The prolific Lackey the Valdemar series draws on the darker, Brothers Grimm side of fairy lore for her enchanting tale, the first title under a new Harlequin imprint to spotlight romantic fantasy. In the land of the Five Hundred Kingdoms, the Tradition, that ineffable magic, holds the promise of happily-ever-after for all deserving young maidens and courteous princes charming. But the Tradition also leads some in its thrall to pain, suffering and gruesome death. Feisty year-old Elena Klovis seems destined to be an Ella of the Cinders Cinderella , at the mercy of her wicked stepmother and greedy stepsisters. To escape their clutches, Elena tries to get work as a maidservant, but her fairy godmother, Madame Bella, has other plans for her.
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Think Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty — helpless and passive in wait of a prince to save them. This is not to discredit princesses like Pocahontas or Mulan, who fight for what they believe in and challenge the status quo. Cinderella is still rewarded for her suffering by marrying the prince.
These novels are half fantasy, half romance, all perfect. They flip the fairy-tale narrative on its head, taking familiar tales and inverting them in fascinating and delightful ways. The first novel in the series and the best, in my opinion is The Fairy Godmother. Otraria is a happy land. The king and queen are beloved by the people, the land is safe and prosperous. Even the weather seems inclined to fit into a narrative of peace and plenitude.
Elena, however, is not living the life of a typical Otrarian. Living with her stepmother and two stepsisters, Elena is abused and overworked. Her place in the family is reduced to an unpaid servant. She works from dawn until midnight or later, and only eats bare scraps. She lives in rags and sleeps on a pallet on the floor. Sound familiar? Although Elena falls into the Ella Cinders narrative, her story does not reach its natural conclusion.
Her prince is only 11 years old to her Her fairy godmother, Bella, begins to explain the way that things work in the Five Hundred Kingdoms:. Elena has felt the weight of the magic looming over her for quite some time, feeling like she was destined for something more.
This is when Bella steps in. However, she has an unexpected alternative. She offers to take Elena on as an apprentice, and teach her how to be a fairy godmother in her own right. Bella explains that she was once a Cindergirl just like Elena. However, she became a Fairy Godmother when her path did not complete. She has spent her whole life since then trying to get the Tradition to follow happier paths. She has to fight against the Tradition itself, sometimes. Bella explains to Elena that:.
Consider the fact that pretty much every culture has a Cinderella tale. So whenever a girl starts to resemble Cinderella, the Tradition sets her on that path. As Bella explains, not every path leads to a happily ever after. In Fair Rosalinda, a beautiful peasant girl becomes the mistress of the king, and is poisoned by the queen.
Her body is dumped in a river, and a musician makes an instrument from her bones or her hair. Having heard the explanation makes her life suddenly make more sense. The Tradition explains the looming sense of something that she has felt, particularly since she turned sixteen.
She resents the Tradition and decides that, like Bella, she will fight for happy endings. So, in an unfamiliar narrative, Cinderella becomes the Fairy Godmother. Elena is given the blessing of the Elven King and Queen, who examine all new godmothers. She receives higher honors than most when they see her determination to set things as right as she can.
Eventually, Bella retires, leaving Elena in charge. Having spent most of her life fighting the Tradition, she is satisfied with her new apprentice. Of course, the story does not end there. This is, after all, a romance novel. Although the book up until this point has been a fairly straightforward coming-of-age story or, rather, a coming-into-power story , the novel is only half over.
The romance part kicks in when Elena, well into her godmothering, is set to test a series of questers at a crossroads. She takes on the familiar disguise of an old lady asking for help. The three questers she challenges are brothers, princes from a neighboring kingdom. The first coldly ignores her. She curses him with the punishment of wandering in the forest until he is humbled, though she doubts it will take place anytime soon.
The second brother cruelly tries to run her down on his horse, pricking her temper in a big way. She uses her magic to transform him into a donkey — claiming that if he is going to act like an ass, he might as well be one. The third brother is kind and helps the old lady. This earns him the assistance of the Fairy Godmother on his task. Left with an ass, Elena decides to take him home and set him to work. She is determined to rid him of his arrogance and show him the way the other half lives.
