Elena Klovis was supposed to be her kingdom’s Cinderella — until an accident of fate left her with a completely inappropriate prince! Determined not to remain with her stepfamily, Elena set out to get a new job — and ended up becoming the Fairy Godmother for the land.
But “Breaking with Tradition” was no easy matter. True, she didn’t have to sleep in the chimney, but she had to deal with arrogant, stuffed-shirt princes who kept trying to rise above their place in the tale. In fact, one of them was so ornery that Elena could do nothing but change him into a donkey.
Still, her practical nature couldn’t let him roam the country, so she brought the donkey — er, the prince! — home to her cottage to teach him some lessons. All the while keeping in mind that breaking with tradition can land everyone into a kettle of fish — sometimes literally!
And so begins a whole new tale . . .
Ah, fairytales, stories that mostly end with ‘and they lived happily ever after’, well, at least the disney versions end that way. As we know from stories like Little Mermaid and the Matchstick Girl, not all fairytales are the kind you would wish to bring to life. The old classics are always fun though – Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel…I mean, every princess/cinder girl gets her prince, right? But what if Cinderella’s prince was born a decade after her and is still only a child when Cinderella needs him to save her from her evil Stepmother? Yes, cougars are very in these days, but no one really wants a ten year old as their Prince Charming.
Well, that is where the Tradition comes in. In Mercedes Lackey’s The Fairy Godmother (a tale of the 500 kingdoms) the 500 kingdoms are a hotbed of fairytales, not that most people realize they’re living in one, but for those that fit in with Tradition – poor cinder girls, young princesses with jealous stepmothers and princesses who can’t fall asleep in strange houses (hey, I’ve been there – no place like home when it comes to your bed), life can take a few paths – if you fit in with what the story has in store for you – you get your prince and live happily ever..well, you know. But if your prince found a different princess, got lost in the forest or broke that glass slipper – you’re in trouble.
See, it’s magic that makes Tradition want to stick you in a fairytale, and if you missed out, where is all that magic to go? Usually, you will end up giving little pretty things who clean houses for a bunch of dwarfs poison apples. Yup, if you don’t get your fairytale ending – you are most likely to become the next big evil in someone else’s fairytale.
Our Cinderella, Elena has always had a feeling that there was something more waiting for her – as she scrubbed floors and waited hand and foot on her stepfamily. Then, one day they leave and she wants out too. Yet as she will soon find out, Tradition has another fate in store for her. She was supposed to be Cinderella, but that didn’t work out so now she has few paths she can follow – give up the magic that has been inside her, become a fairy godmother or slowly become filled with evil as many have before her.
Well, door number two it is. This is where the story really gets started – Elena begins her training as fairy godmother and through her training we learn more about the Tradition and what it means for the people of the 500 kingdoms. You can’t fight tradition, you can just help it along its way….
I have become a little tired of fairytales recently, all those silly glass slippers and kisses that wake you from 100 years of sleep, I mean, couldn’t these women do anything for themselves? And really Cinderella – the guy doesn’t remember what you look like but he remembers how your foot looked in a shoe? Foot fetish much? So I was wary of reading another take on an old classic. Well, Mercedes Lackey’s incredible world of the 500 kingdoms was definitely worth the read.
Lackey does take a slightly darker view of the world of fairytales, where you can’t fight your destiny even if that destiny is likely to get you killed. I enjoyed reading how different tales came into being in her world and the important role fairy godmothers play in it. It made sense and reminded you that fairytales were once tales that sent a message and taught us lessons in life.
Elena was an interesting heroine but truthfully? As the story moved forward she got more boring rather than less so. And while I loved the build up and background of the fairy godmother – the actual tale – romance that is, seemed a bit weak. The prince learning his lesson was enjoyable, but it almost seemed as if Lackey invested most of her effort in the first part of the book and then just… let the story fizz out. There wasn’t enough of a build up between Elena and her ‘prince’ it seemed a bit forced.
Now, this doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good book – like I said, the backdrop and the world of the 500 kingdoms are fascinating and well worth the read. One might say that Lackey just wanted to get to the ‘Happily Ever After’. This is the first book in the 500 kingdoms series so perhaps other books in the series focus on the characters more. I will be checking them out. What Lackey did manage to do for me? Remind me that the fun thing about fairytales is mixing them up a bit. Bastardized fairytales that’s the way to go – as you too can find out from Day’s wonderful post from earlier this week.
Have a happy Fairytale Week and of course – Happy reading!
Noa received this book from NetGalley.
For more about Mercedes Lackey and her books visit her website
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