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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

Elegant Literary Fantasy

Seen largely from the point of view of his servant, Eustace, The Maker Of Swans is the story of Mr Crowe, a remarkable individual who seems to have existed for many centuries and who has secretly been the author of many of the world's greatest works of literature.

It is also the story of Clara, a child in Crowe's charge. Clara's abilities will surpass her guardian's by as much as his own abilities outstrip those of ordinary mortals. Despite being mute, she will learn how to use written language to alter and to create reality and her developing talent will attract the attention of those who seek to use her as a gambit in a long-standing power game.

It is not a perfect fantasy. There are gaps in the backstory that left me slightly dissatisfied. We never learn much about Mr Crowe's origins, for example, or those of his young ward.

What makes this novel stand out, however, is the boldness of the language which richly compensates for the author's apparent disinterest in the finer details of his overarching mythos. Here, for example, is the appearance of one of the minor characters, materialising out of the Gothic twilight in which so much of the action seems to take place:

'He appeared at the far end of the street, having rounded the corner, and stood for a moment in the gown of decaying light that hung beneath a street lamp.'

Poetic and elegantly mannered, The Maker of Swans is an impressive piece of literary fantasy.