Brothers Grimm. A king, lost in the woods, makes a deal with a mysterious old woman, who will help him find his way if he will marry her daughter. The king goes through with the marriage, but, not quite trusting his new bride, he hides his daughter and six sons in a lonely castle. The evil queen finds them and throws six shirts onto them, transforming them into swans that fly away. The daughter, escaping the queen's attention, vows to save her brothers. She must not speak, laugh or cry for six years and must weave shirts from starwort and nettle to throw upon them when they return. This she does, but she hasn't finished the sleeve on the sixth shirt, and when it is tossed upon the back of the youngest brother, his arm remains a swan's wing, while he returns to human form. The wing makes Ardwin an outcast and, with his father's kingdom in danger from evil king Ulfius, he sets out to save the land and himself. The fairy tale becomes a quest, and Ardwin must make a wrenching decision: to return to being an ordinary human or to be special. Is his wing a curse or a gift? Will his wing consign him to the fate of wandering the world, forever an outcast? And to love the gray-eyed goose girl, must he be completely human? Martin has made a fairy-tale world completely believable, and readers, along with Ardwin, will ponder deep questions of what it means to be human, whether differences are curses or gifts, and how to make one's life a worthy story. Dean Schneider teaches middle school English in Nashville.

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