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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Fortune's Fool by Mercedes Lackey

Fortune's Fool by Mercedes Lackey. New York: Luna, 2007. ISBN: 978-0-373-80266-1

This is another in Mercedes Lackey's “500 Kingdoms” novels in which she has fun playing with the fairy tale traditions of various countries or ethnic regions. I'm not enough of an expert in this area to analyze all of the traditions she uses, but the primary story takes place in an Eastern European/Russian kind of milieu, with Russalkas, Baba Yaga, and so forth.

Plus we get an undersea kingdom with tritons, mermaids, mermen and sirens (at least mentioned, if not featured). And a nice little side trip diversion to medieval Japan, while the final, culminating episode includes a djinn from the Arabic tradition. All in all, a nice mixture of various traditional cultural folk elements. All woven together into a delightful romance between a princess of the sea kingdom and the seventh prince of the kingdom of Lud Belerus.

One difference between this story and the ones which preceded it (The Fairy Godmother and One Good Knight) is that the rulers of the kingdoms are keenly aware the “the tradition,” the basic law behind this realm of “The 500 Kingdoms,” which attempts to force everything and everyone into the traditional patterns, the archetypical elements of traditional fairy tales, either for good or for ill, for either happy endings, or equally easily into horrific tragedies with truly awful effects on the people who fall into those bad endings.

In the previous books, or so it seemed to me, only fairy godmothers and other high level magical beings were aware of how the tradition wanted to manipulate the lives and stories of the people in the 500 kingdoms, but in this story, the kings of these two kingdoms, at least, are very aware of the tradition; they have deliberately studied it extensively, and work to the best of their ability to manipulate that tradition to the favor of their kingdoms, and those who live in them.

This story involves Ekaterina, “Katya,” the youngest daughter of the Sea King, who, with his court and all of his children, live magically under the sea. The Sea King has carefully groomed each of his children in a role that suits his or her own proclivities, and Katya is his eyes and ears, his intelligence system. She is the only one of his children who can easily switch between land and sea, and so she is often sent on missions to neighboring land-based kingdoms to check on anything unusual or ominous occurring anywhere on the lands that surround their oceanic home.

Interspersed with her story is that of Sasha, the seventh son of the king of Lud Belerus, who because of his seventh son position, has inherited the role of the “fortunate fool.” In addition, he is a “songweaver,” meaning he can influence events magically by singing songs about them. Not big magics, like killing people or healing them, but small magics like better weather, good harvests, good fishing for fishermen, and the like.

Eventually, of course, the two royal children, Sasha and Katya, meet and fall in love. But before they can get on with things in a proper manner, they have to overcome one more monumental challenge. Which they do, bringing together various elements from earlier parts of the story.

Which brings me to the point that in some ways, this novel is a bit of a pastiche of different tales from different cultures, kind of thrown together to create a whole. But each of the individual stories is entertaining enough in its own right, that we don't really mind, especially since the characters are so endearing, and so charmingly portrayed that we are just carried along, happy to be engaged in "The 500 Kingdoms" again for as long as we can. And Lackey DOES bring elements from each previous story into play in the finale, with everything working together for good, as the “good book” says.

Highly recommended for all readers, young and old alike, especially those with a propensity for fairy tales. BTW, you can read the first three chapters online.

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  • Haven't read this one yet but have just read "Moving Targets" by Mercedes and Larry. Am wondering
    when kyrees started talking instead
    of just mind talking. Also, plese
    note that Karsite Demons can go through walls as people have disappeared overnight from their beds.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:53 PM  

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