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Literature / Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms

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A series of fantasy books with shades of romance by Mercedes Lackey.

The books are set in a realm (the Five Hundred Kingdoms) which operates according to the laws of a Background Magic Field known as the Tradition. When circumstances begin to resemble a plotline from a fairy tale, fable, fireside tale, morality play, or even a bawdy bar song, the Tradition tries to make that narrative play out... no matter how it ends or how the participants might feel about that.

Fortunately, they have allies in the Fairy Godmothers — women in possession of magical power as a result of the Tradition trying to force them into a role that either circumstances or their own personalities made impossible. They use their experience and a moderate touch of magic to minimize the damage the Tradition can do, steering characters out of tales they know will end badly and into ones with a happier ending. Also on the side of Good are the Wizards, Sorcerers, and Sorceresses, who work the larger magics when a Godmother's efforts are not enough; similarly, the Champions take on the physical heroics, epic quests, and the wielding of enchanted blades. Opposing them are Evil Sorcerers/Sorceresses, Wicked Stepmothers, cruel rulers, and all sorts of woe, which the Tradition enables because every story needs a villain.


The books provide a relentless and quite entertaining send up of most of the standard Fairy Tale Tropes, both as they play out straight and as the active figures try to avert or subvert them.

The books in the series are

  • The Fairy Godmother (2004)
  • One Good Knight (2006)
  • Fortune's Fool (2007)
  • The Snow Queen (2008)
  • The Sleeping Beauty (2010)
  • Beauty and the Werewolf (2011)

There is also a story in the anthology Harvest Moon which is a sequel of sorts to The Sleeping Beauty.


This series contains examples of:

