Book Review : Dark Swan series

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This was the third (complete) Richelle Mead series I read in the past two months.  It was interesting and different from her other two series and I enjoyed it a lot, but not as much as the others.  Probably because the heroine in this story annoyed the hell out of me – but I’ll talk more about that later.

I was a little hesitant to pick this series up because after reading about vampires, demons and succubi, a book about fairies and shamans sounded a little too fluffy for me.  However, with just a few pages into the first book, I realized that this was obviously not the case.  The fairies in this stories (AKA “The Shining Ones” or “gentries”, as they liked to be called) were not the tiny Tinkerbell pixies I imagined them to be – they resembled humans except they have to ability to wield magic and can live up to centuries.  Most of them are pretty badass fighters too.  I enjoyed reading about the different gentry kingdoms and the interaction between the human world and the fairy world (AKA the Otherworld).

Unlike the other Richelle Mead series I read, this one is composed of 4 books instead of her usual 6:

  • Storm Born
  • Thorn Queen
  • Iron Crowned
  • Shadow Heir

Here’s a brief summary of the first book from the author’s website:

Eugenie Markham is a powerful shaman who does a brisk trade banishing spirits and fey who cross into the mortal world. Mercenary, yes, but a girl’s got to eat. Her most recent case, however, is enough to ruin her appetite. Hired to find a teenager who has been taken to the Otherworld, Eugenie comes face to face with a startling prophecy–one that uncovers dark secrets about her past and claims that Eugenie’s first-born will threaten the future of the world as she knows it.

Now Eugenie is a hot target for every ambitious demon and Otherworldy ne’er-do-well, and the ones who don’t want to knock her up want her dead. Eugenie handles a Glock as smoothly as she wields a wand, but she needs some formidable allies for a job like this. She finds them in Dorian, a seductive fairy king with a taste for bondage, and Kiyo, a gorgeous shape-shifter who redefines animal attraction. But with enemies growing bolder and time running out, Eugenie realizes that the greatest danger is yet to come, and it lies in the dark powers that are stirring to life within her…

Below are my thoughts on each book.  As usual they are FULL OF SPOILERS, so stop reading now if you’re thinking of reading the series:

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STORM BORN

In this first book the readers are introduced to the three worlds (the human world, Otherworld and Underworld) and the roles they play.  The main character, Eugenie is a powerful shaman who hunts down gentries who cross over to the human world.   Her job mostly requires her to stay in the human world, until she accepts a job where she is forced to go to the Otherworld to retrieve Jasmine, a fourteen year old girl who was taken by Aeson (the king who rules the Alder Land).  During her trip to the Otherworld she learns her true heritage as the Storm King’s daughter and hears about a prophecy which foretells that the Storm King’s first grandson would continue his quest to conquer the human world.  Naturally, this places her in danger – gentries all over are coming to either rape her with the hope of  fathering the powerful heir, or to kill her to prevent the prophecy from coming true.  Fortunately she meets Dorian, the Oak King, and he agrees to help her on her mission to retrieve Jasmine.  Aside from that, he teaches her how to control her magic and makes her see that gentries are not as evil as she was led to believe.

This book really drew me in.  I thought it was a great start for this series.  I never thought I’d be interested in fairies or shape shifters but I loved reading about all the magic and the gentry politics.  I enjoyed this book a lot but I must say that I wasn’t really a big fan of Eugenie from the start.  Sure she’s strong and stands for her beliefs, but she’s also whiny, selfish and a bit too slutty for my taste.

I did like the little love triangle in this book.  I liked seeing the contrasting personalities of the two dudes – Kiyo is rough and untamed and liked to be in on the action, while Dorian is more refined and charming.  (He’s also ambitious and conniving and managed to  trick Eugenie into claiming a kingdom that she didn’t want, but c’mon.  Is that such a bad thing?  He gave her a freaking kingdom and she gets angry at him for that?)  The two guys are interesting but if I were Eugenie I would have dropped Kiyo from the very beginning and just settled down with Dorian.  Kiyo was alluring at first and they had a lot to talk about, but after Dorian’s first appearance I was pretty much hooked on him.  I didn’t really like Kiyo after the first few chapters, there was just too much mystery about him.  And the fact that he has a child with the queen of Willow Land makes things even more complicated.  I was hoping things between him and Eugenie would end after he “died” during the battle at the Alder land, but Eugenie somehow managed to bring him back, tch.  I would have preferred it if she just left him in the Underworld and just stayed by Dorian’s side.

