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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wizard of London by Mercedes Lackey

In college I had a brief fling with Mercedes Lackey when I read several of my roommate's collection, starting with Arrows of the Queen. After four or five books, however, I lost interest; there is a sameness to her stories, particularly in the trilogies, and the heroines all go through through the same journey -- neglected or abused childhood, discovery of a special talent and/or bond with an animal, introduction into new, loving family substitute, betrayal of some sort, trials, and ultimate validation in love and profession. There is a strong element of wish-fulfillment in her books, and her heroines border on Mary Sue territory (although I did not know the term at the time).

Nonetheless, I picked up Wizard of London from the library. A few weeks ago I watched the Snow Queen, and of course I had to re-read different versions of the tale, which led me to Lackey's book, which is a loose retelling of it. It's the fourth in a series centering around an alternate world where magic exists, and apparently each book is loosely based on a fairy tale, which means I will have to read the other volumes, too (I'm obsessed with retellings of fairy tales).

Wizard of London was pleasant enough, although the tropes I remembered from Lackey's other books were there. The good characters are impossibly good, with no real flaws, and the evil people are mustache-twirlingly evil. The heroines are super-special children with super-special powers, instantly loved by everyone. Physical beauty is treacherous, and good people would never have an interest in money, fancy jewelry, or anything high-falutin' -- simple wholesome pleasures only, thank you. I can't exactly fault these values, it's just that Lackey is heavy-handed, and her books (which have interesting premises) would benefit from more nuanced and varied characters. Despite all this, the book was interesting enough that I will check out at least a couple of others in the series.

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