Monday, December 1, 2014

How To Become A Fairy Godmother

Hello All!  I hope everybody had a great weekend, mine was busy and fantastic and long and wonderful and just what I needed before the crazy crazy crazy week that starts today.  To start of the week/month of busy as all get out, I thought I would do a bit of a rambling on a book that combines all the comfort of a traditional fairy tale (or ten or twelve) with the freshness of a new idea.  The book is The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey, the first book in the Five Hundred Kingdoms series.  I picked it up a while ago 'cause I liked the idea of a world where people were forced to live the life of a fairy tale character.  I really enjoyed it for several reasons, but first as always SPOILERS AHEAD!
Elena is feeling a bit frustrated, she has lived with her stepmother and two stepsisters in pretty horrible conditions.  She is forced to cook and clean while they spend all the money her father had made before his death, and continued to spend into deep debt.  Now the family is fleeing to a new town, leaving Elena on her own.  Does this sound vaguely familiar to you?  Sounds like the start of Cinderella right :-)  Anyways Elena decides she is going to hire out as a maid, but instead gets apprenticed to Madame Bella, the fairy godmother to several of the Five Hundred Kingdoms.  Elena learns that in the Five Hundred Kingdoms a force called the Tradition tries to force people and events to follow certain patterns that we know as fairy tales.  Some of the tales are great, like Cinderella, other's can have awful deadly consequences like Rapunzel, where at best a guy ends up with his eyes gouged out and at worst, several men die before she finds her true love.  In Elena's case, due to her circumstances, she was being pushed into the Cinderella role, but the fact that there were no Princes in her age range in her, or the surrounding kingdoms, thwarted the pattern.  Instead Elena learns that Fairy Godmothers can use their magic to try and alter or influence the Tradition to produce a more favorable, or at least less deadly out come.  Elena learns enough to take over as Fairy Godmother and we see her work her magic in several cases.  Eventually she sets the tasks for three brother's to determine their suitability to marry a princess and actually be able to rule a country with kindness and competency.  The youngest brother passes and is sent on his way.  The oldest brother is turned into a servant until he learns humility and the middle brother is so cocky that Elena turns him into a mule and brings him home with her.  Eventually he learns his lesson, while falling in love with Elena.  Elena returns his affections and once again breaks tradition by marrying him, providing her own happy ending.  The two, with some help of friends, assist his youngest brother and his new bride in repelling an invasion and everybody finds some sort of ever after until the next book.
I very much enjoyed this book for many many reasons.  The best part was the whole concept.  It is a well thought out concept that kind of gives a reason why so many stories follow a predictable pattern.  My favorite part of the whole book was watching Elena use her own wits and cleverness to come up with viable ways to thwart the powerful Tradition.  This is the type of stuff I love reading about, taking a rule, or law, or tradition and finding the loopholes to re purpose it to ones own end.  I loved how the Tradition was not to be defeated, but to be worked with.  The flow of the book was a bit different then I am used to in stories like this, it was less of a beginning middle and end, all though it had all three, but it was more of an explanation, or an almost manual of how Elena does her job.  Ok that makes it sound boring, which it is not at all, it's just less about Elena (even though she has her own compelling story) and more about the Kingdom's and what Elena does to help them.  It is different in a good way and the angst is kept to a minimum.  It is fun to see all the variations of fairy tales that the author managed to put in without overcrowding the plot.  I also liked how Elena did not feel the need to make every Tradition about romantic love, often times going for the more practical friendship or allies.  A lot of some of the stupid stuff was also addressed in the book, at one point Elena tells the kind brother that while sharing your food with an old woman is all well and good, make sure he saves some for himself, because he can't help anybody if he starves to death.  The author makes her heroine practical, human and smart and I loved reading this book and can't wait to get the next one!  I recommend it to anybody who likes fairy tales or smart capable characters.  I give this book 8 out of 10 flying donkey's.
How would you change a fairy tale?  How refreshing is it to see characters who have some logic behind their actions?  How coherent do you think I'm gonna be by the end of the week?

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