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THORN QUEEN

After becoming queen of Thorn Land, Eugenie travels back and forth the Otherworld and the human world to perform her royal duties.   She finds herself confused because she now has to protect and care for the same people she viewed as her enemies not so long ago.  Thankfully Dorian is there to assist her, whether she likes it or not.  He introduces her to Ysabel, a gentry-clone of Eugenie who he takes as his mistress after Eugenie cast him aside at the end of Storm Born.  Ysabel obviously doesn’t like Eugenie because she knows how much Dorian cares about her, but she is forced to teach her how to control her magic under Dorian’s orders.

As queen, Eugenie makes frequent visits to the villages in her kingdom and discovers that humans have been kidnapping gentry girls and bringing them back to the human world for some sort of sick sex trade.  She tries to rescue them but ends up getting captured herself by order of Leigh, the Prince of Rowan Land.  Like other gentries, he is ambitious and has plans to father the Storm King’s heir.  He imprisons and rapes her for a week (which is horrible and terrifying and I’m glad that Richelle Mead didn’t feel the need to explain what happens in detail) before she is rescued by Dorian, Kiyo and Roland (her shaman stepfather).  Her anger drives her to want to kill Leigh, but Kiyo stops her and tells her that her actions will only cause war between her kingdom and the Rowan Land.  However, Dorian feels the same as Eugenie and takes things into his own hands by running Leigh through with a sword.  As a result Katrice (the Rowan Queen) declares war on both their kingdom.

I liked Dorian in Storm Born, but I LOVED him in this book!  He’s a great king who obviously cares about his land and subjects.  He’s also witty, charming, smart and goes out of his way to help Eugenie.  Honestly, I don’t understand why she kept trying to make things work with Kiyo.  Sure she describes him as “hot”, but aside from the physical attraction, there was really nothing between them.  They talked and bonded for one night, but other than that I didn’t really see anything that would make her want to stay with him.  Dorian on the other hand knew her more than she knew herself, and he was always there for her during her hard times. And after she got raped, Dorian was the one who stepped up and dealt Leigh’s punishment.  While I appreciated Kiyo’s attempt at trying to avoid war, I still agreed with Dorian’s actions.  Call me crazy, but when he surprised everyone by stabbing Leigh despite Kiyo’s attempt to calm things down, I just wanted to hug him and ask him to be my own personal knight in shining armor.  I’m so happy that Eugenie finally realized what a great guy he was and dumped Kiyo for him.

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IRON CROWNED

As a result of Dorian killing Leigh in the previous book, the Rowan Queen has declared war on both the Oak and Thorn Lands.  Eugenie doesn’t like seeing her people die and suffer because of the war, so when she hears that everything can be resolved by obtaining the Iron Crown she tries to find out more about it.  Dorian tells her that it is an ancient crown which symbolizes power.  Gentries cannot touch iron and therefore cannot possess the crown, but Eugenie’s human blood will allow her to claim it.  Dorian encourages her to go on quest to find the crown and (surprisingly) even suggests that she take Kiyo with her to help her.  After a long travel and a few battles, she manages to win the crown, only to discover that it does not only symbolize strength but also has the power to break the bonds between a monarch and their land, which is obviously what Dorian intended to do with the Rowan Queen.  Furious to discover that she has been once again manipulated by Dorian, Eugenie turns back to Kiyo and breaks up with the Oak King.  Her possession of the Iron Crown lead to a temporary truce in the war, but when Jasmine (who turned out to be Eugenie’s half sister) is kidnapped by Rowan soldiers, she is forced to use the Iron Crown’s powers and steal the Rowan Land from Katrice, making her the queen of yet another kingdom.  The burden of two kingdoms becomes too much for Eugenie so she goes back to the human world to get some time to think.  During her stay there, Eugenie discovers that she is pregnant with twins.  Kiyo, who is the father (at least according to Eugenie’s calculations) isn’t happy to hear about this because of the prophecy.  Eugenie’s decision to keep the babies turns him and Maiwenn into psychopaths and they try to kill her.  Luckily she escapes and finds herself in Dorian’s kingdom, begging for his forgiveness and asking him to protect her.  Although Dorian is disappointed to learn that she is pregnant with another man’s child (or children), he agrees to take her back and protects her from Kiyo.

