The Serpent and the Swan by Ashland Pym
“Beautiful and cruel”
She’s not quite human, but is she as dangerous as they believe?
Cygna has been kept under the shadow of secrecy for two decades. Not only is she the King’s illegitimate firstborn, she’s also an extraordinary half-fae with a wing in place of an arm who instills fear and suspicion in those close to her.
But now a terrifying evil is ravaging the kingdom. A Lindworm is making a path straight for the castle, and the King and Queen believe Cygna has the power to stop the serpent. Except Cygna knows what her hateful stepmother really wants is to keep Cygna from inheriting the throne.
They send Cygna on a dangerous journey to the underworld where she meets others like her. She begins to see she’s not the unnatural creature she was brought up to believe. But will Cygna have the bravery to confront the terrifying serpent and defeat her darkest fears? Her freedom and life will depend on it.
The Serpent and the Swan is a magical coming-of-age novella perfect for fantasy readers inspired by Scandinavian folklore and the darkest fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm.
*This book contains mild language, some violence, and indirect references to sex
Praise for The Serpent and the Swan:
“Pym has delivered something true to the heritage of fairy tales yet original and true to itself. In a world full of 1000 page overwrought epic fantasy ‘rock operas’ this the equivalent of two-minutes of punk brilliance.” – Amazon Reviewer
“Pym executes a difficult challenge here perfectly, delivering an engaging and evocative tale in a hugely enjoyable read.” – Goodreads Reviewer
“This book has everything you could want in a fairytale. It is both beautiful and hard to read in its cruelty.” – Amazon Reviewer
Targeted Age Group:: YA and adult
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 2 – PG
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
At the very core is a retelling of the Scandinavia fairy tale 'King Lindorm.' There are recognizable fragments in the story, but I have set it in an original world with its own cast of characters. The inspiration came when, for my PhD, I took a class in Fairy Tale Traditions. After learning to understand the cultural and psychological significance of common tropes, I challenged myself to invent a new fairy tale that would still resonate with a modern audience.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
When I was a kid I had a picture book of ‘The Six Swans’ by the Brothers Grimm. At the end, one of the princes is left with a swan wing in place of his arm. The illustration has him stand apart from his siblings, considering this remnant of his curse with an expression of sorrow. That image has stuck with me through to adulthood, and when I decided to write my own fairy tale I finally had the opportunity to use it. In combining it with a character from my other favorite fairy tale ‘King Lindorm’ and pitting them against each other, I was able to unravel their needs, their desires, and their place in the world – both theirs and ours.
It was easy enough to steal a copy the governess’ key. The castle blacksmith took a bribe of one of her rings for work and silence. When she could, Cygna evaded her governess and her guards to wander alone, first within the castle halls and then into the grounds. She wanted to catch a glimpse of her father in his own world, of the step-mother and half-sister she never met face-to-face. Whenever she glimpsed Aila, however, she was being ushered along by her own guards, hurried from place to place much the same way Cygna was. Queen Gyda, however, trailed her guards and the ladies-in-waiting behind her as though they were under sufferance. The first time Cygna tried to introduce herself, she earned only a sneer and an irritated wave of a hand as the queen brushed past.
After that, however, Queen Gyda made an unexpected appearance in Cygna’s rooms. She dismissed the governess, who had been in the middle of yet another dry lecture on import and export, and sat in the chair nearest the fire. Cygna sat at her writing desk, eager but also too afraid to speak.
“I did not say you could be seated,” Gyda said, and Cygna got promptly to her feet. “So, here you are. The last time I laid eyes on you from this close was the day you arrived here. I had hoped not to do so again. Turn around; let me see you.” The Swan Maiden pivoted slowly in place. “I’m glad to see they’ve done something to hide that wing of yours. You’re coming into womanhood very well, I suppose. Your face is a bit too sharp, but I hope you will grow out of that; I suppose there’s nothing we can do to make your complexion fairer. You might even be passing pretty one day, were you not so deformed. Not as pretty as my Aila, understand. You’re not to impose yourself on her. Do you hear me?”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Cygna managed through a throat constricted with terror and disappointment.
“I suppose now that you’re allowed out you expect to be a part of the family. This will not be the case. You have nothing to do with me, or with Aila.”
“I know that, Your Majesty.”
“Do not interrupt. As your father has seen fit to give you notions of freedom, it is only natural that you would give in to curiosity. Be sure it does not lead you to draw unnecessary attention to yourself or your association with us.” She stood and smoothed her gown. “I do not know what future your father has in mind for you, but it can have nothing to do with us. I do not say this to hurt you. You cannot risk anyone finding out what you are. It would be a danger to us, to this country, and not least of all to yourself. It would have been kinder to send you back where you came from, wherever that is, but your father wanted to keep you. And I do not doubt you’ve suffered for it. I am genuinely sorry for it. I am no stranger to being locked away, made to wear painful gowns for the pleasure of others, not knowing what thread fate spins.” She paused, and Cygna could see that she was calculating her words. “I am sure you long for a mother figure. Do not expect to find it in me. But as there is no one else, I suppose you may, on occasion, speak to me. Do not seek me out in public again. If you must call on me, and I hope that will be rare, send word. I will come to you when I have a spare moment.”
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