Adventures in Reading

Fortune’s Fool by Mercedes Lackey

I finally got around to reading Fortune’s Fool from Mercedes Lackey’s Five Hundred Kingdom Series. It was actually seeing this book released in mass market that encouraged my interest in reading The Fairy Godmother and One Good Knight. Usually I try to avoid reviews of books I’m currently reading or just about to start, because I find I have a habit of determinately trying to agree or disagree with the review. For Fortune’s Fool, I did happen to come across a review (goodness knows where, perhaps on Amazon?) that did not look so favorable on the book.

The third novel in the Five Hundred Kingdoms series is quite different from its predecessors as the novel relies heavily on movement and scene changes. Katya, the Sea King’s Daughter, and Sasha, a Seventh Son and Fortunate Fool of the land kingdom Belrus, fall in love. During a mission to find a kidnapped Swan Princess and a Snow Woman, Katya allows herself to be magically stolen to discover that an evil Jinn is plucking women with magic abilities from their home. Katya’s story unfolds from her desert prison, but Sasha’s story has him meeting with numerous magical creatures and fanciful tales.

One of my favorite authors Walter Moers truly depends on movement through his story to maintain reader’s interest and this can be done terribly well or just terribly when authors employ this almost flippant regard to scenery and happenstance. Lackey does a good job with this and more closely follows the precise tales in Fortune’s Fool than she has in the previous books in the series. Additionally, while The Tradition is always an important force in the series, in Fortune’s Fool it exists as something of a backdoor yet grounding force. A Jinn, or fire spirit, does not belong in this part of the Kingdoms and the Tradition really has no path to follow but instead offers suggestions.

In short, Fortune’s Fool veers away from what otherwise would have been set ideas for the series.

The book does not go perfectly smoothly either: the beginning’s rough with a bizarre House of Flying Daggers (the movie) scene, Lackey spends time poorly interlacing Japanese and Russian folklore, Lackey moves away from really reinterpreting the tales, the lonely, and the virgin princess is becoming tiresome regularity, as are the bloody Unicorns.

As far as the series goes, you do not have to read these books in order but it does help. Ella from The Fairy Godmother flits into One Good Knight, and the dragons Adamant and Gina from One Good Knight are the champions in Fortune’s Fool. It also offers you a better grasp on Lackey’s capitalized pursuit of Champions, Seventh Sons, Fairy Godmother’s, and so forth. You can assume what is going on and will probably be right if you read these books out of order.

Another fun and enjoyable read I wiled away my rainy day off with.

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One Good Knight by Mercedes Lackey

“…Champions were who you turned to when all was lost. Champions were the rescuers of the hopeless, the protectors of the innocent and, above all, the warriors no amount of money could buy.”

My curiosity was peeked with The Fairy Godmother and I quickly found myself scanning the library shelves to pick up the next title in Mercedes Lackey’s Five Hundred Kingdoms series One Good Knight. The second title of this series takes the reader into another of the Five Hundred Kingdoms to watch how The Tradition interacts with the inhabitants.

What is an academic princess supposed to do when dragons attack? Andromeda – also known as Andie – gets to experience this question when the kingdom of Acadia is attacked by a dragon. Resulting from the questionable motives of her mother Queen Cassiopeia, Andie is offered up as dragon fodder and must rely on the help of a mysterious Champion to save her and the kingdom.

I enjoyed One Good Knight as much as I enjoyed The Fairy Godmother. It was a fun read, an enjoyable re-exploration of various fairy tales, though the introduction of it was somewhat more transparent. Lackey does explore some interesting territory though with magical gender bias, a female Champion, and a lovesick dragon. These are more then compensation to make up for the weaker beginning.

It was interesting having a hero wearing glasses (or “oculars”) and desiring to keep her nose in a book. Lackey continues with a virgin princess emphasis (the Unicorn jokes are becoming slightly stale, but still funny in the same way that I can’t help occasionally laugh at Saturday Night Live when I tune in), but Andie is significantly different from the helpless or overly prepared oft seen alternatives.

However, once again I found myself scanning the last quarter or so of the book. From the two Lackey books I have read, she seems to favor and rely very much on a plot line that depends on the rising action and as a result the climax has too much to live up to and the epilogue is very much an easy way to escape a more well-constructed resolution. [1] Lackey is definitely an author where the journey is the meaningful and engaging aspect of the novel rather than the conclusion.

Overall, an okay and entertaining read for a rainy day. I did find this one reminiscent of Jane Gaskell’s The Serpent.

[1] (1) The introduction, (2) the rising action, (3) the climax, (4) and the epilogue.

My review of The Fairy Godmother.

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The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey

For a long time I have considered myself a fan of fantasy, though truth be known I am more a fan of Terry Pratchett who is considered a fantasy author. From time to time, I get the urge to strike out into new fantastical geographies and most recently, I stumbled across Mercedes Lackey’s Five Hundred Kingdoms series. This series is Lackey’s exploration of western classical fairytales, but rather than simply retelling the story, Lackey grasps the source at the root.

In the world of Five Hundred Kingdoms is The Tradition or “The way that magic tries to set things on a particular course […] And there are dozens and dozens of […] tales that The Tradition is trying to recreate, all the time, and perhaps one in a hundred actually becomes a tale.” In The Fairy Godmother Witches, Hedge-Wizards, Sorcerers, Sorceresses but particularly Godmothers and Wizards herd this power. Like shepherds finding sheep, when a Godmother observes a story unfolding she will recommend (with a few nudges and prods) the story towards a correct or better direction.

Elena Klovis was born to be a Cinderella, but once her eighteenth birthday passes and no prince has appeared her story begins to follow another course. Her stepfamily leaves town because of outstanding debts and Godmother Bella appears in town to recruit Elena. From here, The Fairy Godmother follows Elena through her training, her involvement in fairy tales, and finally a romantic tryst with a Champion that breaks and smashes all the established rules of The Tradition.

The Fairy Godmother is a fun book and the first in what looks to be a promising series exploring fairy tales and possibly how to break them. I did find the book in parts too long and a little too detailed. The risk of retelling known stories, no matter how delightful a fashion, is that your reader is already familiar with the tale and usually the outcome and thus I found myself scanning the last thirty pages or so. In addition, Lackey seemed to have many ideas for The Fairy Godmother that could have spilled over into a second book. Lackey definitely incorporates ideas and themes from the romance genre into this book, which I am not such a fan of. [1]

I enjoyed my adventures with Mercedes Lackey’s The Fairy Godmother, it was a pleasant book, and I am looking forward to picking up the second book in the series One Good Knight for more light reading. It also feels good to spread my fledging fantasy wings a bit more.

[1] There is nothing wrong with sex, violence, “bad words,” etc. in a book if it serves a purpose and makes sense. But (as with The Fairy Godmother) if it can be removed and doesn’t detract from the story, I find it superfluous and more often than not a bit ridiculous.

My review on One Good Knight.