While this book is probably the most action packed out of the four, it’s also the one that almost made me abandon the entire series.  The plot is great and all but I just wanted to slap Eugenie so badly!  I hate how she can’t make up her mind and how whiny she is.  And I can’t believe that she decided to get back together with Kiyo while she was still involved with Dorian!   If I was reading an actual book I would have thrown it across the room at that point (but I read on my iPod and I’m not that crazy).  But seriously!  She couldn’t even wait until she got back to Oak Land and talked to Dorian before jumping into Kiyo’s pants.  To make it worse, she justified her actions by saying things like “in my head we were broken up“, WTF?!  Someone needs to give her a reality check and inform her that relationships don’t work like that!  You can’t break up with a person and not let them know!  Sure, Dorian “tricked” Eugenie into claiming the Iron Crown, but is that such a bad thing that he deserved to be cheated on??  He knew it would end the war and that it would result to less people suffering.  He also knew that if Eugenie knew the truth, she wouldn’t be so keen on getting the crown.  While I didn’t agree with how he manipulated her, I did feel like in this case the end justified the means.

Eugenie just irritated me so much in this book.  I know that Richelle Mead writes her characters so that they’re a bit flawed, but Eugenie is just flat out damaged in my opinion.  It’s annoying how she complains about how the war is hurting people and yet when Dorian comes up with a solution to end it, she hates him for it.  And I hate how she toys with both Dorian and Kiyo’s affections (okay fine, not so much Kiyo, I don’t really care about him), and goes back and forth between the two, choosing whoever’s most convenient for her to have around.  I’m so glad that Dorian didn’t act all forgiving or anything when he discovered that Eugenie and Kiyo got down and dirty after obtaining the crown.  I loved how he turned to Kiyo and said “Oh, I see.  It’s your turn again” then banished them both from his kingdom.  Totally serves her right.  But when Kiyo went into his crazy murderous phase after finding out about Eugenie’s pregnancy (I never trusted him from the start – he may not have any romantic feelings left for Maiwenn, but his loyalty to her never wavered) she crawls back to Dorian asking him to protect her and her unborn children.  My heart almost broke when he asked her who the father was.  He wanted a child so badly, poor guy.  (I can’t believe that Eugenie even considered lying to him and telling him he was the father just to get him to protect her!  Who’s manipulative now?)  Honestly I feel that he should have just let Kiyo kill Eugenie and moved on.  But of course, Dorian agreed to protect them and even volunteered to care for Eugenie’s children as his own – gotta love him for that.

(P.S. I really liked Jasmine in this book.  I actually kinda wish that she was the main character instead of her messed up sister.)

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SHADOW HEIR

The last book of the series started off with a 5-month pregnant Eugenie having to travel back and forth the human and Otherworld for medical checkups. After a few unfortunate incidents, she decides that the safest solution (both for her and her subjects) would be for her to escape to the human world until her children are born.  She hides out at her father’s friend’s place and manages to lie low for two months until the twins are born (they pop out early for some reason).  When she returns to the Otherworld, she finds out that the kingdoms there were subjected to a blight by the Yew Queen.  She goes on a quest to Yew Land, along with Dorian, Kiyo (yes he’s back), Jasmine, Rurik, Paigel (Ysabel’s son) and a few guards.  They get captured on their way there and are forced to fight to escape.  A lot of things happen, like Volusian getting banished and Dorian being tortured to the brink of death, but they somehow managed to break the spell and rescue their kingdom.

