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Literature / The Sorcerer's Daughter

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The Sorcerer's Daughter is a Russian fantasy novel by Irina Izmailova, published in 2003. It is a retelling of Swan Lake.

Princess Regnant Odette Angeline of Roswald, as strong-willed and independent as she is beautiful, orders a killing of swans at Swan Lake to make swan-feather dresses for herself and her court. It enrages Rothbart, the wizard living in an abandoned castle on the lake's shore, and he turns the princess and her ladies-in-waiting themselves into swans. The curse only works during daytime, and while the ladies try to distract themselves with feasts and dancing, Odette tries to convince Rothbart to turn them back and gradually gets to know him. She becomes fascinated with his character, intelligence and Mysterious Past.

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After four months, Siegfried, Odette's reckless and carefree second cousin and crown prince of the neighboring Grünwald, finds the lake and is enamored with Odette, vowing to rescue her. Rothbart deceives him by sending his daughter Odile, who looks amazingly similar to Odette, to the royal ball in Grünwald; however, the trick only makes Siegfried mad with anger, and the prince challenges Rothbart to single combat and defeats him, severely wounding his arm. The sorcerer loses his power, and the enchanted women are turned back. A happy ending, right?

It Has Only Just Begun. Odette shocks everyone by fully pardoning Rothbart, who goes back to live in the abandoned castle, but not before begging Odette to take his daughter to her court. Odile turns out to be a sweet, easy-going yet very smart and perceptive girl, and soon she becomes the princess's best friend.

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Siegfried and Odette, as they meet again after the dramatic rescue, are increasingly hesitant about announcing their engagement, and Siegfried finds himself drawn to the gentle Odile, who tries to reject his attentions for her friend's sake yet can't help but fall in love with him.

Then one day, on her way to visit her father, Odile accidentally overhears a plot being developed against Siegfried, which turns out to be merely a part of a deadlier scheme that anyone could imagine, into which all four protagonists are unwillingly dragged.

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The Sorcerer's Daughter contains examples of:

