I say this every time, but McLemore you have outdone yourself. Every book I love more and more!
The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.
But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.
(Disclaimer: I received this free book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
McLemore always writes enchanting books. Everything from the character’s vulnerabilities to their strengths, from the world building to the magical elements, all of it is spellbinding every time.
I feel like each time I finish one of McLemore’s books I think, “yes this is the most stunning one yet” and every time the next one proves me wrong. Time and time again, McLemore’s writing stops me in my tracks. I am awed by the sheer beauty and delicate care put into these characters and these words. From the micro to the macro, this book is exquisite.
So the TLDR of this review is, go read this book. But the long answer is that this book stuns you. The sister relationship between Blanca and Roja is tender and, at time, sharp. There’s the shadows, the curves, the hidden depths of sisterhood. At the same time thee are those moments misunderstood, decisions seen in a different light can cause a heart to break, a chasm to form, and a relationship to crumble. McLemore’s writing probes at these transitioning moments of change, in the spaces between two pairs of lips, and the unbroachable space that secrets foster. Her writing just gets me.
(There’s a true artform to the way McLemore writes romance seems and the tension, the palatable apprehension exquisitely.)
(Also the premise is fantastic – as always. Sisters who could turn into swans? Questions of which sister might become a swan? I was signed up the moment I heard about this book – the moment I heard Anna-Marie McLemore).
As always, this book features diverse characters and I’d be hard pressed to love just one of them. Each one of these characters feels special and precious to me. In their journeys, in their struggles, we read a tale of growth, of revelation, and the bravery to dream. One of the things I loved about this book and this sister relationship is that Blanca and Roja dare to question the status quo, the unacknowledged stasis.
This puts them into a bind because it means that they are facing external forces, the power of their own legends, but also the pressures of their family. And so Blanca & Roja asks us if we can outsmart the stories, write new endings, and own our stories.
Another theme I loved was the idea of rebirth and owning our bodies. There are a few moments when the boundaries between animals and humans are breached and transformed. In these moments, the choosing of new names, new pronouns, and new histories are extremely important. The act of turning into an animal and back into a human, and vice versa, becomes much more than that. It is about how we loose our bodies and how we try to re-form it, trying to make it ours.
Blanca & Roja is full of gorgeous writing with imagery of blue apples, folktales, and swans. There’s a striking lyrical quality not only to the words, but to the feelings they evoke, the ways they stroke your skin in the middle of a moonlit night.