Things could have ended nicely at that point, but when they returned home, they discover that Pagiel is actually the Storm King’s heir!  It turns out that Ysabel is another one of Storm King’s daughter (Seriously? I thought the gentries had a hard time getting pregnant?  Dorian couldn’t even have one kid and the Storm King ended up with four!) and that her son Pagiel would be the one to lead the gentry to battle against the humans and reclaim that world.  However, Maiwenn and Kiyo somehow manage to kill him (in an extremely anticlimactic way) and walk away unpunished.   It’s so frustrating because I wanted to see Maiwenn and Kiyo suffer after everything they put Eugenie and Dorian through!

Thinking that things will finally settle down after Pagiel’s death, Eugenie goes back to the human world for her children.  Kiyo finds her and tells her that this doesn’t guarantee their safety because some people believe that with Pagiel gone, the prophecy will move on to the Storm King’s next oldest grandson, which is her son.  He agrees it’s crazy but some people aren’t willing to risk it and will want to kill him.  Crazy gentry logic… Oh, and that he also tells her that he’s not the father of her children – Dorian is.  (?!?!?!)   It turns out that he was so scared of the prophecy coming true that he went and got a vasectomy the moment he started dating Eugenie to avoid any unwanted pregnancy.  WTF?!?!   I was so shocked and didn’t know how to take that bit of information at first.  I was happy for Dorian because it was what he always wanted, but at the same time I was so frustrated that Kiyo kept that secret for so long.  (Although to be honest I kinda had a feeling that Dorian was the father when the babies came out and Eugenie said she was relieved that there was no trace of Kiyo on them.  I thought that was just wishful thinking on my part though, turns out it was true.)  Anyway, at this point I was feeling extremely happy and had good hopes for the ending – that Dorian and Eugenie would get back together and that Dorian would finally experience the joys of fatherhood.  Then, Eugenie made THE WORST DECISION EVER by not telling Dorian that his lifelong dream has finally been realized.  ARGH!!!  What is wrong with you Eugenie?!?  I wanted to slap her for denying him of this wonderful thing!  She planned on telling him eventually, when they’re all grown up, but that’s obviously not good enough!  Just moments ago she herself said that Dorian would level a city to keep his kids safe, and then she decides that he can’t find out about them just yet for their own safety??!  I have no idea how she can justify getting so angry at Dorian for keeping the secret of the Iron Crown but decide that it’s alright to not tell him about this.  She’s such a freakin’ hypocrite!  Dorian wanted children so much that he even told her in the first book that he would give up half his kingdom for one child.  He was even willing to adopt her twins (thinking they weren’t his) and raise them as his own, so can you imagine how happy he would be if he discovered that he was the true father?  After everything he’s done for Eugenie he deserved to know and it pissed me off that she couldn’t see that!  She’s finds nothing wrong with her decision and even goes back to the Otherworld to get back together with Dorian, ignoring the fact that she’s keeping his children from him.  Dammit!!   I’m glad that this was the last book in the series because I probably would have abandoned the story after this because I was so angry at Eugenie.

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WHAT I LIKED:

  • DORIAN!  (Isn’t it obvious by now?)  There were so many parts in the story that I hated Eugenie, and it was only my love for Dorian that got me to keep reading.  (Fine, I exaggerate, the story was good enough that I probably wouldn’t have abandoned it completely, but I wouldn’t have finished reading the books quickly as I did.)  He’s just such a great character and a wonderful king.  He’s manipulative, yes, and likes to keep secrets, but he’s also ambitious, kind, powerful, caring and incredibly sexy.  He’s willing to put himself at risk for the greater good of his kingdom and he’d give up his right arm to protect the people he cares about (although with his brilliant mind he’d be likely to figure out a less devastating solution first.)
  • I also really liked the idea of crossing worlds and seeing all the different supernatural beings such as gentries, lich, dryads, the Storm, etc.
  • Jasmine – she was annoying in the first and second books, but I loved her in Iron Crowned and Shadow Heir.  We could really see how she matured and how much she came to care for Eugenie.
  • The idea that the kingdom’s land is tied to the monarch and that they need each other to survive
  • The magical battles
  • Although I didn’t like Kiyo, I did think his ability to shape shift into a fox (in all kinds of sizes) was cool
  • I really liked a few of the other characters too, like Shaya, Rurik, Muran, and even Volusian.

