Thinking back on the big handful of superhero novels (not comics or graphic novels) that I’ve reviewed in this space, I can’t recall overly liking that many of them. Fradella’s Swan Song, I do.
As far as I know, Swan Song is not a reference to the Led Zeppelin label, nor is it Frandella’s farewell piece. No, “Swan” is the name of one of the protagonists of the book…whose name we never learn.
Swan Song is a book I picked up in 2009 when I went into panic mode trying to find work for my final critical essay for my MFA. I’d never heard of Frank Fradella before (still not aware of or familiar with any of his other work) and the book was already a couple of years old when I got it. The cover wasn’t that exciting and the soft blues just made me want to yawn.
So when I got around to reading it, I was only half-interested in it. The book starts slow and though the motivation for Permafrost, the main character, isn’t really that clear, the writing pulls you along. It’s difficult to get on board with Permafrost because her main drive is to find the killer of her dad…a man she doesn’t like and has rarely talked to. Uhm…okay. And I care JUST because he’s your dad? I don’t think so.
What keeps me reading is the mysterious Swan, a Batman style hero who fights crime in a small town and the people there all love him. Swan and Permafrost become romantically involved, but he refuses to tell her his secret identity, insisted that remain separate. One argument he makes throughout the story is that he has not special powers and that anybody can be The Swan.
The book has a little harsh language but probably not as much as the last PG-13 movie I saw. It all comes from the bad guys and stands out in stark contrast to the rest of the work, a very pleasant surprise.
It takes a bit to get around to the main plot and when we get there, it comes from a bit out in left field and a roundabout connection to Permafrost’s dad. Even with that bit of annoyance, we’re still drawn to the mysterious Swan…again, in much the same way we’re drawn to Batman even when the writers handle him poorly (can you say DKR?).
With the warning of the bad guy language, I do recommend this book to superhero fans…and maybe those so-so superhero fans of detective/romances—cause there’s a little of that in there, too.