[Edit: Originally published July 2, 2016]
I bawled like a baby when I finished reading this book. I cannot thank Robin Swift enough for writing this. Sweet Nightingale is a Cinderella story with a trans male protagonist. The young man Char, is victim to his stepmother’s whims.
There’s more to it than just a simple Cinderella story, however. The princess, (yes our dashing Char, gets a princess instead of a prince) is in danger. There have been several assassination attempts since she was born and a plot emerges for a third during the balls the princess has put on for finding potential suitors.
I really enjoyed how much the political aspect was shown. In most Cinderella stories (and fairy tales in general I think) you get vague notions of Kings and Queens and ruling, but this story takes a dip into court politics that goes farther than most retellings I’ve seen, which grounds the story in reality though it certainly doesn’t detract from the fairy tale aspects of the story.
I loved the stepsisters. Lucille and Ria, they’re younger than Char. Their cruelty comes from emulating their mother, but by the end, they’ve grown and learned and turned against their mother and her treatment of Char. And Char, does his best to care for the girls he loves them, despite their treatment of him.
Sweet Nightingale comes with the the warnings of a typical Cinderella story. Child abuse being a large one. It’s probably got one of the best depictions of non-physical abuse I’ve ever read in regards to how that kind of abuse affects a person. Particularly why it isn’t just as easy as getting up and leaving. Tied in with this there is some transphobia, but it’s pretty much exclusive to the stepmother.
There’s also some minor character death, and the violence that comes along with that, plus remember those assassination attempts I mentioned?. There is an animal death as well, a horse. That surprised me a little when it happened.
Back to my first point that I cried like a baby. This is a story about a trans man with a rough life and then gets a beautiful and wonderful happy ending with a beautiful woman (who I totally read as a trans woman, though I don’t think it’s ever touched upon if she’s cis or not). I don’t think I can really put into words how much it meant to see myself represented in fiction in a way that wasn’t a coming out story. I don’t think I could have asked for a better book to be my first experience reading something with a trans male lead.
I am eagerly looking forward to the next book in the series. It’s not often I keep up with book series that are current and ongoing, but this one is definitely worth following.
Find the book here.