  • Acquired Poison Immunity: The Tyrant that Godmother Aleksia checks up on goes to his Alchemist daily for a concoction of thirty common poisons, which gives him an immunity to all but the truly exotic poisons (and the reason why he doesn't need to employ a taster). For the exotic ones (which are slow-acting), the alchemist has the antidotes handy.
  • Adam and/or Eve: The Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve variation is used in The Fairy Godmother to refer to humans, when she talks about the cottage growing:
    It knows that budding unsettles the Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve.
  • Alliterative Title: Fortune's Fool.
  • Almighty Idiot: The Tradition, which forces tropes to be enacted regardless of the harm it does.
  • Ancient Grome: Acadia.
  • An Ice Person: The Snow Queen. Both of them.
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: Mostly averted; intelligent animals are typically explicitly magical, ordinary animals are generally no brighter then you'd expect, except cats, though this may be because Cats Are Magic (and Author Appeal).
  • Apothecary Alligator: In One Good Knight, a character comments that the Tradition requires Acadian Sophonts to have a stuffed crocodile hanging from the rafters. If they don't have one, it supplies one. Whether they want it or not.
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: The women being held prisoner by the Efreet in Fortune's Fool aren't exactly looking forward to being ravished, but they are confused by the Efreet's apparent lack of interest. The Efreet, as a fire spirit, isn't remotely attracted to mortal women, but it's trapped in a Traditional path that would normally be occupied by a creature that would ravish them.
  • Artifact Name: In-universe example. Fairy Godmothers were formerly all True Fae, but now they are usually just humans approved by the Fair Folk. They are still called 'Fairy' as an honorific: the Rose Fairy, the Lilac Fairy, etc.
  • At the Crossroads: We get to see both sides — the one being tested and the one doing the testing.
  • Background Magic Field: The Tradition. Unusual for this trope, it makes both heroes and villains, since every story needs an antagonist.
  • Badass Adorable
    • Unicorns in a fighting mood. So dumb, so pretty, so pointy.
    • Also Katya, tiny, white-blonde, cute as a button, and the Sea King's secret agent and spymaster.
  • Badass Bystander: Godmothers tend to be this (by necessity — they're usually responsible for dozens of Kingdoms and can't do more than give the heroes a nudge in the right direction at the right time). Godmother Elena gets directly involved more than most, but even she prefers to deal with crises by heading them off before they become a problem.
  • Baleful Polymorph: The white doe that Sasha and Katya encounter. This is a favourite of evil sorcerers for curses or Fairy Godmothers and the like for forcing Jerkass princes into reevaluating their jerkish lives.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Smart characters know better than to wish for something out loud, especially when connected to any kind of promise. It's an invitation for the Tradition to cause mischief.
    • In The Fairy Godmother, Prince Alexander says he'd do anything to get out of his current (benevolent) imprisonment. A wild Fairy cautions him against such language... though she does help him, if only for her own amusement.
    • The Snow Queen's job is essentially to be this personified, especially for self-centered little tossers like Kay who are convinced that all they want is time to work and be left alone.
  • Because Destiny Says So: The Tradition in a nutshell.
  • "Begone" Bribe: After being kicked out of the family castle, Leopold has pretty much made a living by going to other kingdoms and being his usual Loveable Rogue self, which results in nobles and monarchs paying him to stay away once their daughters take an interest in him.
  • Betty and Veronica: The Sleeping Beauty has Rosamund's two main suitors, the honest and chaste Siegfried as Betty, and the roguishly charming and flirtatious Leopold as the Veronica. Rosamund picks Betty, while Leopold gets the woman who arguably counted as Siegfried's Veronica and makes a good match out of it.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Champions, Good Sorcerers/Sorceresses, and Heroes have this as a job description: they show up when things are dire and save the day. The Queen of Copper Mountain also pulls one in the climax of Fortune's Fool.
  • Bigger on the Inside: In The Fairy Godmother: Bella and Elena's cottage, explained by it being "one of the Palaces of the Great Fae". It even 'buds' out more space as needed; it's left somewhat ambiguous whether this means creating new rooms or merely bringing old ones out of storage.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Queen Cassiopeia in One Good Knight. She looks like the The High Queen but in actuality is a selfish tyrant.
    • Prince Desmond in The Sleeping Beauty. He is secretly an evil Sorcerer that kickstarted everything in the book by sending the Huntsman against Princess Rosamund.
  • Blessed with Suck: Many people whose lives The Tradition is attempting to steer, especially when their Happy Ending can't occur for one reason or another — or their story doesn't have a happy ending. The Fair Rosalinda and Ladderlocks girls get it particularly bad.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Princess Andromeda.
  • Blood Brothers: A way to invoke certain Traditional paths. Andie does it with Sir George in One Good Knight to fend off the Rescue Romance that the Tradition is pushing on them, claiming that the Tradition never allows Brother–Sister Incest except in cases where the siblings don't recognize each other.
