Before I jet off to Auckland tomorrow, here’re the backlogged reviews I promised of these two Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms by Mercedes Lackey. I’m diving straight into the things I love about these great stories. Actually I couldn’t find faults with them, but anyhow, here goes …
My first revelation of how Ms Lackey intends to retell some well-loved fairy tales in her own way came when the heroine in The Fairy Godmother, whose life is a perfect mirror of Cinderella’s, was rescued by a fairy godmother herself and offered the chance to be an apprentice. The unusual premise of breaking from the Traditional fairy tale path got me curious about how the story will turn out, further to what the back cover promised.
So by the time Elena got herself a disbelieving, sullen and arrogant prince to transform into a honourable and chivalrous champion, I was rooting for a happy ending for her. I simply refused to believe that romance would bypass the young but intelligent godmother altogether since she has wrought about quite a few happy endings. But what a way Ms Lackey chose to end the story. There was fantasy, magic (big time!), evil sorcerers, romance and chivalry — all the stuff I loved growing up, so it is small wonder indeed that her fresh twist to a long familiar story found new fans, myself included.
Then I got on to One Good Knight, and boy did she turn the tale of Andromeda and St. George and the Dragon upside down to give a brand new perspective on greed, power abuse, courage, friendship and love.
Somehow I had an inkling that the ‘knight’ sent to rescue the maiden would be an uncommon champion, and that in the end Andie will find courage, acceptance and romance in the unlikeliest of places and people. Again, Elena’s ingenuity at solving problems was reinforced, and a satisfactory ending (a la Shrek … you know, princess turning into ogre, but in this case dragon and girl exchanging identities) for one and all.
I recall an ex-colleague deriding my taste in fantasy authors … he used to scoff at Mercedes Lackey being too much of a female readers’ author. But I’ve always disregarded his opinion anyway, because hey, I’m a girl at heart. And I do want a HEA in my fantasy novels even though I don’t expect any romantic tear-wrenching scenes to take centrestage.
Ms Lackey has built an utterly imaginative and totally believable parallel fairy tale universe here and that is the key attribute of a good fantasy work, anytime. So let me give credit where it’s due and seal these choices as my recommended reading for fantastical escapes from reality.
Just be sure to suspend your usual expectations of heroes and heroines.