Mercedes Lackey is a ubiquitous fantasy writer. Chances are if you’ve ever stepped into the fantasy and science fiction section of the bookstore, you’ve seen one of her titles. And not only is she prolific, she’s incredibly good. There’s something for almost every taste. My favorite series (well, one of them) is her Elemental Masters series, which re-imagines fairy tales in an alternative, magic-laden Edwardian England.
In the past several years Lackey has published another fairy-tale-type series, set in a new fantasy universe. These stories combine generous doses of romance and happy endings with imaginative world-building. They include: The Fairy Godmother, One Good Knight, Fortune’s Fool, The Snow Queen and now The Sleeping Beauty.
The hallmarks of the 500 Kingdoms books (as they are called) are humor, inventive plotlines that alter fairy tale stories and take them in new directions, clever heroines, and sweet romances. In my book that combination equals a satisfying read.
With signs and The Tradition (a magical force that places people in fairy tale stories) pointing to an all-out war set to break out among the kingdoms, Rosamund, the king's daughter, is "playing dead" as two princes show up at the palace intent on waking her with a kiss. But, as the two of them start to fight it out, Rosa's godmother cuts them all short and takes charge.
Now, with two princes competing for the hand of Sleeping Beauty-one of them, the one with roving hands (Prince Leopold) probably "should" be her prince, while the other (Prince Siegfried) doesn't seem to belong here at all - more complications occur. The king dies and the neighbors start looking at Rosa's kingdom.
But with the palace filling with young and old princes intent on winning Rosamund's love, invading the kingdom and putting those young men in peril would mean incurring the wrath of thirty other countries! With a volatile situation in the making, will anyone get a happily-ever-after?
After I’ve read a summary, I often ask myself a couple of questions. What’s the deal with this book? Do I need to read the others in the series to ‘get’ it? What makes it worth my time? Let me try to answer. If you’ve read the other books in this series, you’ll like The Sleeping Beauty (but you don’t have to read them to understand). If you read fairy tales for adults (or even teens), you’ll like it too. If you prefer your stories fairly clean and a touch humorous, you’ll also fall for it. In other words, it’s what you expect. And that’s not a bad thing.
For Lackey's novels in general, this is ‘romance lite.’ Though she reworks several familiar tales to bring something quirky and new to the table, the result ends up feeling a bit formulaic. Which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it. I did. It’s a tribute to how much I expect from the 500 Kingdoms novels, and from Mercedes Lackey – I anticipate first-class entertainment. She so enchanted me with previous stories that I felt a bit let down when I could see just how the story would end after I finished the first twenty pages. I guess I expect twists and mysterious endings these days…
I’m a demanding nitwit, I know. After all, I enjoyed the reading and I will still re-read The Sleeping Beauty and also eagerly await the next installment in the series (Lackey is that fantastic). What does it boil down to? I heartily recommend this book to anyone with a natural bent towards happily-ever-afters. In fact, it qualifies as a PERFECT summer beach read, especially for the fantasy-inclined. There! I’ve found its niche. And I can’t wait to place a finished copy in my beach bag!
The Sleeping Beauty releases on July 1, 2010.