Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms
Watch out for spoilers
Elena is a 21-year-old woman living with her horrible stepmother Madeleine and her stepsisters Daphne and Delphinium in the capital of the Kingdom of Otraria. Her stepmother has spent the family fortune and has racked up a dreadful amount of debt. She flees to the countryside with her daughters, leaving Elena alone. Elena tries to get hired as a maid and ends apprenticed to her Kingdom's Fairy Godmother, a delightful lady called Madame Bella. The rest of Elena's story involves growing into her role, locking horns with the Tradition, and finding love.
- Boring, but Practical: Her modus operandi. After a lifetime of mistreatment and uncertain meals, Elena prefers to get the most out of as little effort as possible, even if it's occasionally inconvenient. Her Brownies are especially proud of her for this, as it means she's never run out of magic in a tight spot, something that's common among Godmothers her age, and once doomed a kingdom for three generations when the Godmother failed to stop it.
- Cinderella Circumstances: The Tradition would have made her a Princess, except that the only Prince in the kingdom was a very young boy.
- Deadpan Snarker
- Good Is Not Soft: Isabella, the main character of the sixth book in the series, realizes that the good godmother can be ruthless when the situation calls for it. And in her own book Elena had no problem stabbing an Evil Sorceress with a needle with a sleeping spell on it, condemning the other woman to a hundred years sleep.
- To be fair, she then notes that on an Evil Sorceress, the spell would only last for, say, a month. But then Elena's mentor takes over, reinforces the spell, and then puts the Sorceress in a cave with a ring of fire around her and a firmly worded warning to would-be heroes.
- Also, when she is having to deal with a murderous sibling pair that uses the Hansel and Gretel story to go around murdering innocent old women and good witches, she invokes the nastier brand of fairy tales and folklore. The ones where naughty children meet very sticky ends...
- Guile Heroine: She manages to avert disaster at a christening and arrange for a worthy peasant girl to receive a reward in sixteen years' time. She also manages to guide the Tradition around a baby girl from its Ladderlocks Path to the far more pleasant Tender Princess Path (unknowingly sparing the life of the Kingdom's prince in the process).
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: As someone who was destined to become a princess she has the Traditional appearance. She also has a good heart and sweet nature as suits a Fairy Godmother.
- Happily Married: To Alexander. They're still going strong as a couple in later books.
- Hot Godmother: Alexander finds her hot even when he detests her for turning him into a donkey.
- Pink Means Feminine: She is known as the Rose Fairy since pink is the color that suits her the most.
- Recurring Character: The first book is her story, but she makes appearances in later books, or is at least mentioned.
- Sweet Polly Oliver: When the Katschei invades the neighboring kingdom, Elena has to disguise herself as Alexander's squire and rescue Princess Kylia; if not for this intervention, Kylia would fall victim to a Rescue Romance that would derail her marriage to Prince Julian.
- The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: About midway through her own book she is satisfied with life as a Godmother but unable to satisfy her need for human company and romance, lest the Tradition take advantage of it.
Madame BellaMadame Bella is Elena's mentor and a former Godmother. She is a kind, shrewd woman that does her best to prepare Elena for her role.
- Cool Old Lady
- Graceful Ladies Like Purple: Her alias is the Lilac Fairy.
- Grande Dame: The very benevolent if manipulative type.
- Mama Bear: There will be no Fair Rosalindas or Ladderlocks in any of her kingdoms. She's very pleased when Elena is similarly angered.
- Married to the Job: She laughingly says to Elena that she never cared for a suitor before she became a Godmother and once she became one, the job was enough for her. Which then ends up worrying Elena for a good portion of her book.
- Passing the Torch: Mentors Elena to take over the duties of a Godmother.
- Silk Hiding Steel: Very graceful and ladylike, but she has kept the Tradition in step for many, many years. Elena notes she's rather like the general of Otraria - old, easily taken for granted but still sharp and incredibly mindful of duty.
Prince Alexander of Kolhstania
Alexander is the second son of King Henrik of Kohlstania and future Commander of the Army. He is also a Prince Charmless. When sent by his father to quest for the hand of Princess Kylia of Fleurberg, he not only fails the first test he's set to - one of kindness - he fails it so drastically that Elena turns him into a donkey.
- Awesome, but Impractical: He eventually realizes the clothing he insisted on wearing during his service to Elena was this. Despite its resemblance to proper military wear, it was far too ornamented, tight, and hot for anything truly strenuous. Later, Hob comments that Alexander probably can't fit into "that candy-soldier tunic" anymore after months of hard labor.
