Orr masterfully brings to life this coming-of-age story set in Bronze Age Thera (today Santorini). A young girl begins her initiation into the island goddess’s rituals for womanhood when disaster strikes. With her old life destroyed, Leira must find a new way to live while being the primary caretaker of both her mother and nursemaid, Nunu. Leira’s story is one of heartbreak, loss and tragedy, but also teaches important lessons about duty, family, and what it means to be a woman in a new, strange world.
Orr’s narrative breaks into beautiful poetic verse throughout Swallow’s Dance, strengthening the mystical and mysterious atmosphere that surrounds Leira’s world. She has created a story which adeptly melds the reality of ancient class distinctions and gender hierarchies with the mystery of ancient religious rites and their importance in constructing societal norms.
This beautiful book would best suit older child readers as well as young adult readers as its themes can be quite dark and some of its content may need careful preparation by a guardian before it is read by younger readers. However, overall, Leira’s story is one of hope and perseverance. For any child interested in ancient civilisations or looking for a strong, realistic female protagonist, Swallow’s Dance is the perfect fit.