Book Review: Swallow’s Dance, by Wendy Orr

Leira is about to start her initiation as a priestess when her family is forced to flee to Crete just before a huge volcanic eruption destroys their island. There, tough lessons begin to shape her as the young woman she will become.


Following the tremendous success of Nim’s Island comes award-winning Australian author Wendy Orr’s latest YA novel, Swallow’s Dance.

Leira is Orr’s heroine, a bold and intelligent girl on the cusp of womanhood. Just as she is about to begin her initiation rites as a priestess, catastrophe strikes Leira’s homeland: the metaphorical ‘goddess’ awakens and unleashes a mighty volcanic eruption causing a devastating tsunami. Leira’s family are forced to find shelter on the island of Crete where, after the chaos of the eruption, her noble-born status now means nothing.

Orr was inspired by the ancient sites at Crete and Santorini for the setting of this coming-of-age story. Though Leira’s initiation rites are interrupted by natural disaster, she is forced to learn tough lessons quickly and take on a leadership role within her family. The volcanic eruption itself could be seen as the life-changing events we all go through when we cross the threshold from child to young adult. Leira’s experiences after the eruption begin to shape her as the young woman she will become, providing a different kind of initiation rite into adulthood.

The writing style of Swallow’s Dance fits nicely with the concept of the story and will be easy for young readers to follow and enjoy. It is simple and staccato and evokes feelings of Leira thinking and communicating in an ancient and lyrical language. The book is also filled with beautiful short poems and songs that help to further guide the reader along Leira’s journey. The story has it peaks and troughs in terms of themes and not all are incredibly happy, but do teach important life lessons.

With Swallow’s Dance Wendy Orr has weaved a thrilling and fascinating story of survival seen through the eyes of a young girl forced to step up and defend her family in a time of crisis.

Reviewed by Alicia Franceschini
Twitter: @ciao_licia

Rating out of 10:  7

Distributed by: Allen & Unwin
Released: July 2018
RRP: $16.99

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