- All Men Are Perverts: He certainly was eager to seduce Elena.
- Big Brother Instinct: When he thought that the old beggar woman that turned him into a donkey was going to harm his younger brother Julian, he desperately fought the magical bonds restraining him. This is one of the earliest signs that he's redeemable - indeed, one of the few signs early in the story.
- Break the Haughty: Done to him in a merciful manner and he is a much better man for it.
- Defiant Captive: Deconstructed. His attempts to insult Elena do nothing and are occasionally mocked, he can't hurt her due to her magic protections, and post Epiphany Therapy, he realizes his insistence on wearing his own clothing rather than what's provided was horribly impractical and uselessly stubborn.
- Epiphany Therapy: He's given a dose of this from a wandering Fae.
- Character Development: Invoked by Elena. In-universe, all failed questers are placed in a situation where this is likely to happen.
- Groin Attack: Is threatened with this. After he tries putting the moves on Elena in a rather aggressive fashion, one of her loyal house servants reminds Alex that what happens to the donkey also happens to the man—while holding a nasty device used to castrate livestock.
- Happily Married: To Elena
- Karmic Transformation: Gets turned into a donkey for his rudeness toward the old beggar woman At the Crossroads.
- Knight in Shining Armor: After he undergoes his Character Development, he is made a Champion.
- The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Elena has to give him a day as a man after a week as a beast to avoid this.
- Moral Myopia
- Prince Charmless: At first.
- Sheltered Aristocrat
- Would Hit a Girl: He tries to run the old beggar woman at the crossroads down after becoming suspicious of her. Also after Elena turns him back into a man to avoid The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body, he tries to attack her only to be thwarted by unicorns.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Hoo boy. He gets better after some time living with Elena, but at first, he's completely blindsided.
Prince Octavian of Kolhstania
Octavian is the eldest son of the King of Kolhstania and heir to the throne. He fails the test of kindness and is sent to get his redemption under the Sorceress Arachnia.
- Jerk Jock
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The main reason he was awful to his brother Julian was because he was attempting to turn him into a 'real' man that their father would approve of.
Prince Julian Of Kohlstania/ King Julian of FleurbergJulian is the youngest of the three brothers and the one that is more likely to succeed in a quest. Even though his father despises him, Julian does not hate him for it.
- Mistaken for Gay: By his older brother Octavian, who is terrified that their father will find out and kill Julian since it is very much a no-no in Kohlstania. Therefore Octavian tries to 'snap' him out of it.
- The Unfavorite: King Henrik sent him on his quest hoping that Julian would get himself killed.
- Youngest Child Wins
Madame ArachniaMadame Arachnia was a young child abused by her wicked stepmother and sent to gather berries in the winter. In the forest she was snatched by an evil witch and kept prisoner. After getting fed up with the mistreatment, she shoved the witch out of the window and claimed the witch's castle, becoming an Evil Sorceress herself. Madame Bella arranges for her to meet a former prince and fall in love, initiating her turn to Dark Is Not Evil territory.
- Dark Is Not Evil: She keeps the facade, but assists the good side by testing Failed Questers and Arrogant Bullies.
- Hot Sorceress: Elena notes that she is a good-looking woman.
- Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: Elena and Bella describe her as being more lonely and resentful than truly evil. Bella and the other Godmothers use that to facilitate her changeover to Dark Is Not Evil.
- Perky Goth: Is essentially a fantasy equivalent. Madame Bella notes that even before she met her Poet Prince, she wasn't nearly as evil as she claimed (she grows as many roses in her garden as henbane and nightshade and regularly feeds bats and owls so much that some are nearly too fat to fly), and she and Elena become rather good friends.
- The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Deliberately invoked. Madame Bella knew she could be turned to good because she (Bella) could tell Arachnia liked the aesthetics of Traditional villainy far more than the evil acts part. After Arachnia realizes too, she does this on purpose, holding down the Evil Sorceress slot so that heroes can get some character development without danger of actually being horribly murdered by a real villain.
- Raven Hair, Ivory Skin
Madame KlovisElena's Wicked Stepmother, who used a love potion on her father in order to appropriate his wealth. She has two daughters, whom she spoils. In the end of the first book she gets her punishment in being forced to work as a cook and a servant in an inn in order to pay for her debts.
- Break the Haughty: While she has been stripped of everything of value she owns and forced to be a servant, she shows no signs of changing.
- The Dreaded: No one in the Mop Fair of Otraria dares to hire Elena as a maid lest they arouse her wrath.
- Gold Digger: Did not care about either of her husbands, just saw them as a meal ticket.
