the sleeping beauty

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.

I read an e-galley of this book courtesy of Harlequin Luna and NetGalley. It also counts for both Once Upon a Time challenges.


Jenny said...

I'd forgotten those Elemental books! I liked those, I remember I liked the Sleeping Beauty one - the girl was from India or something.

Cecelia said...

Jenny: Yes! The one you're thinking of is The Serpent's Shadow. It's a favorite of mine.

Alyce said...

I've always been more inclined towards science fiction rather than fantasy, but have been curious about and wanting to read something by Mercedes Lackey, but didn't know where to start.

Do you have a recommendation for one of her books to start with?

Sullivan McPig said...

@Alyce: either 'The Fire Rose', the first book in the Elemental masters series
or: 'Arrows of the Queen' the first book in the Heralds of Valdemar trilogy (fantasy)

And now I'll have to put this book on my tbr list

Cecelia said...

Alyce: I second the Arrows of the Queen suggestion. And I'm partial to The Serpent's Shadow and The Black Swan...but any of the Elemental Masters books are good bets.

Ryan said...

I'm enjoyed the 500 Kingdoms books so far though I haven't read the last two. They do have a unique sense of humor about them and I like her take on the "traditions". Great review.

Alyce: Any of them. I'm more partial to the Valdemar books, especially the Last Hearld Mage trilogy.

Alyce said...

I'm appreciating all of the recommendations! :) I'll have to set aside some time this summer to try at least one of these books.

Librarian Who said...

I was on a Mercedes Lackey kick back in high school, and I really liked them, until I ran into one with a lot of horrific child abuse. I tried reading another series by her, but someone in that got horribly tortured, and since I'm the type of person where nasty things stick in my head I gave up. But the series you've described sound much more enjoyable. I may revisit her. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Ah, now if only I could get to a beach to read it on. I may have to settle for reading it as the perfect poolside book.

Newer Posts Older Posts Home