The powerful force of tradition intended Elena to be a Cinderella, except that her prince was only eleven when Elena turned twenty-one. When her evil stepmother decides to try other lands for fortune, Elena is abandoned and forced to come up with a future of her own. She decides to become a servant–and at least get paid for working for others. Instead, a Fairy Godmother takes her on as an apprentice. The magical potential that has built up in her through the frustrated tradition gives her huge magical powers. Which she’ll need, because tradition forces the inhabitants of her kingdoms into preset ways–some of which are positive and nice, but others of which are quite dark and evil. Elena, even aided by brownies and unicorns, has a lot to do.
When Prince Alexander behaves rudely to what he thinks is an old woman but is really Elena in test mode, she turns him into a donkey and brings him home to reform him. Which is fine as long as Alexander stays a donkey, but when he turns back into a man, attraction sizzles, which is a problem. Tradition doesn’t hold with Fairy Godmothers having lovers, at least not lovers who don’t betray them. And Elena is determined not to follow that tradition.
Author Mercedes Lackey melds together a number of fairy tale traditions to create a compelling story of fairie, magic, and romance. Elena is a strong character, who, as her brownies point out, would be wasted in the largely decorative role of princess. Alexander starts out something of a jerk, but manages to redeem himself through hard work and serious thought. A strong action sequence closes out the story answering readers who wonder whether Elena and Alexander will be able to create a new tradition where they can explore the strong attraction between them.
Fun look at the traditional fairy tales, I will read the rest of the series.