The Fairy Godmother
by Mercedes Lackey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Fairy Godmother / 0-373-80245-5
I read this beginning novel of the Five Hundred Kingdoms because I thoroughly enjoyed book 5, "The Sleeping Beauty", and couldn't wait to read more about the Five Hundred Kingdoms. I enjoyed this novel as well, but it's interesting to see how Mercedes Lackey has grown as a writer in the intervening years.
Given that this is the first tale in the loosely-connected series, the backstory of the kingdoms is expounded upon more strongly here than in later books - an impersonal force called "The Tradition" tries to force people into fairy tale lives, and Godmothers exist to facilitate and/or buck The Tradition to achieve the best ending for everyone involved. This is a fascinating setup for a fantasy setting, but the explanations do tend to go on for a bit longer than feels strictly necessary, especially if you're already familiar with the concept from another one of the series. Since this novel is told from the point of view of a new godmother - a young woman named Elena, who was "supposed" to be an "Ella Cinders", but her designated prince was way too young - it's especially interesting to see the daily ins-and-outs of godmothering, as they work tirelessly to protect people as best as possible from the sometimes deadly demands of The Tradition.
Like all the Lackey novels I've read so far, "The Fairy Godmother" is exceptionally well-written, but it does sometimes feel a little long. The book almost weighs in at 500 pages (479, to be exact), and quite a bit of that could have been trimmed down in my respectful opinion. Major plot points are sometimes re-summarized in later conversations, which makes sense for "chapter reading", but if you're just reading through in a couple of days, things can start to seem a little repetitive. On the other hand, the fantasy setting is truly interesting and original, and the characterization is fantastic (something Lackey is always superb at), so for some people the novel length might be a major plus - you can spend even more time immersing yourself in this strange new world. Strangely, some of my favorite, most vivid parts were the "side characters" that delved into other traditions, such as the tales of Rosalie and her destined "Ladderlocks" child - I swear I'll never look at a Rapunzel tale the same way.
If you enjoyed "The Sleeping Beauty", as I did, and want more, I'm fairly confident that you'll like "The Fairy Godmother". As I said, it's a little longer than I would have preferred, but the writing is well done and the characterization is wonderful, and as a fairy tale reboot, it's a spot-on example of a fairy tale reboot done well.
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through NetGalley.
~ Ana Mardoll
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