Adventures in Reading

Fiction: Foundation by Mercedes Lackey

Sometimes I like to pretend I am a fan of fantasy, but I’m really not or at least I’m an exceptionally selective fan of what I do and do not like within the genre. Over the last year I stumbled across Mercedes Lackey’s 500 Kingdoms Series and they were excellent reads. It’s a perfect series to sit down with a cup of coffee, curl up with a blanket, and allow yourself some thoughtful and whimsical escape from the stresses of daily life. When I found an advanced reader’s copy of Lackey’s newest book Foundation due out in October I lept at the chance to read more by this author.

I’m writing this review after reading Lawrence Watt-Evan’s humorous commentary of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and in The Turtle Moves! he refers to a type of book within the fantasy genre referred to as “magic pony,” which the moment I read had me cracking up. In his description “magic pony” fantasy is more or less an orphan from a bedraggled past (most often a girl and frequently redheaded) that teams up with a magical creature. Foundation, the first in the Collegium Chronicles, is such a book.

Except this girl is really a boy names Mags. Foundation opens up with this orphan working as a slave in a jewel mine owned by a tyrannical paternal figure. With an off and on generically uneducated dialect streaming through the text, the reader acquaints themselves with Mags and his condition. Until he is rescued by a group of heralds and what will be Mags’ Companion Dallen (a white horse that instantly builds a mind link with Mags). Mags discovers that he will be a Heraldic trainee and the story continues reminiscent of other fantasy books with poor orphaned children having fortunate luck and while making the best of things having to deal with dark forces.

In my experience with Lackey (now four books in) I have found a curious predictability in plot line or that it is always the same. Three-fourths of the novel will be dedicated to character building and establishing enough intrigue that a climax is available to conclude the novel on. This blackout-like conclusion is followed by an epilogue that ensures a harmonious conclusion. This doesn’t make Foundation a bad book, not at all, but the simplicity of stories and crystal clear morality encourages me to place Foundation as a children’s book.

I also found it interesting that Foundation is now joining the ranks of other children’s books that develop a mystique of horror and fright around the ever frightening letter V: Harry Potter has Voldemort, the Twilight series has Volturi, Victoria, and Vampires, while Foundation introduces Vrondi the transparent floating eyes that keep a watch over the kingdom.


Mercedes Lackey and moral fiction
June 25, 2008, 10:08 am
Filed under: thoughtful | Tags: , , , , ,

There is a Dorothy L. Sayers quote Mercedes Lackey is quite partial to as I have seen it in the author’s note or preface in at least two of her books now. From her most recent book The Snow Queen:

“Dorothy L. Sayers used to say that mystery stories were the only moral fiction of the modern world—because in a mystery, you were guaranteed to see that the bad got punished, the good got rewarded and in the end all was made right.

I’d like to think that fantasy does the same thing. It reminds us that this is how it should be. The good will be rewarded. The bad will be punished. Sins will be forgiven.

And they will live happily ever after.”

Something similar to this also appeared in the first book I read by Lackey The Fairy Godmother, but in that if I recall correctly Lackey was stating this particularly pertaining to women’s attraction to the fantasy genre. And I admit that both times I came across this it became stuck in my gullet and I had to force myself to swallow. From the books I have read of Mercedes Lackey, if they did not have magic and dragons it really would be just another romance novel. (Some with a little more or a little less sex.)

But the idea of moral fiction itself I suppose is what really perturbs me. Morals, good, bad – it’s all very subjective depending on who, where, and when the person deciding what is and isn’t moral belongs to. I also suppose I don’t like the righteousness behind the ideas that the good are vindicated and that the bad are punished. I’m not against happy endings, but I might have to start skipping Lackey’s author’s notes if I continue reading her books!

The Snow Queen by Mercedes Lackey

When I learned that Mercedes Lackey already had a new book coming out in the Five Hundred Kingdom series, I could not resist adding my name to the list at the library. The Snow Queen by Mercedes Lackey is a reinterpretation of Hans Christian Anderson’s beloved fairy tale by the same name. In Lackey’s retelling, Godmother Aleksia actually assumes the role of the “terrible” Snow Queen and under this guise helps wayward magic souls nearing the dark side by helping them appreciate the love, bounty, etc. they already have at hand. But when a Traditional Snow Queen starts operation next store and the blame of ever winter and entire villages dying is blamed on Aleksia the real story begins.

The Snow Queen is set apart from the other stories in the series mostly because of Godmother Aleksia: prior to becoming a Godmother Aleksia was unwittingly pursuing a Traditional story where she would kill her sister to marry her brother-in-law. Even when she is rescued from this and set in place as the Snow Queen, Aleksia remains concerned how her isolation and solitude makes the dark side in many ways appealing.

The Snow Queen is an enjoyable summer read and more similar to the first two novels in the series. Oddly enough I keep finding fragments of Terry Pratchett throughout this series, and either Lackey is paying homage to my favorite fantasy writer or I’m looking for him where he doesn’t exist! But the two authors employ some similar ideas when it comes to story telling and tradition.