"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books."

Borges

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Birdwing



Birdwing
Author: Rafe Martin
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
ISBN-10: 0439211670
ISBN-13: 978-0439211673

“It was on the last day of the six years during which she was not to speak or laugh if she hoped to free her brothers from enchantment, that her own sentence was to be carried out. Five of the six shirts were done, but the last and littlest was still missing its left sleeve. As they led her to the stake and the fire was about to be lit, she looked up and saw six swans flying through the sky. Her heart leapt with joy at the sight of them. The swans touched the ground before her and with lowered necks walked forward. Quickly she threw the shirts over each of them. At once their swans’ skins fell off and there, once again, stood her own brothers, strong and handsome. Only the youngest and the littlest lacked a left arm, and in its place there remained a swan’s wing.”
The Six Swans
The Brothers Grimm

The Six Swans was one of my favorite tales when I was a little girl but I always wondered what happened to the last and littlest prince with his swan’s wing for an arm. Now I know.

Rafe Martin has done a marvelous thing with his Birdwing. He’s told the story of Ardwin Birdwing, the littlest prince, the one with the wing. Birdwing is a fantastic and magical coming of age story.

Ardwin is home now, back in the palace with his father the king and learning to live with his wing. The thing is sometimes the wing has a mind of its own. It wants to soar, to fly through the skies again and sometimes, so does Ardwin. He alone of the brothers looks back fondly of the time when they were swans. He can also understand the language of animals and this gives him a great sensitivity.

The people of the town and palace aren’t all so comfortable having a prince around with a swan’s wing for an arm. He’s called Prince Freak by some and feels isolated. Determined not to let his disability keep him from doing princely things, Ardwin becomes skilled with weapons, bow and arrow, spear and sword. He wins friends too, loyal ones like Stephen and Skye. The story could just end there and it would still be wonderful.

However, there is unrest in the kingdom. The neighboring mad king is pushing for an alliance by marrying Ardwin off to his widowed daughter Alisoun. He sends emissaries with a mechanical golden arm and Ardwin, fearing that his father means to cut his wing off and attach the arm to him, flees with his friends. He is determined to find the swans and himself. The adventure that follows is a wild and unexpected one and one sure to enchant you.

Rafe Martin’s characters are rich and well developed and I fell in love with this book and with Ardwin. He is an amazingly complex person and so interesting that I hung on every word. I could see this book becoming a full length animated feature film and I sure hope someone options it. It’s simply amazing. I think we'll be hearing great things of Rafe Martin.

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