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WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:

  • Eugenie.  Yes, she was the main character, but I didn’t like her at all.  It’s surprising because I loved all of Richelle Mead’s other female leads. (Okay fine, maybe not Sydney – I didn’t love her, but she was likable.)  The other heroines weren’t perfect and there were many times when I didn’t agree with their actions, but in the end I still really liked them.  Eugenie is a completely different matter.  She’s irritating, whiny, indecisive and selfish (even when she tries to be selfless).     She can’t decide between Dorian and Kiyo and goes back and forth between the two.  And I hate her for cheating on Dorian with Kiyo.  I don’t know what’s up with Richelle Mead and couples cheating on each other, but it seems to be a common theme in all her series.  Bah~
  • Kiyo and Maiwenn – I don’t think I need to elaborate
  • The sudden twist that Pagiel is the Storm King’s heir.  That just came out of nowhere!  I actually liked Pagiel and Jasmine together, I thought they were cute, so it kinda sucked that they turned out to be related.
  • The US book covers.  The picture at the top of this entry shows the UK book covers, which I prefer – especially the 3rd and 4th books.  The US covers look like this:
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(For some reason, all of Richelle Mead’s books have tacky US book covers.  They never do the books justice.  I know she doesn’t design them, but she should at least have a say at what they look like.)
  • Lastly, while I do love reading steamy love scenes, I was overwhelmed by how much sex there was in this book.  True, the author explained it by saying that gentries are very open about their sex lives, but it was still a bit too much for me. I wouldn’t have minded if Eugenie slept with her boyfriend every night, but what irritated me was that she went back and forth between Dorian and Kiyo.  She’ll be dating Kiyo and will somehow end up doing kinky stuff with Dorian.  Or she’d be with Dorian and have a fight with him and end up sleeping with Kiyo just to numb the pain.  I actually felt that Eugenie’s sex life was more of a mess than Georgina’s in the Georgina Kincaid series.  Considering that Georgina’s a succubus who constantly needs to sleep with men to survive, that’s saying something.

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MY RATING:

I give this series a 4 out of 5. I was planning on giving it a 3 out of 5 because of the ending and the annoying heroine, but after thinking about it, I realized that although there were many aspects of the story I didn’t like, I still really enjoyed it. It’s not as high as what I gave the Vampire Academy or the Georgina Kincaid series, but that’s because I really didn’t like Eugenie. But despite that, I still liked the story and was mostly pleased with how things played out.

A lot of people are upset over the ending and all the unanswered questions. (What will happen to Kiyo and Maiwenn? Do they walk unpunished for killing Pagiel?  Do they eventually find Isaac and kill him? Does Eugenie tell Dorian about Isaac and Ivy? How does he take the news? I’m sure he’d be happy, but I can bet that he’ll be extremely upset too. Do her children ever visit the Otherworld?) I do agree that it’s frustrating to end the series with all these questions hanging, but honestly I would have happily accepted it and all the loose ends if only Eugenie told Dorian about his children.  I just wished she trusted him enough to at least explain her decision to leave her children in the human world. Or better yet, if she decided that her kingdoms and Dorian’s can provide enough protection for her kids that she can bring them to the Otherworld with her. I guess that as my favorite character, I wanted to see Dorian happy at the end. (Technically he was, because Eugenie decided to come back to him, but that happiness is only temporary until he finds out how she’s deceived him.) I’m just glad I didn’t decide to finish this series before bed – I would have been so pissed to discover how much of a hypocrite Eugenie is at 3 in the morning.  But she did mention at the end of the book that she’s not sure if her will power is enough of a match for Dorian’s charms to keep hiding things from him. Hopefully she’ll realize how stupid she’s being and just tell him about his children.

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4 thoughts on “Book Review : Dark Swan series

  1. Ang adik mo talaga! Ang bilis mo magbasa, naiinggit ako. 😦

    Hindi ko binasa yung buong post mo para hindi ako ma-spoil. Lelz.

    Nasa list ko na yung Vampire Academy pero hindi ko pa sya feel basahin eh. :))

  2. Pingback: Looking back on 2012 « What I have shown you is reality …

  3. Pingback: Books read in 2012 « What I have shown you is reality …

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