- Love Potion: Used one on Elena's father. Likely her first husband too.
- Wicked Stepmother: Goes without saying.
Daphne and DelphiniumElena's Horrid Stepsisters.
- Alpha Bitch: Delphinum gives this vibe, but she certainly lacks a girl posse even if she has the attitude down pat.
- Big Eater: Daphne
- Break the Haughty: After a few months of backbreaking, thankless labour Daphne starts to regret how she treated Elena and becomes a nicer person. Her sister, not so much.
- Gold Digger: Both of them are their mother's daughters all right.
- Fat Bitch: Daphne, partly in due that she eats anything nice so Elena will not get it. Much like the cousin of a certain wizard.
- Lean and Mean: Delphinum, who is skinny enough to be anorexic, suffers from a distinct lack of curves.
- Of Corset Hurts: Daphne can barely fit in hers due to her weight.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Daphne, at the end of The Fairy Godmother, as detailed above, after several months of thankless labour she's not just losing lots of weight but becoming a better person for it. It's implied that if she keeps going with her Character Development, the Two Old Ladies of the village will give Elena a call to make sure she gets a suitably magic Karmic Reward; ie finding some gold in the course of her duties, enough to buy her way out of indentured servitude and maybe even enable her to marry.
Princess Andromeda of Acadia
Princess Andromeda is the only child of Queen Cassiopeia and heir to the throne of Acadia. She has lived a very sheltered and lonely life, but she is very intelligent, resourceful, and has a talent for research and a love of books. Her life changes when her intelligence comes to the attention of her mother and her mother's advisor, Solon. While Andromeda tries to get used to her new life, tragedy descends upon Acadia, in the form of a rampaging Dragon.
- A-Cup Angst: She did not inherit her mother's looks, especially in this department.
- Blood Brothers: Andie invokes it with Sir George to avoid a Rescue Romance, since the only time Tradition makes siblings fall in love is when they are unaware of the relation.
- Blind Without 'Em: Wears "oculars" which are basically glasses. Initially, they're straight up Nerd Glasses. Later, her mother's jeweler makes her some new one that are more flattering. They are also very intentionally designed to avoid Dropped Glasses.
- Chained to a Rock
- Distracted by the Shiny: She almost melts into a puddle when she encounters unicorns, much to the derision of Sir George.
- Interspecies Romance: Andie falls in love with the Bookwyrm Dragon Periapt and marries him after the latter is turned into a human.
- Lottery of Doom: Her name gets drawn to be sacrificed to the Dragon. It was rigged by her mother and Solon to eliminate her.
- Mundane Utility: She finds one for Unicorns by having them purify the toxins in mushrooms and make them safe to eat.
- Nerd Glasses: Her "oculars". Fortunately, they're bespelled so they don't fall off, even in hectic moments.
- She Knows Too Much: That was what sealed her fate as a virgin sacrifice.
- Virgin Sacrifice
Sir George/GeorginaSir George is the virgin knight sent by the Chapter House of Glass Mountain to slay the Dragon. He is very vehement that Andie will not fall in love with him.
- Sweet Polly Oliver: George is Georgina.
- Interspecies Romance: With Adam. She marries him after she becomes a dragon.
- Knight in Shining Armor: As befitting for a Champion.
- Training the Peaceful Villagers: Invokes this with the Ragged Company.
Queen CassiopeiaAndromeda's beautiful and ruthless mother, who often expresses her disappointment that her daughter is not a copy of her.
- Beauty Is Bad: A very beautiful and horrible woman.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: She is very conscious of appearances, is careful to cultivate an image of a benevolent and wise High Queen, and is particularly careful in hiding her illicit affairs.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: While she is certainly ruthless, selfish, and very vain she is a competent ruler. By law she is entitled to the salvages of destroyed ships, and for years she has had her sorcerer Solon manipulate the weather in order to fill out her purse.
- Offing the Offspring: Sets her daughter up as the Virgin Sacrifice to the dragon via rigged Lottery of Doom.
Solon, Royal Advisor and Evil SorcererSolon is one of Queen Cassiopeia's most trusted advisors and her lover. He is the one Andromeda approaches in order to reveal her talent for research and data compilation.
- Even Evil Has Standards: He might have been the one to summon the dragon and send those storms on unsuspecting ships, but he is disgusted at how eager Cassiopeia is to kill her own daughter.
- Evil Vizier: Subverted in that the Queen is as evil as he is and they are in cahoots. Until they come to outlive their usefulness to each other.
