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An adaptation of "The Six Swans," set in Ireland. The story centers around Sorcha, a young girl who lives in Sevenwaters with her six older brothers and her father. She takes on the perilous task of healing one of her father’s captives, a wild young man named Simon who is beset by nightmares. Her situation only gets worse when her brothers force her to abandon her charge and return home - their father is engaged to another woman and she is demanding that Sorcha meet her. Her new stepmother, Lady Oonagh, quickly puts the entire household under a spell, ultimately turning Sorcha’s brothers into swans.
The youngest sibling is tasked with rescuing them in the most horrific way possible. She must weave six shirts from the fibers of a thorny plant, but she must not cry out in pain or ask for help or tell anyone her story. She is forbidden to speak at all. Complications arise when she falls into enemy hands, and she learns that appearances and emotions can be quite deceiving to all kinds of people.
This book contains examples of:
- Annoying Arrows: Red takes one to the shoulder and pretty much ignores it.
- Berserk Button: Every time Richard makes a comment about or advances on Sorcha, Red flips out.
- Break the Cutie: Both Lady Oonagh and the Fair Folk ask an awful lot of Sorcha. The poor girl’s only 14 when the madness starts.
- Burn the Witch: Richard’s method of dealing with Sorcha. Of course, he only attempts this after all of her allies are gone.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Red literally says this to Sorcha.
- Evil Uncle: All eyes are on you, Richard.
- Father, I Want to Marry My Brother: Or cousin, in this case. Elaine makes her preference for Simon clear, but Richard arranges a marriage between her and Red instead. The fact that they’re all cousins doesn’t seem to make a difference.
- Richard actually says that he needed special permission from the Church to allow their marriage.
- Fighting Irish: And how!
- Fragile Flower: Sorcha is described as a frail child, very thin and delicate. Although her weight changes slightly after her move to Harrowfield, she’s still tiny compared to the rest of the household. The men treat her like she’s extremely breakable. It also doesn’t help that she constantly injures herself.
- God Save Us From the Queen: Oonagh pretty much takes over after her arrival. The siblings make it their mission to get rid of her.
- Gossipy Hens: Sorcha comments on the amount of gossip present in the sewing room pretty often. With the exception of a few women (Lady Anne, Margery, Megan and Elaine), she lumps all the females at Harrowfield together into one group of gossiping girls.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Sorcha looks like a toddler compared to Red.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Sorcha is assaulted, manhandled and forced to witness a shocking amount of violence before turning 16. Yet instead of cursing her situation, she focuses on saving her brothers and returning home. Even when people like Richard attempt to destroy her, she refrains from fighting back so as not to burden Red. The only person she shows any outward animosity towards is Oonagh, and for good reason. Through it all, she maintains her innocence and purity to the point where even the Fair Folk are impressed.
- She stays just as pure later in life. It’s astonishing, considering what continues to happen around her.
- I Would Say If I Could Say: Sorcha is forbidden to use any form of communication to explain her situation.
- Magically-Binding Contract: It is implied that Red is put under a spell after his first encounter with Sorcha to bind him to her. The Lady of the Forest denies this when Sorcha asks, saying that he would have been her protector even if She hadn’t asked him to be.
- Out-of-Character Moment: Red, the embodiment of calm and collected, grabs Sorcha’s shoulders and shakes her, bruising her and making her cry after she wanders out on her own. He only does this once (even though she wanders around without telling him continuously) and the encounter is pretty much forgotten afterwards.
- Picky Eater: How does Sorcha survive with so little food?
- Sibling Triangle: Both Simon and Red fall for Sorcha…hard.
- What Is This Feeling?: Sorcha doesn’t realize that she’s in love with Red until Finbar tells her. Cue her Love Epiphany and a flood of tears.
- Your Days Are Numbered: Cormack says this after Richard is captured.
- He made enemies in multiple countries, and all of them are in the same room at the time of his capture. He wasn’t going to live days; he was going to live minutes at that point.