Grade 6 Up-- Visually this book is stunning , with handsomely designed borders , elegant paper, and an evocative small black - and - white illustration of two swans on the title page. Some of the 13 full-color illustrations placed throughout the book are more affecting than others. The emperor lying with his head propped on his dog and his pen between his toes, the rider standing on a galloping horse, and the two great swans with wings raised as if to dance are memorable images. The archer in the window poised to kill seems more shadowy than sinister, and the two lovers falling to their death are awkward rather than graceful. The retelling and adaptation of the well-known story is more problematic. The fragile story of a prince who leaves his childhood behind when he finds his princess, an enchanted swan held captive by an evil magician, has been adapted into a tale of the power struggle between an evil politician and naive rulers, with the lovers caught in the middle. The magician Von Rothbart is now the emperor's second in command and the real power in the land. The only enchantment is the pure love between Odette and the Prince that survives in the form of an infant daughter. The Prince's tutor, who acts the drunken fool in order to keep his post at court, tells the story to their child. The writing is skillful, with verbal images so strong that the illustrations almost seem unnecessary, but the plot is overloaded with philosophical musing about the quality of life and ironic descriptions of life at a decadent court. It is much too dense and sophisticated for children, and at the same time thin fare on which to pin so much for adults. A special purchase for large public libraries because of interest in the two creators and as a lovely example of book making.