  • After Action, Villain Analysis: When Liemerich's dragon is temporarily defeated, the survivors of its attack listen to Rothbart's lecture on dragon nature.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Rothbart, who feels himself unworthy of Odette and hates the very thought of a king's crown, eventually gets both, while Count Gottwald Liemerich wants dark magical powers, Odette and the crown, and gets a battle-axe in his head.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: That's exactly what Count Gottwald says to Odette. He's surely fond of her and most certainly fond of her throne.
  • Angry Mob: During the plague, people are suspicious of their loved ones getting carried away to the hospitals. As nobody except the doctors is allowed to enter the hospital tents, the mob nearly begins a revolt.
  • Asshole Victim: Even when he is a sorcerer angry at the whole world, Rothbart uses his spells only to kill really despicable people. However, it's not always him being moral: he plots against Abbot Orsino too, but the latter is too good for black magic to hurt him.
  • Best Friends-in-Law: It's obviously not enough for the whole lot of them to be related already. Anyway, Siegfried and Odette with their literal Just Friends thing become son- and mother-in-law after finally marrying their respective sweethearts. Also, Rothbart and Siegfried ended up being best friends. Luckily for Odile.
  • Betty and Veronica Switch: For Siegfried, there's the Damsel in Distress and the Hot Witch… or rather, a proud harsh princess he's dead scared of and a sweet and adorable young girl.
  • Bickering Couple, Peaceful Couple: Rothbart and Odette are almost constantly arguing, while Siegfried and Odile are sweet and peaceful.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The book opens with a long and detailed passage about a spell that allows a previously cast spell to return which is promptly forgotten after the first two pages. Many chapters later, cue Odette remembering about the spell, learning it from Rothbart and escaping from Gottwald in her swan form.
  • Costume Copycat:
    • Odile when posing as Odette at her first ball.
    • Gottwald poses as Rothbart with a little magical help twice. The first time, to incriminate him before Anne, the second, to kidnap Odette.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: For three of the protagonists, it's essentially this.
    • Odette comes to realize that "selfish" and "strong-willed" aren't synonyms and that being in power isn't the most important thing (or goal) in the world.
    • Siegfried grows more mature and responsible, and stops thinking that battles and wars are all about easy victories and glory, realizing it's more about blood and suffering.
    • After living in almost complete seclusion for fifteen years, Odile learns to interact with society.
  • Cynic–Idealist Duo: Rothbart and Siegfried, practically all the time. Much of their dialogue goes like this: Siegfried's grand idealistic solution to the problem is followed by Rothbart's bitter snarky comment on why it won't work. The reality usually turns out as something in-between their expectations.
  • Damsel in Distress: Usually the trope gets deconstructed.
    • Queen Anne falls terribly ill and a young physician cures her. She falls in love with him, and they marry, but the courtiers immediately start plotting against them, and their relationship ends up being destroyed in the worst possible way.
    • Odette is always a Defiant Captive, and during her second captivity, it's her who thinks up the only plan that works to defeat Gottwald, and she literally flies away from him, kicking his ass in all her feathers.
    • Inverted with Odile, who rescues Siegfried.
    • Played straight with Matilda, a young peasant woman who has to be rescued from the dragon, along with her toddler son.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Downplayed, with "defeat means gratitude" instead. Rothbart bears Siegfried no ill will and is forever grateful to the prince for saving his soul from damnation. Later on, they do become friends.
  • Don't Celebrate Just Yet: When Gottwald is finally killed along with his pet dragon, everyone is ready for a happy ending… then Black Death breaks out in both Roswald and Grünwald.
  • Easily Overheard Conversation: When you are in a long-deserted forest shack and plan to kill the hero, a girl in love with him just happens to be under the window outside.
  • Evil Uncle: Gottwald, who conspires to poison Siegfried, is the brother of Siegfried's mother.
  • Exact Words:
    • Rothbart begs Odette not to let his daughter watch his execution. Odette swears Odile won't see it – and issues a pardon the next morning.
    • "King Roberto was burned at the stake, Queen Anne is dead, and the chances are hundred to one that their daughter has died as well."
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers: Swan-feather dresses set the plot in motion. Later, Odette also appears in a flamingo-feather dress.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Odile knows in her heart that posing as Odette and trying to seduce Siegfried in this disguise is very wrong, so while she obeys her father, she at least tries to be cold with the prince. He only thinks she is Playing Hard to Get and gets even more infatuated.
  • Good Shepherd:
    • Played straight with the kindly and wise Abbot Orsino. He's even hinted to be a wonder-worker, when his prayers save the heroes and himself from a dragon.
    • Subverted with Brother Aloisio of the Inquisition, who's hard-hearted, merciless and suspected to be in league with Gottwald.
  • Inexplicably Identical Individuals: Odette and Odile. Not perfectly identical, but extraordinarily similar. They turn out to be second cousins, though.
  • Insecure Love Interest: Rothbart and Odette both feel like this towards each other, for many reasons (especially in Rothbart's case) – the awkwardness about him formerly turning her into a swan and the seventeen-year age gap only begin the list.
  • Irony: Siegfried pledges his love to Odile at the ball, mistaking her for Odette. Then he pledges his love to her again, this time knowing whom he is talking about. He is aware of the irony and afraid Rothbart won't believe him.
  • The Jester: Siegfried's court joker Berk, "with smart and, as it is with most jesters, always sad eyes". He's famous for his witty aphorisms and is the first to see that Siegfried and Odette just don't match together.
