Book Review: Fortune’s Fool by Mercedes Lackey

fortune's foolTitle: Fortune’s Fool

Author: Mercedes Lackey

Series: Five Hundred Kingdoms #3

Edition: Kindle (omnibus with The Snow Queen)

Blurb: New York Times– bestselling author Mercedes Lackey spins a variety of fairy tales — think The Little Mermaid and old Russian folktales — into a satisfying romantic fantasy in this third installment in her Five Hundred Kingdoms series.

Katya, the youngest daughter of the Sea King, is sent by her father on a spying expedition. It’s a perfect assignment for one with the unique ability to transverse both land and water. Once on land, Katya encounters a spectacular battle between two mages, then meets Sasha. He is also of royal birth — the seventh son — destined to play the part of the Wise or Fortunate Fool and Songweaver. Their instant affinity and blooming romance is interrupted when Katya’s father calls her back on business: Two magical maidens have gone missing from an island. Katya disguises herself and gets kidnapped by the Jinn who is keeping the others prisoner, but it will take all her cleverness and powers, as well as Sasha’s magic, to get them out alive. Readers will admire Katya’s spirit, and fans of the previous two books — The Fairy Godmother and One Good Knight — will welcome the return of the Little Humpback Horse.

Where to begin, where to begin.

This book wasn’t as strong as the first two books in this series, which is why it took me so long to finish it. The characters were fun, in a way. Katya is a strong female lead and Sasha is pretty adorable at times, but they were way too one dimensional. Things came pretty easy to them and they didn’t have hardly any faults at all to give them depth. Granted, this is a fairy tale, but still. There wasn’t enough to really make them interesting.

The story was also a little all over the place. First there was a battle between Katya and a sorceress, aided by a kitsune fox spirit. Then there’s a confrontation between Sasha and a ruselka. Then there are several little bits here and there which eventually lead up to the main confrontation with the big bad villain of the book, but it had a haphazard feel to it. It was hard to keep my attention at times, which is never good.

That said, it was really interesting how these books are all loosely tied together. You don’t have to read them in order, but doing so allows you to see all the little connections between these fairy tale stories. Sort of like the author is winking at you, which is fun. I also liked the Russian flavor that this one had. The world building still remains top notch, with the Tradition still a force trying to bend the people into their proper roles. I loved how the characters are trying to take the Tradition into their own hands and either call upon it for help or find ways to bend it to their own advantage. It’s really clever.

I don’t want to say that I didn’t enjoy this book – I did, for the most part. And I still plan on reading the rest of the series, for completion’s sake if nothing else. But this is definitely not my favorite of Lackey’s work, not even my favorite of the series. I loved the first book, but these last two have been lacking in its charm. I’m hoping book four will turn that around. We’ll see. And of course, I will let you all know. 😉

GoodReads Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

 

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Teaser Tuesday for 6/9/15

Teaser Tuesday NewTeaser Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by A Daily Rhythm. Here are the rules if you would like to play along:

Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Her heart leaped with excitement. This could only mean he had a task for her that she must carry out in secret.

And that almost certainly meant a spying trip to Dry Land.

Fortune’s Fool by Mercedes Lackey

I should probably mention that these characters are mermaids. 🙂 This is the third book in the Five Hundred Kingdoms series and I’ve only just started it (this is the very end of chapter one). But hey, I like mermaids!

Please leave your teasers in comments!

Book Review: One Good Knight by Mercedes Lackey

One Good KnightTitle: One Good Knight

Author: Mercedes Lackey

Series: Five Hundred Kingdoms #2

Edition: e-book

Blurb: When a dragon storms the castle, what should a (virgin) princess do? Why, turn to her studies, of course! But nothing practical-minded Princess Andromeda of Acadia finds gives a definitive solution. The only Traditional answer, though, is soothing the marauding dragon by a virgin sacrifice. Things are going fairly smoothly with the lottery–except for the women chosen, of course–until Princess Andromeda herself is picked!

But facing down the dragon doesn’t go quite as planned, and now, with the help of her Champion, Sir George, Andromeda searches for the dragon’s lair. But even–“especially”–in the Five Hundred Kingdoms, bucking Tradition isn’t easy. It takes the strongest of wills, knowledge, quick wits and a refusal to give up, no matter what happens along the way….

I love Mercedes Lackey. There’s something about her writing that is very relaxing to me. I particularly love this series because it combines several things which I enjoy: new twists on old stories, fairy tales, and good story telling. I reviewed the first book in this series, The Fairy Godmother, in this post.

I’m not sure which fairy tale this book is retelling, but anything that has a dragon that steals away fair maidens is fair game. What really sells this book is the characters. Princess Andromeda (or Andie, as she is called) is a bookish girl who only wants to find a way to prove herself. She isn’t comfortable with the spot light. Let’s just say I identify with her. A lot. The champion, St. George, first seems a bit boring, but is hiding a very important and surprising secret. And I haven’t even gotten to the dragons yet. Yes. Dragons. There are more than one. And they are awesome.

I really do love The Tradition, a magical force that tries to push people into set storylines. It is almost a character in its own right. There are many ways that characters try to manipulate their circumstances in order to manipulate The Tradition, with varying levels of success. It’s a pretty creative plot device.

This is working towards finishing another series from years past, so that’s a good thing. I can’t wait to see what the next book has in store!

