Fortune's Fool, by Mercedes Lackey

>> Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Fortune's Fool (excerpts) is the third in Mercedes Lackey's 500 Kingdoms series.

As the seventh daughter of the Sea King, Ekaterina had a wonderful life—but also a lot of responsibility. Her special gift for moving around on land made her the perfect emissary from her father to check out interesting happenings on the surface. In short, she became the family spy.

On one such reconnaissance mission, she encounters Sasha—the seventh son of the king of Belrus. Though everyone sees his talent at music, they also consider him a fool. Ekaterina suspects something more powerful lies behind his facade. But before she can find out what, Ekaterina is kidnapped!

Carried off by a whirlwind and trapped in a castle with other kidnapped princesses at the mercy of a possessive Jinn, Ekaterina knows her chances of being found are slim. Which means that fortune, a fool and a paper bird are the only things she can count on. Oh, and of course her own clever mind and manipulative abilities…
I loved the first book in this series, The Fairy Godmother. It was so fresh, so wonderful! Great fantasy and great romance (plus, it was my first Lackey, so I have a sentimental attachment to it). However, book 2, One Good Knight, was somewhat disappointing. Oh, it was pretty good, but the Tradition, the most intriguing concept in TFG, was practically absent from it. Add to that the fact that the romance felt very YA-ish, and the whole novel was a bit of a let-down.

I was hoping for a bounce-back with the third book, and I got it. FF isn't quite as excellent as TFG was (mainly because the romance in it wasn't as satisfying), but it's damned good. A B+.

Our heroine is Ekaterina, the Sea King's seventh daughter. Katya has the ability to function on land as well as in the water. She also knows a lot about the Tradition and how to push it and prod it and generally manage it, so she acts as her father's "secret weapon". She's a kind of spy, basically. What Katya does is help her father keep their kingdom peaceful by investigating and dealing with any hints of trouble at the kingdom's edges before these hints become full-blown disasters.

One of those fact-finding missions brings her to the coasts of the kingdom of Belrus. Nothing much is happening there -and that is exactly the problem. The Sea King is worried because no trouble at all is simply not natural, and he fears it might be a false calm masking something bad brewing.

However, Katya soon discovers there's nothing to be worried about when she meets Sasha, the King of Belrus' son. It seems the royal family of Belrus is just as knowledgeable about the Tradition as the Sea King's, and so Sasha, as the seventh son, has grown up to fit the role of the fortunate fool, a role certain to please the Tradition and bring good luck to all Belrus. In front of those outside the family, Sasha acts as an idiot and is the recipient of much vituperation. But behind closed doors, he's valued and loved for his talents, especially that of being a songweaver: that is, someone who, through song, can guide the Tradition into new paths.

Her fears calmed by the knowledge that the peace in Belrus is simply the result of good management, so to speak, Katya gives in to the temptation to get to know this intriguing Sasha. Sasha is just as attracted, and so these two quickly fall in love. But Katya's very next mission puts her in great danger. With Katya kidnapped by a Jinn, she and Sasha will have to put their knowledge of the Tradition to the test in order to be reunited.

The best thing about this book is the world-building. Lackey has created a fascinating concept in the Tradition, and she makes excellent use of it here. I had a blast seeing her play with fairy tales and folktales, twisting them and turning them and showing how the Tradition affects them. I especially liked that the fairy tales and folktales in question were some I wasn't too familiar with. I believe most are from the Russian tradition, and reading about them here left me all fired up to read her other Russian tradition-inspired book, Firebird.

I liked the romance, too. Katya and Sasha are interesting, very smart characters and they click nicely, and in a very sweet way (for the first time in ages, a book in which both hero and heroine are virgins when they meet). However, I did think they spent far too long separated for the romance to really develop. What we get is good, but it's all at the beginning of the book, and for the rest of it, all they're doing is fighting to see each other again. That's all well and good, and I never doubted they were in love, but not much fun for those of use who love to see the actual building of a romance.

Still, the fantasy part was so good that I didn't really mind. I'm definitely not tired of this world at all, and will continue to read it. I do hope there's another one coming soon!


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