  • Kissing Cousins. Siegfried and Odette – as everyone expects, at least. Later, Siegfried and Odile.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Played with concerning Rothbart and Siegfried’s battle. Rothbart could have easily curb-stomped Siegfried with magic, but as he wants to lose his wizardry powers, he fights him with only his sword and doesn’t even try hard to win.
  • Lap Pillow: It was unavoidable, after all, since one of Rothbart's legs was almost bitten off by the dragon and Odette was by his side…
  • Light Feminine Dark Feminine: In a twist, Odile is the Light and Odette is the Dark. Although they are associated with the black and white swans respectively.
  • Love Dodecahedron. Odette falls mutually in love with Rothbart, who still harbors feelings for the deceased Anne, but she is also pursued by The Casanova Gottwald Liemerich and admired by Siegfried, also quite The Casanova in the beginning of the book, who ends up loving Odile.
  • A Match Made in Stockholm: Rothbart and Odette begin to develop feelings for each other when she's still under his curse.
  • Missing Mom: Plenty of examples.
    • Odile's mother dies when the girl is still in her cradle.
    • Odette's mother dies when Odette is a toddler.
    • Rothbart's mother dies when he's five.
  • Moment Killer: Well, Rothbart and Odette had the time to declare their love without interruptions, but when they finally embrace – here comes Siegfried, spitting out cherry stones.
  • Mundane Solution: Contrary to popular belief, Rothbart invokes it and very rarely uses magic.
  • No Sparks: Siegfried and Odette, as they meet after Odette's rescue, realize their engagement goes on like that.
  • Noble Male, Roguish Male: Rothbart (even when he's still dallying with magic) and Siegfried (even after stopping his womanizing and focusing on Odile).
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Gottwald's plan. Either Odette marries him or all her subjects are devoured by the dragon.
  • Out Of Character Is Serious Business: Signs that the situation is really desperate:
    • Rothbart, or Odette, or both of them breaking down.
    • Siegfried being stern and serious.
  • Open Secret: By the middle of the book, everybody seems to know about Rothbart's feelings for Odette. Rothbart admits that even the fishes in the lake must be already aware of it.
  • Protagonist Title: Played with. Odile is definitely a major character, however, of the two of the female protagonists, Odette gets more focus and character development. But then again, the "sorcerer" of the title is the main male protagonist.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • If you turn into a bird, it doesn’t mean you automatically learn to fly. That’s why Odette in her swan form is able to defeat Liemerich in the form of a raven – she has had four months of flying practice, and he practically hasn’t used his shape-shifting powers at all.
    • A huge, winged, two-headed, fire-breathing dragon can’t be defeated with swords and pitchforks, no matter how valiant and heroic you are. Only thanks to the beast being young and inexperienced and Odette stealing Liemerich’s magical arrows that can pierce its wings the heroes have a chance against it at all; and even so, there are casualties, and even Rothbart has a narrow escape from death.
  • Really Royalty Reveal: Played Up to Eleven. Rothbart turns out to be King Roberto, who, in turn, isn't a born commoner as everybody used to think, but the prince of Naples. The first part, however, isn't so sudden, as Gertrude and Odette begin to suspect it before Rothbart actually reveals it.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni:
    • Odile is Red to Odette's Blue.
    • Siegfried is Red to Rothbart's Blue.
  • Rebel Prince:
    • Siegfried would rather lead a merry life of a prince than have a crown on his head!
    • Rothbart chooses a medical education because doctor is "an unsuitable occupation for a prince".
  • Rebellious Princess: A queen, actually. Anne marries her physician against the wishes of her cousins and the rest of the court.
  • Rightful King Returns: Zig-zagged. Rothbart doesn't want to return, and during the epidemic, while his identity is revealed, it's more like "Rightful Great Healer Returns". But afterwards, he really returns to his birthplace, to be crowned King of Naples.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: A major theme in the book. Lampshaded by Siegfried: he realizes that after he takes part in the fight with the dragon and works with the doctors during the plague epidemic, the people of Grünwald really acknowledge him as their prince.
  • Shapeshifter:
    • Rothbart can assume the form of a black kite.
    • Gottwald can turn into a raven.
    • At one point, Odette turns into a swan on her free will.
  • Skilled, but Naïve: All four protagonists start like this, until Break the Cutie ensues.
  • Suddenly Suitable Suitor:
    • Subverted. Although Rothbart, being a prince of Naples, is more than worthy of Anne, he keeps his identity secret.
    • Later played straight with Rothbart and Odile for Odette and Siegfried respectively.
  • Swans A-Swimming: A prominent motif, given what the story is based on.
    • Swans are practically sacred in Schwanswald. Odette's decision to hunt them horrifies many people, while the happy ending includes swans returning to the lake.
    • Odette and her ladies-in-waiting are compared to elegant swans even before the curse is cast.
    • Rothbart lovingly calls Odette "my wondrous white swan" in his thoughts.
    • Odile is affectionately nicknamed "the black swan" (for her gentleness and grace in the midst of the epidemic) by the people of Grünwald. Ironically, most of them don't know she has been one, temporarily, after Gertrude's ball.
  • Victimized Bystander:
    • Odette’s ladies-in-waiting who get turned into swans alongside her.
    • The villagers who had the misfortune to live near Gottwald's Castle Tudl. Lots of them were killed by a dragon only because Gottwald tried to force Odette to marry him. The author focuses especially on a young village woman Mathilda and her infant son Erwin, who had a near escape from the beast.
    • Later also many people from Roswald and Grünwald – during the plague epidemic.
  • Villain Has a Point: Turning humans into swans certainly isn't nice, but neither is pointlessly killing dozens of swans.
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