Elena lives in a cottage with four Brownies. Though they are all magical, they do a lot of work by hand to keep the cottage running. The ass, named Alexander, is put to work pulling logs, hauling bricks, and otherwise working harder than he ever has in his life. Unfortunately, Elena must give Alexander every seventh day as a human or he would be lost in the donkey.
When she does give him time as a human, she discovers a bit of the Tradition sneaking through — because Elena was supposed to marry a prince, the Tradition forces her to be attracted to an unmarried prince, particularly such a handsome one.
The Tradition does not care that Alexander is really an ass. It wants to control her, and make her fit a comfortably familiar narrative. At one point, Alexander tries to force himself on her. He is determined to rid her of her control, and she feels her body respond.
However, Elena is stronger than the Tradition and blasts him on his back. She threatens to geld him if he tries that again. MORE: Love a good romance?
Waiting for something. Some direction, perhaps? Whatever it was — it was certainly listening to her now. She commands that, although she will not reject love altogether, she will not allow herself to be pushed about and controlled.
She is Elena Klovis, she is a Fairy Godmother, and she will be the one in control. This is where the romance story picks up. Alexander continues to be an ass, and Elena begins to despair over ever redeeming him. One day, however, a dryad helps him see how others see him. He realizes that he really is an ass. He turns things around, and Elena eventually allows him to become a man again. This complicates things, though. Elena begins to have erotic dreams about Alexander. She is forced to realize that she is genuinely attracted to him.
Eventually Alexander is reformed enough to face a final challenge. Elena recruits the Elven King and Queen to test him. They present the scenario of a lord trying to rape one of his servants.
Alexander angrily demands justice, whereas before he might have ignored it — or worse, joined in. Pleased with his progress, the Elven King and Queen bless him. It becomes apparent that he has some modicum of magical ability — not enough to become a powerful wizard in his own right, but enough to become a Champion, a magical knight.
However, when they come together it is not a bawdy seduction, but a coming together of equals who are attracted to each other. They become lovers, and Elena rejoices in her happiness at the same time that she fears the consequences.
Her Brownies, far older and more experienced, remind her that there is no place in the Tradition for a Godmother to have a princely lover. She helps Alexander rescue the kingdom, both proud of him for his reversion to Champion and worried that he will die. Wracked by guilt, Elena does whatever she can to undo the damage. She ends up helping Alexander defeat the evil sorcerer and save his brother. Following these events, Elena and Alexander must face a high council to explain their actions.
However, whatever the council decides, Elena is confident that she and Alexander will remain together. They had, just that morning, married. Their only rebuke is that Elena and Alexander rushed into action so quickly and perhaps unthinkingly. Alexander points out that speed was needed to save his brother. As far as her marriage is concerned, their only response is to joke that it is traditional for Godmothers to take lovers, but if she wants to limit herself to one man, that is her choice.
She can have her magic, have her husband, and very likely have some cake too. So in the end, Elena ends up married to the prince after all.
The Fairy Godmother
From perusing your backlists I know that you have written several series. The Five Hundred Kingdoms are fairy tales come to life. Well, this is fine, well and good when the circumstances are right to fulfill one but when things go astray, resident Fairy Godmothers are available to step in and avert mistakes and tragedies. Take, for instance, Elena Klovis.
THE FAIRY GODMOTHER
I found the writing to be juvenile, and the characters rather boring. I would say it would be perfect for the 6th or 7th grader if it wasn't for the crude sex scenes. I love fantasy novels. But this was rather disappointing. I only finished it because it was similar to a train wreck I just wanted to see if the characters managed to get any deeper, the plot any better. I just wanted to see if the characters managed to get any deeper, the plot any better, etc
REVIEW: The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey
It is about a young woman named Elena, the daughter of a wealthy gentleman. After the death of her mother, her father married a devious social climber with two daughters of her own. Not long after the marriage, Elena's father dies and her stepmother relegates her into the position of a house servant. She seems to be the perfect Cinderella candidate, except the prince of the land is many years younger than she - he is eleven.