NOTE: I received the eARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
This novel rendered me speechless. Good news? I don't feel depressed that it's over. It left so many incredibly deep feelings inside of me, that I can only say I'm grateful for the journey.
Also, I had no idea it was a retelling of a fairy tale until the very end. In this case, it was a good thing, because I couldn't go on comparing the stories at all.
There's a lot that needs to be addressed about The Silent Swan. Mainly because it was just incredibly well written, the characters were developed in a realistic way, with depth and color, and I just fell in love with everyone (minus Kerry or however her name was spelt).
To be honest, I don't know where to begin. I guess I'll talk about the story first, then stop at the characters. It's going to be difficult though, so bear with me.
This must be the only novel where the lead characters don't even kiss. Don't get disappointed though, the pressure and passion between them is buzzing throughout the book in a way that can't be ignored. I actually loved this development. You'd ask why. Well, have you ever tried to express your feelings without the ease of a kiss? Or an intimate touch? Try it and let's see how successful you'd be. Gabriel and Tam though... these two rocked the boat. Not a kiss, just a fleeting touch from time to time, but boy was there love. And this love grew stronger with each page, until it all climaxed in the final chapter. I just can't effectively describe the feeling of pure euphoria this romance left in me. It was pure and innocent and just so touching! *sigh, swoon, fall*
Something else I rarely see in books is the real, tangible presence of Gabe's parents. Arnold and (I believe it was) Amelia (or close to that) Pritz had five sons, one of them adopted. Those boys could make any parent proud. They were respectful of their parents most of the time, and of each other. Sure they had their brotherly 'fights', but that's only natural. I was amazed at the way Arnold disciplined his sons, how he demanded honor was shown to his wife at all times, how he set rules and everyone obeyed out of sheer respect. It was truly amazing, in a loving kind of way. I simply adored that family, the Pritzes. They were well liked in the community, had connections and were respected.
Then there was Tam Swann's family. Her parents were no longer alive, and she and her brothers (seven I believe) were 'taken care of' by the foster care system. There were lots of legal terms that I didn't understand about each of the Swann's cases, but none of them hindered the story. And those boys... they were sweethearts. Deprived of a real family, they all jumped foster homes, in hopes that perhaps someday they'd be together. All of them. They seemed to only feel safe with their sister, who fought with everything she had to get to see them often. To be able to hug them, comfort them. My heart was constantly in need for stitches, because the pain those kids went through tore it to pieces time and time again.
There was lots of baseball in this book. If I'm not wrong, at least ten games were featured - some in full, others partially. And let me tell you, I don't know anything about baseball, but I learned a lot. And I actually think I may get to like it. At least I saw how a sport can teach discipline, order, passion, love, control... It was simply unexplainable and I'm in complete admiration of this author.
Now let's talk characters.
I'm starting off with Gabe, who was not a favorite of mine in the beginning. He was cocky and full of himself. He didn't appreciate any of the things he had - and he had a lot. He took everything for granted - his family, his friends, his carefree life, the girls that circulated him... But then things changed when Tam Swann entered his life. She didn't give a crap about Gabe, and he was definitely NOT used to that sort of treatment. She was bold, honest, responsible. And she could cook - which proved to be very important. Gabriel's mom was promoted to a position which required more work at work and less work at home. Which left all five sons to cook dinner during the week. So, Gabe, with his cockiness and ego, proposed Tam a deal - she'd teach him to cook, he'd tutor her in math. And that's basically how it began between them.
But the beginning had nothing to do with the end. Because by the end, there was nothing left of the Gabe we met on page one. He'd grown so much with every turn this story took, that he wasn't easy to recognize. He started realizing that his view of the world isn't exactly accurate. He used to think that he ruled the world - what with being captain of the baseball team and a rising star and all; that being beautiful automatically meant you were good within (talking about his girlfriend Kerry); that his mom was perfect in everything; that he didn't need anyone outside his circle of people. Well, by the end of the story, he'd had his perspective changed. He realized that most of the time he had been wrong in his decisions, and had to amend his ways and attitude.
One thing that didn't change in him though was the respect he felt for whoever girl he was wooing at the moment. This is true with Kerry and with Tam too. No matter how much he wanted to kiss or touch the girl, he was too afraid that he'd cross a boundary he wasn't allowed near. At one point Kerry even called him a prude, but that only made me like him more. Because he wasn't the kind of guy who'd push a girl to sleep with him, because he wanted it. He was the kind of guy who'd keep a tissue in his pocket, so he'd keep his hands occupied. I just wish those kinds of guys weren't just fictional. Our world has a great need of them.
And then there's Tamryn, Tam for short. She was a puzzle of a thousand pieces and since we followed Gabe's thoughts not hers, it was both fascinating and impossibly difficult to figure her out. One thing that was obvious from the very beginning though was her love for her family. Not only what was left of it, but also her parents. To her, their deaths didn't mean they had to be forgotten. She constantly tried to keep them alive, not only in her mind, but also in her brothers'. The youngest ones barely remembered their father, but Tam made it her purpose to have them remember. She taught them the family song, their father's moves in baseball and lots of other things that the foster parents resented (which I didn't understand at all!)
Tam was hardworking, concentrated on her goals, whatever they were. She was honest, giving, beautiful in every meaning of the word. Her heart was breathtaking. Her mind was exquisite. I just can't put into words how special she truly was. And I saw her heart breaking every time she pushed Gabe away. I just felt for this girl, you know? Like she was a close friend that I personally know.
In conclusion I can only say that the journey The Silent Swan put me through was worth every minute of my time. It had euphoric highs and lows that had me tearful. I can say that reading it has made me realize that beauty is hidden in the most unexpected places.
My rating is 5/5 stars