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Read the review about "The Tradition," a concept from the book: A Fantastical Force
The Fairy Godmother was my first experience with author Mercedes Lackey, and I admit that I was a bit disappointed. In looking at the overall story, Lackey had many elements that fantasy and romance genre fans would really enjoy. However, the execution of her story left much lacking.
The world she creates for the Five Hundred Kingdoms series is extensively detailed. It's a place where magic and fairy tales rule. The people go about their daily lives reenacting the stories of old like "Sleeping Beauty," "Cinderella," "Rapunzel," or "Snow White," to name a few. Everything is controlled by this magical power known as "The Tradition." The people are pawns to the whims of The Tradition. However, not all fairy tales have happy endings, as the characters learn. The Tradition uses magic to put people into certain positions, but if extenuating circumstances prevent their lives from taking a certain path, they go down another (and probably one that is less unfavorable).
This is where the Fairy Godmothers come into play. Many of the godmothers are no longer pure fairies but instead are humans that have learned to use magic and the power of The Tradition. These women are important to the people of the Five Hundred Kingdoms because they are the harbingers of happy endings. They shape The Tradition to go the way of good rather than evil, constantly balancing the yin and yang of life.
This particular tale focuses on Elena Klovis' life. She is a stepdaughter, and her stepmother (Theresa Klovis) and stepsisters (Delphinium and Daphne) treat her like a servant girl. Does this sound like a familiar story yet? Other characters include her neighbors Blanche and Fleur, Madame Bella (her fairy godmother) and a cottage full of House-Elves. There are more characters and surprises in store for the readers, but the best-developed person is of course Elena. Since this is her story, over half of the book gives exquisite details about her life, her future, and the kingdom she lives in.
There are many themes and motifs in the story. The main one is that people can control their destinies despite the overarching powers of The Tradition. Other smaller themes include treating people humanely, wanting to do good rather than evil, and of course the ever popular belief that love conquers all. An example of a motif commonly found in fairy tales is the old hag turning into a witch or enchantress. Many of the themes and motifs in The Fairy Godmother are intertwined with morals. Having such a moral undertone to the piece, though, made parts of the book corny rather than fantastical.
Overall, the purpose of the entire story is to rewrite the traditional tale of Cinderella. Lackey melds the old with her unique vision of such a world. I can't really compare this to other fantasy writers or pieces except the fairy tale it represents. Even there, it can't compare because Elena's story is very different from all the versions of "Cinderella" that I've read. To some degree, I appreciate the original tales more because of the historical implications and comparisons that can be made to the time periods "Cinderella" was adapted for. On the other hand, I appreciate Lackey's vision because of how different it is, especially how it's suited for a modern audience. Editing the boring parts would have made this story more exciting. Growing up with these types of princess fairy tales, it's hard to replace those memories with this new one, mainly because the execution of the story was lacking.
Originally, I was going to rate this story a 3 or a 4, but it took too long to get exciting. The Fairy Godmother did not pick up until about Chapter 7, 100 pages in, which could cause some readers to lose interest. Because this is the first in Lackey's Five Hundred Kingdom series, there is an inordinate amount of details that slows the story. There were moments when I felt like I was reading a history of the Five Hundred Kingdoms instead of a fairy tale about Elena. Rather than point out all the intricacies of this world, Lackey should have left some points to be discovered in a later book. There were also parts about Elena's own story that were too detailed. Honestly, I wasn't excited about the book until 200 pages in, around Chapter 10 and Chapter 11 when the main hero, Prince Alexander, makes his appearance.
Despite these flaws, The Fairy Godmother is still a fun read that many will enjoy. I especially appreciated how female-centric the piece was, mainly showing the world through Elena's eyes. There are some points where the point of view shifts between Elena and Alexander, usually to emphasis how both characters are growing from their interactions with each other. In addition to the strong female lead of Elena, there are other female characters for women readers to identify with, especially in the roles of witches, sorceresses, and the ever powerful and present godmothers. Still, the book follows the tradition of fairy tales with many of the younger female characters pairing off with men to have "happy endings."
The best part about this edition of The Fairy Godmother was the Q & A with Mercedes Lackey. She explores fantasy, "moral fiction," and the reasons behind her writing this particular genre. It gives some important insights into the mind of the author that new readers and even long-time fans will find useful.
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