The Swan Thieves is a well-written and engrossing story about art and madness, painting, and love. I enjoyed the story–Kostova does a fabulous job of writing stories that have parallel action in different time periods and she also crafts suspense and mystery excellently–and I learned a lot about painting along the way. I love books that give me new insight into topic areas I don’t already know about in addition to telling a story.
In her previous book, The Historian, I admired Kostova’s settings and descriptions. Setting was less of a strength in The Swan Thieves. It wasn’t poorly done, but I didn’t get the same sense of the setting being almost a character that I did from her first book. Especially in a book about painting in which landscapes figure prominently, I thought I’d feel more strongly about settings. Maybe that’s because Washington, DC and North Carolina are more familiar to me and therefore less exciting than the Hungarian and Romanian settings of Kostova’s first novel.
I also found myself a little disappointed in the ending of The Swan Thieves. I felt satisfied with the ending, but it seemed to tie up too easily given the complexity of the story and the layers of the plot early in the book. I really do appreciate that Kostova didn’t indulge in the contemporary penchant for leaving a bunch of loose ends, but I wish some of the pieces would have taken longer to tie up or maybe had more ambiguity to balance the depth of the problems or questions.
Overall though I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it. I think Kostova is a good writer and look forward to reading more from her.
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