Review of THE SLEEPING BEAUTY by Mercedes Lackey (see her website)
FIVE HUNDRED KINGDOMS
Luna, July 2010
Eltaria is rich and so, constantly under threat from neighbors. Fairy Godmother Lily has her hands full keeping the kingdom independent, and preventing destructive aspects of The Tradition from pulling the kindom down a dangerous path. With the death of Princess Rosamund's mother, the Tradition guarantees a wicked stepmother and Lily decides to preempt that role. Unfortunately, protecting Rosamund from the wicked stepmother ploy isn't enough. The evil huntmaster, seven rather nasty dwarves, and a gaggle of princes with their own problems are waiting on the wings.
If Rosamund thinks she has problems with the tradition, Sigfried von Drachenthal knows real problems. He's a hero...killed bears as a child, drank dragon blood, and wandered the world doing good deeds. He's also wandered the world trying to escape his doom...to rescue a woman from a ring of fire, marry her (even though she's his aunt), be betrayed by her and bring about the fall of the gods. It's not a pretty fate but the gods of his land are insistent and unless he can fool the tradition with 'close enough,' he's trapped.
When Rosamund's father dies, all of the neighboring kingdoms prepare to invade. Lilly and Rosamund come up with the idea of a contest among princes (and deserving peasants) for the hand of the princess. After all, as long as the neighbors hope to win Eltaria by marriage rather than warfare, they're all safe. Sigfried enters the list of contestants, along with his rival and new friend Leopold. But rivals, and Tradition have other plans for Rosamund and it'll take a great deal of ingenuity, along with some helpful animals, to keep her safe.
Author Mercedes Lackey delivers a charming fantasy/romance set in her Five Hundred Kingdoms universe. I like her mashup of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Wagner's Ring Cycle, as well as the protagonists' constant attempts to redirect the forces of Tradition into paths that are helpful rather than destructive. The helpful animals give THE SLEEPING BEAUTY even more of a fairy tale feel, and the friendship between Sigfried and Leopold offers a nice contrast between Sigfried's friendship difficulties in the Nibelungenlied.
I wrestled with whether to classify THE SLEEPING BEAUTY as romance or fantasy, finally deciding on romance. This enjoyable and well-written book can be enjoyed by readers of either genre.
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