Two Minute Reviews: The Fairy Godmother and One Good Knight by Mercedes Lackey

Friday, September 30, 2011

Genre: fantasy, supernatural/mythic fiction
Series: The 500 Kingdoms #1
Pages: 496 (nook version)
Published: July 2004
Rating: 3/5

I found this introductory novel into a series of fairy-tale retellings to be more than mildly interesting and an admittedly clever premise for such a series. Subtly subverting the archetype of Cinderella for the first novel, Lackey interprets the fairy tale in an original and fun way; it feels fresh and new unlike a familiar or well-trod literary path. Lackey has a flair all her own and Elena lacked the passivity present in so many damsels-in-distress. 

I think the opening chapters fell a little bit flat, and were slightly boring the first hundred pages or so. I kept waiting for the magic (pun intended, I'm shameless) to happen and I never clicked with Elena as closely as I'd liked. Things I enjoyed from the novel: I liked the author's inventive idea for how magic works in this world and how said magic is channeled through certain people via The Tradition, a natural force responsible for the shaping and creating different versions of classic fairytales throughout all the Five Hundred Kingdoms.

The main character of Elena was annoying at first, but she grew on me, like the rest of the book did. I found her to be a bit too perfect and that itself is a big no-no for me: no Mary Sues need apply. However, Elena grows and changes from her stiff and stuffy first impression. The other characters in the book were fairly one-dimensional and lacked any real fire, except for maybe Alexander. And as the obvious love interest, I would've had many more complaints if he had been as wooden as the rest of the background characters. 

It was not as good as I hoped, quite honestly, but it improved drastically after all the introductory details and background were finished. The infodumping is minimal as Lackey keeps her worldbuilding simple and easy to follow/create mentally. I did feel a bit bored as the "lessons" with Alexander wore on, but the unicorns were more than enough amusement to make up for that. The only other main issue I had with the story was that the final conflict and resolution seemed rushed and stilted in their slightly predictable execution. A decent effort, overall enjoyable and easy to read, though far from outstanding. I hope for more in the second. I will say the book is worth the money in ebook form: it was only $5.76

Genre: fantasy, supernatural/mythic fiction
Series: The 500 Kingdoms #2
Pages: 400 (Nook edition)
Published: March 2006
Rating: 3.5/5

Much stronger plotlines (and less predictable as well) than its predecessor, along with a genuinely likable protagonist made One Good Knight an easy 3.5 out of 5.

This was a drastic improvement over the first in the series of the Five Hundred Kingdoms. Almost none of the problems I had from the first novel were in this sequel, and it was vastly more entertaining to read than The Fairy Godmother. Instead of focusing on the "Cinderella" fairytale, the second book is about the Greek legend of the Andromeda sacrifices in a small, poor Kingdom with no Godmother. I am a huge fan of Greek myths and legends and Lackey's handling of the popular tale was both amusing and surprising. 

First on the list of vast improvements is Andromeda herself. Andie is the main character and is actually that, a character instead of a cliche. She's smart, bookish, resourceful, and clever. She's a very engaging character, as were the villains of the story (which surprised me). Not content to do as she is told and is expected, Andie is a determined girl with heart and personality to burn. Though she may be a tad earnest and eager, she was a nice change from more popular and jaded heroines. I'm almost always also a sucker for a bookworm character: its very easy for me to relate to. . . hmm. . . wonder why that could be?

Second on the list of what I enjoyed: the conflict and resolution did not seem nearly as rushed as the end of the first book. It was much better plotted, without the random lulls and frequent rushes in narrative that plagued the first. On the whole, the entire novel felt more well-planned, thought out and written than the first. It's also much funnier and filled with more fleshed out characters instead of one-dimensional second-rate "personalities". As before stated, even the male villain specifically has more than one side and wrestled with Andie to claim the position of my favorite character.

One minor problem I had was that sometimes the actions of a character would make absolutely no sense, as in did nothing to help that character out and were blatant attempts to make the ending work to its predictable Traditional path. (Usually the actions of one or the other of the antagonists...)That being said, the ending did surprise me in a way that I totally loved and grinned while reading. A much better book than the first and I look forward to the next. And, like The Fairy Godmother this is a pretty cheap ebook - only $5.76

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