- Evil Sorcerer
- Properly Paranoid
Prince Aleksandr Pieterovich "Sasha"Sasha is the youngest of the seven sons of King Pietr of Led Belarus. He has the magical abilities of a Seventh Son, Fortunate Fool and Songweaver. He is in charge of keeping the tradition in check in his country.
- Friend to All Living Things: Has tasted Dragon's Blood, and he is nice to everyone he meets, friends and foes alike.
- Guile Hero: Like everyone charged with managing the Tradition
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold
- Heart Is an Awesome Power: His Songweaver abilities have kept his kingdom safe for years.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Acts the Fool in public, in private he is anything but.
- Purple Eyes: As befit his status as Seventh Son.
- Weak, but Skilled: As a Seventh Son, Fortunate Fool, and a Songweaver, he doesn't have huge, earthshaking magics, but rather small, simple tricks that have kept evil out of his home kingdom.
- Zany Scheme: Always pranks everyone to keep up the facade.
Princess Ekaterina "Katya"The seventh daughter of the Sea King. Katya is well versed in the Tradition and acts as her father's spy in the Drylands.
Godmother AleksiaOnce a Princess who had not one, but two Traditional Paths dogging her heels, she's now a Godmother, known as the Ice Fairy or the Snow Queen.
- An Ice Person: As one might expect from her sobriquets, Aleksia is very well-versed in the use of snow and ice magic.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: This trope is, word-for-word, the way Aleksia thinks of her primary job—forcing some Character Development upon the wishers in the process.
- The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: Aleksia's job requires her to project an image of being aloof, distant, and untouchable, but she's becoming rather lonely.
Godmother Lily/Queen Sable
- Guile Heroine: Like any successful Fairy Godmother, she has to manipulate the Tradition to force a happy ending (or a happier one) for her people - even going so far as to masquerade as the Wicked Stepmother herself to prevent a real Evil Sorceress from stepping into the role when the Queen dies.
- Love Revelation Epiphany: Only when Jimson accidentally calls her "my love" does she realize her feelings for him.
- Half-Human Hybryd: Her father was Fae, making her only Fairy Godmother that has some claim to first part of title. This is frightening, as in spin-off we learn that such children have godlike power. Example we're given? Olympians!
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Her alter ego, "Queen Sable" is designed to invoke this. Discussed by Leopold and Siegfried when they figure out the Godmother and the Queen are one and the same.
- Wicked Stepmother: Subverted. She only adopts the role of "Queen Sable" to keep a real Evil Stepmother from stepping in.
Princess Rosamund "Rosa" of Eltaria
- Politically Active Princess: She keeps her suitors in line, albeit with Lily's help.
- Speaks Fluent Animal: After Lily provides her with at dose of fresh Dragon blood.
Prince Siegfried von Drachenthal
- Genius Bruiser: Looks and fights like a standard muscle-for-brains Barbarian Hero, is frequently underestimated as a result, and knows it.
- Straight Man and Wise Guy: The Straight Man to Leopold's Wise Guy.
Prince Leopold of Falkenreid
- Groin Attack: He gets a little over-enthusiastic in trying to wake the Princess from her cursed sleep and is a victim of this as a result.
- Immortality Seeker: The cause of the events of "A Tangled Web," where he and Brunnhilde are looking for Immortality and Eternal Youth in the equivalent of Greece so they won't have to go through with him aging and dying.
- Lovable Rogue: So well-loved, in fact, he was kicked out by his father for his popularity. He has no ambition whatsoever for the throne and is a bit of a layabout, but the general populace adored him so much that the king was afraid the heir wouldn't get any recognition for his hard work and talents as long as Leopold was around.
- Only Sane Man: In his own story, he has to wrangle a bunch of mercurial Greek god counterparts to work together to protect a country that has incoming winter when they've never known anything but spring, summer and early fall.
- Straight Man and Wise Guy: The Wise Guy to Siggy's Straight Man.
- Troll: He and Brunhild plan to visit his family and make his father and older brother believe that they intend to steal the throne.
- Prince Charming: He initially comes off as this. Ultimately subverted as it turns out to be an act and he's really the Evil Sorcerer who first set the Huntsman after Rosa.
- Calling the Old Man Out: Gives her father (and the Ring Cycle in general) a truly epic one at the end of the book.
- Happily Married: To Leopold by the end of the book. In the novella "A Tangled Web," the couple faces numerous challenges but are reunited stronger than ever and more secure in their relationship.
- Hot Amazon: Leopold certainly thinks so.
- Immortality Seeker: Not for herself, since she is essentially a goddess, but for Leopold, so that she doesn't have to watch him age and die.
- Lady of War: Comes with being a Valkyrie.