I discovered this hidden gem while perusing the book shelves in the Malden library. It is based on a fairytale (“The Wild Swans”) by Hans Christian Anderson, in which 11 princes are turned into swans by their evil step mother. Their sister transforms them back into human form by knitting magical shirts, which she throws over them. Unfortunately, one brother ends up retaining a swan’s wing because his sister did not have time to knit both sleeves of his shirt. Ursula Synge’s story picks up where Anderson’s story ends, focusing on the prince, Lothar, who is fated to live out his human life with a swan’s wing in place of one of his arms. The story is told from the perspective of Matthew, a medieval stonecutter, who unhappy with his life, lays down his tools and begins to wander the countryside. He meets Prince Lothar, and his life is forever changed. Together, with a young girl whom they befriend, they go on a quest to find the means to make Lothar whole again. Beautifully written and almost lyrical, the book’s ending is bittersweet.
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