Q&A with Katharine and Liz Corr



A Throne of Swans Blog Tour

Questions and Answers with Katharine and Liz Corr



A Throne of Swans by Elizabeth CorrKatharine CorrWhen her father dies just before her birthday, seventeen-year-old Aderyn inherits the role of Protector of Atratys, a dominion in a kingdom where nobles are able to transform at will into the bird that represents their family bloodline. Aderyn's ancestral bird is a swan. But she has not transformed for years, not since witnessing the death of her mother - ripped apart by hawks that have supposedly been extinct since the long-ago War of the Raptors. With the benevolent shelter of her mother and her father now lost, Aderyn is at the mercy of her brutal uncle, the King, and his royal court. Driven by revenge and love, she must venture into the malevolent heart of the Citadel in order to seek the truth about the attack that so nearly destroyed her, to fight for the only home she has ever known and for the land she has vowed to protect


I've been a big fan of Kate and Liz Corr's writing since I read their wonderful contemporary/time travelling witch trilogy, starting with The Witch's Kiss, so I was very excited to hear that their new book is a political fantasy novel. What's more, it's a political fantasy based on fairytale and folklore with a definite ornithological twist. When I'm not reading I love bird watching, travelling the country and overseas to see rare and interesting birds, so this book basically ticks all of my boxes! 

It's a brilliant novel too. It introduces the world very cleverly, it unfolds throughout the story, never stopping to force geography or history on us, leaving the reader wanting to know more. You can tell it's all there, that there's these different kingdoms and areas out there, religious beliefs, the "Raptor wars" that I'm aching to hear more about; but we're shown just enough for this story, and for me that really worked.

There's mystery and peril and some thoroughly nasty villains. Some thoroughly nasty people who aren't necessarily villains too, this never feels like a nice or a safe environment! Nice hints at romance, and some great representation for non-hetero relationships too. 

I managed to get an opportunity to interview Kate and Liz about their novel, focusing on the use of birds throughout. In their world, each noble family can transform into a different species of bird, an ability not shared by commoners.



1. Firstly, why did you decide to go with people shapeshifting into birds? Most of our shapeshifting myths and fables involve people shifting into other mammals.

A Throne of Swans was inspired by the ballet Swan Lake. This in turn was inspired by the various Swan Maiden / Swan Knight folk tales, which of course feature women and men transforming into swans. From that beginning we started imagining a world where an entire group of people could transform into swans and other birds, and where status and wealth might depend on which bird family you belong to. It seemed really appealing to give most of our characters the power of flight, since that's something that humans always seem to have dreamt of. We also enjoyed thinking about how a ruling class that could shapeshift into birds would affect things like architecture, laws, religion and so on.

2. And how did you decide on swans as your ruling class?

Really because of the Swan Lake link. In the ballet, Odette, the white swan, is a princess, so keeping her as a character made it logical that the rest of the ruling family would be swans.  But we wanted to acknowledge that in the real world birds of prey are the apex predators. So, in creating a  history for Solanum, we decided that the previous ruling family (Aquila, who could transform into eagles) must have been mostly destroyed in some sort of civil war. The Cygnus family, who had been merely the stewards to the royal house, seized that opportunity to take power.

3. What research did you do into birds for the book?

We spent quite a lot of time on the RSPB website (rspb.org.uk) researching birds' appearances so we could incorporate details into our descriptions of nobles; some of their bird characteristics carry over into their human appearance. A Throne of Swans includes descriptions of flight, so we read articles on how birds fly and on wing construction, and of course we read a lot specifically about swans. The Swan Sanctuary (theswansanctuary.org.uk) is a great site for swan-related information. We also looked at lists of common bird names and their Latin translations to get ideas for names of both people and places, and at bird-related words in other languages. Aderyn, our main character's name, is actually Welsh for bird.. One of the most interesting sites we found (wildlifeandwords.wordpress.com) includes a list of lost bird names; there we found the name for one of our magpie characters in book two.

4. Can you give me any hints of other bird families we might see in book two?

Three of the new characters who are either mentioned or actually appear in A Crown of Talons are princes from outside Solanum. We wanted them to feel a little more unusual, so we decided they should belong to famiies that weren't featured in A Throne of Swans. One is a vulture and two are gyrfalcons - absolutely beautiful birds, as we discovered from our research.

5. Lastly, if you could transform into a bird yourself, what species would you transform into?

Kate: I think I'd like to be an owl. I was lucky enough to see one up close last year and it was just stunning. Plus I love the idea of swooping silently across a field at dusk.

Liz: A swan, because they're beautiful but deceptively strong, and capable of being quite brutal too!


Excellent choices, both. 
If I had a choice, I think I'd be a noble turned pirate lord, and I'd transform into a Skua.


Huge thanks to Kate and Liz for answering my questions, and to Hot Key Books for sending me a proof copy to read and review. A Throne of Swans is out on 9th January 2020. 

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