GoodReads Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Teaser Tuesday for June 2nd

Teaser Tuesday NewTeaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB over at A Daily Rhythm. Here are the rules if you’d like to play along!

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

He squeezed through the gap, leaving it open as always. If he had to leave in a hurry because of an emergency or the unexpected arrival of a servant . . .

One Good Knight by Mercedes Lackey

Please leave your teasers in comments!

Book Review: Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey

I’ve been meaning to read some of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books for a very, very long time, but just hadn’t gotten around to it. Then this book was suggested for the book club at the Mallorean Tavern, which meant we also got to discuss the book on the Bibliophiles Anonymous podcast. The Valdemar books are made up of a bunch of smaller series. Arrows of the Queen is the first book in the Heralds of Valdemar trilogy, and is also probably the best place to start.

I will say, after seeing how many Valdemar books there are, I’m starting to regret the goal I made to finish all the series that I start this year. Maybe I’ll say that the rule only applies to this trilogy? I do intend to read them all at some point, but . . . sheesh! That’s a lot of books!

So on to the review.

arrows of the queen

Arrows of the Queen tells the story of Talia, a young girl growing up in a rural Hold where she doesn’t fit in at all. She likes to sneak off and be by herself, to read about the brave Heralds of Valdemar, who are selected to defend the queen. Unable to take the idea of an arranged marriage (to someone who will try to beat the rebelliousness out of her, or so she thinks), Talia runs away from home. She comes across one of the Herald’s Companions, which takes the form of a snow white horse with brilliant blue eyes. Unsure of what to do, afraid to be found by someone from her Hold, Talia decides to take the Companion back to the Heralds, hoping that they might take her in as a servant.

Of course, that doesn’t happen. The Companion, who Talia somehow knows is named Rolan, leads her back to the Herald’s stronghold, called Haven. There, Talia realizes that she didn’t find the Companion – Rolan found her. She has been Chosen to become a Herald trainee. It seems like a dream come true, but Talia’s insecurities abound. She is used to being vilified and a few kind words from her fellow Herald trainees don’t change that. She keeps to herself, even when she is mercilessly bullied (and nearly killed) by other groups of students at the Haven.

Slowly, Talia is able to come out of her shell and learn to trust people. She is given many new duties, one of which involving trying to civilize the princess (referred to as “The Brat”). Talia is special, and has abilities that the Heralds need, although she doesn’t fully understand them yet. There are plots to overthrow the queen and Talia and the rest of the Heralds are pulled in to try and stop them.

I liked this book, but I’m not convinced to be a big Valdemar fangirl just yet. There were a lot of things that were predictable about it. Not that that’s a bad thing, but I could have guessed the ending from the first few chapters of the book. Still, there are some great characters – I particularly loved Skiff, the thief-turned-Herald-trainee who not only befriends Talia, but the two become romantically involved for a time. And the world is pretty wonderful. I want to go to the Haven and join the Collegium! I want to live at the Haven!

So yes, I will probably look for the next two books in this trilogy at some point. I already own the second one, which is good. Now I just need to find the time!

It’s tough to break with Tradition . . .

Happy Labor Day Weekend to all my friends in the U.S.! In just a few minutes, I will be out shoe shopping with my two of my favorite people (my daughter and my mom), but before that, a quick book review.

This is #34 on my quest to read 60 books this year – The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey. I haven’t read very many of Ms. Lackey’s books for some reason. I have several friends who absolutely love her, but she was never that strongly on my radar. Part of it might be because her Valdemar series is huge and I was never entirely sure where to start. (And I no longer have that reason anymore, due to a friend of mine who made up a list of her suggested reading order.) The Fairy Godmother was suggested as a Book Club read over at the Mallorean Tavern, and since it was the start of a whole new series, I jumped at the chance to pick it up.

In case the title doesn’t tell you, this is a retelling of the Cinderella story (believe it or not, I completely missed that and was surprised – does that tell you how tired I’ve been lately?). The main character is Elena, this story’s version of Cinderella. I really enjoyed reading Elena. She is a Cinderella with spunk. When her stepmother and stepsisters leave town to avoid debt collectors, Elena tries to go behind their backs to secure a position in another house. She doesn’t just sit there and accept her fate, she goes out there and tries to improve her situation. It doesn’t work, because all the people in the town are terrified of the stepmother and don’t want to do anything that will anger her, but none of that matters. Elena is found by a Fairy Godmother, who instead of dressing her up to impress a prince, takes her away to her cottage to teach Elena about how to become a Fairy Godmother herself.

Here’s the part I liked best about this book – the Tradition. Yes, with a capital “T.” The Tradition is a kind of magical force that pushes people into specific storylines or archetypes. Like pushing Elena to become a Cinderella character by giving her the stepmother and stepsisters and having her father conveniently die. The problem was that the prince that Cinderella would normally marry was only a baby at the time, so Elena’s path could not be completed. This led to a surplus of magic weaving it’s way around Elena, trying to figure out what to do with her.

Eventually, Elena becomes the Fairy Godmother and has to go out into the kingdoms in her care to make sure that the Tradition comes out in everyone’s favor, to bend it where it needs to be bent in order to protect the people. But you can’t bend it too much. The Tradition doesn’t like being messed around with and the results can be disastrous.

I love when fairy tales are turned on their heads, and this one was done very well. The book was a lot of fun to read and the next books in the series seem to tackle other fairy tales as well. Can’t wait to see what she does with them!