Once Upon a Time…

…I had never heard of Mercedes Lackey.  My favorite author was probably Brian Jacques and I was slowly coming around to Anne McCaffrey and Andre Norton.  Then one day my mom gave me a book she thought I would like by some author I’d never heard of.  It was The Black Swan by Mercedes Lackey.

The rest is history.

Seriously, where do I begin?

The Black Swan is a retelling of the story of the Swan Princess , which at the time was mostly familiar to me in terms of a VHS tape much beloved of my sister.  (I’ll even point out that I’m the one who got her the DVD of it and Thumbelina just a few years back…and she was thrilled.)  Unlike much of Lackey’s later work, such as the 500 Kingdoms series, this story is told in a more traditional setting.  Sure there’s magic, but it’s definitely Europe, definitely an area that speaks German, and fairly strongly based in our world.  Aside, again, from the magic.

Now, I love fairy tales.  I have mentioned that my favorite is the Snow Queen, and I have a beautifully illustrated copy that I can’t even tell you when I got it, its that old.  I may have been seven or younger.  So for me to find a fairy tale that had been expanded into a novel?  My young little mind was blown.

Not to mention that it was a thoroughly engaging read.  You have your basic story of course, with the princess being captured by a sorcerer and transformed into a swan by day (or whenever the moon isn’t up, or if she’s not on a lake where the moon reflects, or whatever the variant ends up being) and the prince who must swear to be true to her in order to break the curse, but the sorcerer tricks him and so on and so forth.  But Lackey’s story goes into much more depth, creates a whole host of additional characters, and keeps you thoroughly engaged for some 400 pages.  It’s not her only book like this either – Firebird does the same with the Russian tale.  And I’ve mentioned the 500 Kingdoms series, but those tend to be a bite more on the fractured side and far fluffier.

The Black Swan is on the fluffy side, like most of Lackey’s books, but it’s not nearly as light a read as anything in the 500 Kingdoms.  I’m not saying fluff is bad, I’m just saying that I will probably never reread any 500 Kingdoms novel as many times as I’ve read this book.  The book was brand new when my mom got it for me, and today I had a fear that some of the pages might start coming free from the binding in one section.  That’s not damage that comes from age, the thing’s only from 2000.  That’s the sort of damage that only comes from being read repeatedly for all of those sixteen years.  I can’t honestly tell you that this is one of my favorite books because, to be honest, it’s not really exceptional in any way.  But it is a book that I never mind going back to.  It has the advantage of being a standalone with no sequels of any kind, but as a reread it takes less thought and effort than a new book.  So it’s a good choice for a palate cleanser.

I’m not sure what I’ll be reading next.  The Pile is eleven books tall and contains a wide variety of choices, though two I’m likely to hold off on because there’s four books out in the series, and the third is also available in paperback.  On the other hand, it’s been a bit since I really read a series of more than two books.  Plus my friend will be returning my Green Lantern trades, the latest book in the House War series (by Michelle West), and a pair of anthologies.  One of which I’ll probably snag long enough to reread the latest Tony Foster story.  (I probably would’ve done this when I finished Smoke and Ashes but it was an hour away at the time.)  So, we’ll see what I decide on next time!

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