Two Minute Reviews: Fortune's Fool and The Snow Queen by Mercedes Lackey

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Genre: mythic fiction/fairytale retellings/supernatural fiction, fantasy
Series: The 500 Kingdoms #3
Pages: 368 (Nook edition)
Published: March 2007
Rating: 3.5/5

From the first page, the latest installment of The Five Hundred Kingdoms is retelling/reinvention of several different influences. I found the third novel much more charming than the first and on par with the second. Katya is another female heroine I genuinely like, though she's a difficult character. There is a definite feel to this story akin to that of the classic The Little Mermaid, and elements of Russian folktales that inspired the Disney classic as well as a bit of Greek legend (Sirens/Siren blood) mixed in as well. The author does an admirable job of blending all three source materials into something fresh and fun to read.

I enjoyed this one just as much as One Good Knight and considerably more than The Fairy Godmother. The Tradition has less impact upon the lives of Katya and her family than the previous novels because they are part of the separatist Sea King's underwater Kingdom, but it is still a strong force within the series. I like the distance from the plot-heavy/obvious routes of the Tradition: Fortune's Fool feels less like a retread and more like the retelling it is - similar but spiced with unique developments courtesy of a fresh mind behind the age-old myths. Like the two previous novels, Katya is paired up with a love interest almost instantly, but unlike the first two, she is then separated from him and he must find her and, eventually, free her on his own.  Katya is the most genuinely likeable, if not relatable, female protagonists this far in the series. Likewise for Sasha, her attractive love interest: as he is just as likeable as Peri and Adam, and much more so than Alexander.

My only real complaint is that I do wish that the names for places had been a little more thought-out or just even more original. "Dry Lands", "Nippon", and "Belarus" felt like an easy/unoriginal way out for Lackey to name important locales of the story. A little more disguising of who their real-world Earth counterparts are would do a lot for the atmosphere of the story, since she decided to go with an other-world for the setting of the novel.

Genre: mythic fiction/fairytale retellings/supernatural fiction, fantasy
Series: The 500 Kingdoms #4
Pages: 384 (Nook edition)
Published: June 2008
Rating: 3/5

Similar to the formula in the first book of the Five Hundred Kingdoms, the main character in the fourth of the series is a Godmother named Aleksia or the Ice Fairy/Snow Queen of Ever-Winter. Also like Elena, she was a failed Traditional story twice, hers being that of the Snow White/Rose Red and the murderously jealous sister that covets a twin's husband. I liked the similarities and differences to the earlier heroine: Aleksia was an interesting comparison to her more warm-hearted (forgive me, I cannot resist) Godmothers. Sadly, besides unraveling the mysteries of just which two Traditional paths she had failed, I found Aleksia a hard character to relate to - as I am sure was supposed to be the case - she's the Snow Queen. I only wish she would have defrosted either earlier, or privately. I simply couldn't empathize enough to more than merely like her.

I have enjoyed this series so far, and this latest effort was no exception. The characters were interesting and vivid, as well as fresh and engaging. The instant coupling up that the previous books had wasn't the same for Aleksia, which I though was an improvement. She developed as her own character, rather than an part of a dependent pair. While some readers may have wished for more romance in this novel, as it is notable pared down from the first three on the romantical front, I found the change of pace refreshing. I enjoy a good sex scene, don't doubt me there, but I also enjoyed reading a character who didn't feel as if every urge needed to be satisfied carnally.

There were no major problems with this book for me. The pacing felt a bit off in the beginning fifty pages or so (quite slow, and a bit of an infodump initially), and the editing could surely use some work. However, both of those are minor complaints in the larger view of a detailed, fun, fast read. I also have to note that I have found Ms. Lackey's male protagonists in this series have vastly improved in characterization, personality, depth and charm since the first book, as well. I can actually believe the romance, sex, etc. between the characters rather than viewing them as sheer spectacle. 

Side note: this is a very inexpensive - and fun! - read for those with ereaders. Fortune's Fool is currently only $5.04 on B&N and $4.85 Amazon. The Ice Queen is only $5.76 on B&N and Amazon. There are also two more books in the series: The Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Werewolf. If you enjoy fairy-tales with a twist, or re-tellings of old favorites with a flair, I recommend this series for a fast fix.

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