A Wild Winter Swan by Gregory Maguire

Posted September 23, 2020 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

A Wild Winter Swan

A Wild Winter Swan

by Gregory Maguire

Publisher: William Morrow on October 6, 2020
Genre: Fairytale Retellings, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Retellings
Target Age Group: Adult, New Adult, Young Adult

Rating: ★★★★½

Check out this book on Goodreads

Following her brother's death and her mother's emotional breakdown, Laura now lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, in a lonely townhouse she shares with her old-world, strict, often querulous grandparents. But the arrangement may be temporary. The quiet, awkward teenager has been getting into trouble at home and has been expelled from her high school for throwing a record album at a popular girl who bullied her. When Christmas is over and the new year begins, Laura may find herself at boarding school in Montreal.

Nearly unmoored from reality through her panic and submerged grief, Laura is startled when a handsome swan boy with only one wing lands on her roof. Hiding him from her ever-bickering grandparents, Laura tries to build the swan boy a wing so he can fly home. But the task is too difficult to accomplish herself. Little does Laura know that her struggle to find help for her new friend parallels that of her grandparents, who are desperate for a distant relative’s financial aid to save the family store.


Disclaimer: I received this book for free from LibraryThing Early Reviewers and William Morrow in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I was so excited to win this ARC from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.  Honestly, I have really good luck with LibraryThing.  Secretly, I think this is because I review everything promptly and publishers tend to appreciate when you review the ARCs, even though it’s optional.  One thing about LibraryThing, though, is that there tends to be fewer authors I recognize so when I saw Gregory Maguire’s new book was available for request, you better believe I jumped on that.  Wicked was such a fresh retelling (completely different from the musical, definitely check it out) and I am here for all of that.

A Wild Winter Swan did not disappoint.  It’s a different kind of story, a bit of a quieter one and it takes place almost entirely in a little New York brownstone in the days before Christmas.  Our main character, Laura, has been expelled after retaliating on her bully, her Nonna and Nonno are frantically trying to whip up a Christmas feast to impress a new-family-member-and-possible-future-investor… and a half-swan, half-boy thunks on to the roof above Laura’s bedroom.

There’s so much going on in the story, mostly just because it’s the hustle and bustle of the holidays.  And it’s interesting to see the holidays from this point of view, in an Italian-American immigrant household in the 60s.  I thought Maguire did a really good job of setting the scene for us and setting up motivations and stakes for multiple characters – Laura, Hans, and even Laura’s parents.  It’s a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans, yes, but it’s also about Laura trying to figure out where she stands with the people around her and how to step into herself.

I liked Laura, I liked her inner tension and the walls she built around herself to keep even the reader out.  She felt like a real high schooler to me, even within the times.  Her ending is a bit cheesy, with a very clear lesson wrapped into the last pages like “okay kids, what did we learn today?” but I’m glad to see her growing.  I think this book was the perfect length for the stories it told – any shorter, and the tension would have been too high for Nonna and Nonno’s storyline, any longer and Hans’s story would have been too drawn out.

My absolute favorite parts of this book were with Hans.  He evoked an emotional reaction and was a really well developed character.  His innocence and his anger were really well encapsulated, from the scene with the rubber duck, to the disastrous wist near the end.  All the characters were well-written, but Hans gripped me the most.

In general, I really liked this book.  It was a very atmospheric read and refreshingly different to many of the things I’ve been reading as of late.  Fans of fairytale retellings – especially untraditional ones – will like this story, but I think it will also appeal to Gregory Maguire’s previous fans, and those who like darker fairytales and magical realism.  Maguire’s tone and writing style remind me a lot of Alice Hoffman’s or Erin Morgenstern’s, though they tell very different stories.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Pacing: ★★★ 1/2
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★ 1/2

4.5 stars overall rating


A Wild Winter Swan Stays on The Shelf

really liked this one, I thought it had a great wintery aesthetic perfect for both the grimness of the fairytale and the retelling itself.  It’s easily something I could read again and again.

Unfortunately, my small cat was annoyed and wanted dinner, so she decided it would be perfectly lovely to nom on the top corner of this ARC until she was harsh reprimanded (which was prompt, I assure you).  So the book is a little damaged and I’m vaguely annoyed by that.  BUT.  Because I liked it so much, I really should buy the finished copy anyway.


Have you read many of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales?  If so, which ones stand out to you the most?  For me, it’s The Little Mermaid and The Wild Swans.  Let me know your favorite fairytales in the comments!

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