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Embittered by the untimely death of his wife, a powerful sorcerer wreaks vengeance on all womankind, capturing women and transforming them into swans who only regain their human forms briefly each night, until Odette, a noble princess, risks everything to free herself and the other swan-maidens. Mercedes Lackey takes readers back to the ballet with her latest fairy tale fantasy, The Black Swan, which retells the story of Swan Lake. Lackey preserves much of the ballet's action but provides a happier ending than the original German folktale had. She also gives the characters depth and motivation by providing them with histories.
Baron Eric von Rothbart, a powerful sorcerer, hunts down women who have betrayed men and transforms them into swans who can only resume their true forms by moonlight. His lonely daughter Odile, who watches the flock and studies spells, longs vainly for his approval. One day von Rothbart tells Odette, the swan princess, that she can break the spell by winning and holding a man's faithful love for one month. He's even chosen a candidate, Prince Siegfried. Unfortunately, the prince is a womanizing hedonist. Should Odette succeed nevertheless, von Rothbart secretly plans a trap for them and the prince's ambitious mother, Queen Clothilde, who schemes to rule in her own right. But he must use Odile, who has befriended Odette and is no longer her father's puppet.
Some readers may find the descriptions of dancing and costumes tedious--and Prince Siegfried a questionable hero. Odile, however, is as vivid a heroine as any Lackey's written. --Nona Vero