The Fairy Godmother
Mercedes Lackey has a lot of fun playing with fairy tales in The Fairy Godmother, and the feeling is infectious. A charming and engaging book, it gets Harlequin’s new Luna fantasy imprint off to a promising start.
In the Five Hundred Kingdoms, legends aren’t just stories, they’re ways of life. A force known as The Tradition is always in effect, searching out those touched by magic. Whenever it finds one of these individuals, it tries to push them into fulfilling a particular story that best fits their circumstances. Fairy godmothers patrol the land, trying to ensure the good tales go as planned and those without happy endings are diverted.
There’s no doubt for which story Elena Klovis was destined. Cursed with a cruel stepmother and two wicked stepsisters, she earned the nickname Ella Cinders for the soot that clung to her after being forced to sleep by the hearth. Too bad for her the only prince in the kingdom is 11 years old, meaning her legend is doomed to go unfulfilled. But when her fairy godmother appears, she offers to make Elena her apprentice, to become a fairy godmother herself.
Elena soon proves she has a knack for the fine art of diverting curses at royal christenings and testing princes as they search for princesses in peril. Before long, she is the Fairy Godmother for her kingdom. It’s an enviable job, but also one that means she’ll probably never experience a love of her own. That is, until she meets the most arrogant prince she ever encountered in the process of testing his worthiness in his quest. Infuriated by his behavior, she turns him into a donkey and takes him home to work at her cottage. That should teach him the humility he so richly needs. She doesn’t anticipate how this turn of events will influence her own happy ending.
Lackey provides the pitch perfect fairy tale feel for the book, and in the beginning, it’s flat-out fantastic. She imbues the archetypal characters with life of their own, rendering the familiar characters much more interesting personalities. There are plenty of clever touches as Lackey sets the ground rules for her fairy tale world and plays with the familiar stories in neat ways. Like most stories of this type, it’s fascinating to watch this all unfold along with the main character, as Elena learns all that being a fairy godmother entails. It helps that she’s not a helpless, one-note cartoon character, but a strong enough person to serve as a heroine.
What kept the book out of DIK territory was that it really lost momentum in the second half once Prince Alexander, the donkey-to-be, entered the picture. The first half, as Elena learns the ropes and Lackey riffs on these stories, is much more interesting than the second, which focuses mainly on Alexander’s comeuppance. After she brings him back to her cottage, it’s a slow process of watching the arrogant man’s spirit gradually being broken. It’s heavy on the moralizing and low on fun. This section of the book is mainly seen through Alexander’s eyes, so Elena, who had been the main character, fades back into the background and is mainly seen as an overbearing harpy. It’s not bad by any means and is still strong character material. It’s just more typical, the usual stuff of romances, and nowhere near as interesting as the opening half. If anything, the first half was too short and the second too long.
The Fairy Godmother is still a fun and often fascinating take on fairy tales and legends, a perfectly magical read that sets a high standard for future Luna releases.
|Review Date:||December 27, 2003|