500 Kingdoms-The Fairy Godmother

And I’m back! Its been a while, I know but  its been busy, busy so far this year! Both good and bad I guess. 🙂 At any rate, I just plowed through Mercedes Lackey’s 500 Kingdoms novels recently. Normally I don’t go for the sort of pure fantasy novels. I prefer urban fantasy with guns and cars and pop culture jokes. Shallow of me perhaps but there you are. But I could not put these books down! These six books are new retellings of classic fairy tales that we all grew up with such as the Snow Queen and Sleeping Beauty.

Each book can be read on its own, which his nice, but they all tie together as well. The 500 Kingdoms are affected by a force called the Tradition. The Tradition is basically what happens when a story gets told and retold so often that it starts affecting the lives of people. Little girls with a nasty stepmother and two nasty stepsisters will find herself in a Cinderella type situation. Unfortunately, the Tradition isn’t perfect and doesn’t really care what the people themselves want. Sometimes the potential Cinderella will be a young lady who lives in a kingdom with an infant prince. She can’t have a happily ever after like that so what happens then? Why the Fairy godmothers of course! Godmothers are just very powerfully magic human women (though there are some real fairies in these tales) who are Tradition scholars and can manipulate it into a happy ending. They can transform a Cinderella into a Sleeping Beauty if that’s what it takes to get a happy ending.

The first book is The Fairy Godmother and it starts out with a sort of traditional Cinderella tale. The main character Elena Klovis has the nasty, wasteful stepmother (think Baroness de Ghent in Ever After) and the two nasty stepsisters and the deceased father. And, as hinted above, the prince in her kingdom is an infant. But Elena is far from helpless. She’s smart and determined to escape her currently life and make a better one for herself. She gets her chance when the stepmother decides to run from her creditors with her two daughters and try to marry them to quality in another kingdom.

Once the stepmother leaves and the creditors ransack the house, Elena goes to the town square to try and set herself up as a housekeeper. Everyone in town knows that Elena can clean, cook and mend and yet at the end of the day not one of them offers her a job. Just as you start feeling sorry for Elena, the ubiquitous ‘mysterious woman’ comes along and snatches her up. Of course, this woman is the Fairy Godmother for Elena’s kingdom. Since Elena was in a failed Cinderella story, the Tradition forced so much magic into her trying to make her fit a set path that Elena has the opportunity to become a Godmother and not just a mere servant. So the woman takes Elena to train

There is quite a bit of cliche in these books but I suppose one can only do so much to refresh well known fairy tales. Most of us could probably recent at least the gist of these stories in our sleep by the time we reach adulthood. Lackey keeps it from being a really yawner by throwing in a bunch of monkey wrenches at once to the newly minted Godmother Elena.  At this point you’re wondering if Elena will keep her cool and fix things or break down like so many typical female characters in a variety of stories and media. Well, you’ll just have to read it to find out!

I think this is definitely aimed more towards women than men. Not that there isn’t good fighting and puzzles but really, it’s fairy tales. I’m pretty sure my husband would find these stories dreadfully dull. 🙂  All in all, I’d rate this book a B+ and I really think that they get better from here, since this book really had to lay out the whole world Lackey created.

Sandman Slim

So I just picked up the new Sandman Slim novel Aloha From Hell and I realized that I didn’t review the last two books. The books are written by Richard Kadfrey and are sort of an old fashioned pulp mystery mixed with urban fantasy. The first novel was Sandman Slim (surprising, I know).

Sandman Slim’s name is James Stark. He doesn’t particularly like either moniker. Mostly he gets called Stark. You don’t really want to like him. He murders, he tortures, he cusses. He’s a thief. And he can walk through shadows and do magic. Stark has spent the last decade or so in Hell. And that isn’t a metaphor. He was the only living human in the whole of Hell. And he was the favored toy/gladiator of the Hellions, right up to Lucifer himself. When you’re immortal, new things are always fun.

We’re introduced to Stark as he wakes up in a flaming garbage pile in LA. This might be a bit redundant. 😉 His first act is to roll a guy for his clothes and money. The only thing on his mind is to kill the men who sent him down in the first place, people he’d once considered friends. In the mean time, he manages to pick up some new friends that include a 200 year old alchemist, a young woman working the counter at a video store, an archangel masquerading as a doctor and his assistant, a Jade named Candy. Jades are  a cross between vampires and spiders. They liquify the innards of their victims and suck it up.

His main focus is a man named Mason, the one who was personally responsible for sending Stark to Hell in the first place. The only problem is getting to him. He’s rich, he’s magically powerful and he’s more than slightly psychotic and paranoid. Not to mention the thug he has protecting him. Stark is definitely an anti-hero, but he’s good at it.

If you like darker, grittier books, this is one you should definitely pick up. Rating: A+

One Salt Sea

Just recently finished the new October Daye novel One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire. Oh. My. God. AMAZING…and yet FRUSTRATING.  It is clear that McGuire is going somewhere very complex with Toby Daye. I think  I’m mostly frustrated that I haven’t figured it out yet.  That being said…I can live with the frustration. My husband hates watching movies with me (sometimes) because I figure out the ending half way through. So not being able to see what’s coming in this series out weighs the frustration.

So, Toby is trying to settle in as Countess of Goldengreen…just as war breaks out with the underwater fae. Unfortunately for her, the knowe of Goldengreen is right up against the Pacific. Of course. 🙂 Enter Tybalt, King of Cats. And will he EVER admit that he’s totally in love with Toby?! Okay, rant over. Tybalt offers to have his Cait Sidhe, some of the fiercest warriors in the faerie realm, to guard Toby’s knowe since most of Toby’s wards in Goldengreen are half-breed Changlings or less.

Meanwhile, The Luideag calls in the favors Toby owes her. What does Toby have to do? Stop a war. No biggie. Turns out the reason behind the war is that someone, presumably a land faerie has made off with the two sons of the Duchess of Saltmist. The Duchess suspects the Queen of the Mists (the land queen). The Queen of the Mists just wants war. Despite having some sea fae blood in her, she apparently has bigoted feelings towards the sea fae as a whole. Too bad the sea fae are BAMFs and the land fae have been sitting on their collective arses since the last war more than a hundred years ago.

To keep her friends from getting killed, Toby uses her detecting skills to find the missing boys. On the way, she takes a squire (Quentin), turns into a mermaid to visit Saltmist and (*spoiler alert*) loses her paramour, Connor. Now Connor was a nice enough person but ever since the first interaction with Tybalt, I was rooting for the two of them to get their acts together.  Connor was a little wimpy for my tastes but hey.

So this one is a must read. It’s really good. And it has a nice little cliff hanger. A+ Buy it!