  • Blood Magic: Blood and the shedding of blood in certain circumstances has Traditional force. Also, drinking a bit of dragon blood conveys the ability to speak with animals. (It also tastes terrible).
  • Born Lucky: The title character of Fortune's Fool, for one.
  • Break the Haughty: Many, many arrogant, discourteous people have this done to them by Godmothers, Wizards and Sorceresses. Example: Prince Alexander of Kolhstania. Actually is a good thing for them, since the Tradition would ensure they have a very sorry end if they don't repent and redeem themselves. The good Magicians at least ensure that nothing truly horrible happens to people in need of redemption. Aleksia engages in this more than the average Godmother; Kay is only the latest in the line of those needing redeeming.
  • Break the Cutie: Well, more Silly than Cutie, but Aleksia has to do this to Gerda, the love-blind sweetheart of Kay, in order to open her eyes to the reality.
  • Brainless Beauty: There are exceptions, but as a rule, beautiful magical creatures will also be dumb as a post (intelligence, beauty, magic — pick two). Exhibit A: Unicorns.
  • Brick Joke: From The Sleeping Beauty, the usual Heroic classification of birds is described as "good to eat," "not good to eat," and "singing while I have a hangover, kill it with a rock." Then, when the Bird is talking with Rosa and Lily about how it's quite rare for Heroes of Drachenthal (who are mighty of thew, small of brain, and not kind at all) to take good advice and they tend to try to kill helpful birds by throwing rocks. Then the Bird notes, "Of course, the fact that we can only get their attention when they have hangovers might contribute to that."
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Tends to happen in Traditional paths where the siblings in question are unaware of the relation.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: At the end of The Sleeping Beauty, Brunnhilde gives Wotan a piece of her mind for the spell he cast on her. This doubles as Lackey's own Take That! to the Ring Cycle in general.
  • Canis Latinicus: In The Fairy Godmother, it is said that "dragonets [...] were the much smaller, unintelligent subspecies of Draconis Sapiens". Draconis Sapiens is presumably the designation for sapient dragons, which appear later in the series.
  • Capital Letters Are Magic: Many, many things dealing with the Tradition are capitalized. The first book alone capitalizes not only "Tradition" but Sleepers, Questers, Failed Questers, Witches, Godmothers, etc.
  • Cats Are Magic: Not to mention quick, stealthy, wise, secretive, and susceptible to flattery.
  • Cast from Hit Points: The first book mentions that it's possible to transmute life-force into magical power. Presumably this also applies to Traditional stories where someone makes a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Chained to a Rock: A whole line of maidens in One Good Knight, including the princess, are staked out as sacrifices to a dragon.
  • Cinderella Circumstances: Elena at the beginning of The Fairy Godmother (unfortunately, the only prince in the area is a young child, so the Traditional Happy Ending for those circumstances can't happen) and countless other girls in many other kingdoms.
  • Clingy Macguffin: If it's Traditional for someone in your role to have something, you'll have it — whether you want it or not. Acadian Sophonts, for example, always have a stuffed crocodile in their offices, so the Tradition will supply one. No matter how often one throws out or destroys the thing, it will always come back.
  • Curse Escape Clause: The Tradition doesn't like unbreakable curses, so it almost always finds a way to leave an 'out'. Generally, the more dire the curse, the more simple the escape.
  • Cool Horse: Several, especially the Sons of the East Wind.
  • Combat Pragmatist: The self defense Siegfried teaches Rosamund consist of this. Also Prince Sasha's fighting style when it comes down to it. Even Champions are taught to fight with whatever is closest to hand, unless there's a Traditional reason to use some particular weapon.
  • Costume Porn: At least once a book.
  • Creatures by Many Other Names: In The Fairy Godmother, it is said that "dragonets [...] were the much smaller, unintelligent subspecies of Draconis Sapiens". Draconis Sapiens is presumably the designation for sapient dragons, which appear later in the series.
  • Damsel out of Distress: Andie in One Good Knight, bordering on Guile Heroine. She doesn't fight any dragons, but she does learn to pick locks in preparation for her Chained to a Rock moment. Later, she becomes adept with a sling.
  • Dances and Balls: Princess Rosamund and Queen Sable throw a few of them during the Engagement Challenge period. Elena also attends a Royal Christening.
  • Dangerous 16th Birthday: Significant birthdays tend to be deadlines for the Tradition; if the story hasn't reached a certain point by then, it will give up and leave that person alone (at least until s/he starts on what could be the plot of another story).
    • The twenty-first birthday is particularly significant: in The Fairy Godmother it's mentioned that it's only after that birthday that Elena can be safely trained in magic and in Fortune's Fool Katya's father tells her that now she's past her twenty-first birthday they know that her magic is stable and she has free rein to use it when appropriate.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Tradition encourages Evil Villains to take on certain motifs. Some decent figures, like Arachnia, adopt the same symbols to fulfill the villain's role in a tale without having to be evil herself. She even keeps a fairly polite troll as a stablehand.
    • The formerly human Rusalka that Sasha meets is an example too, after a talk with him she promises not to drown young men but scare them into good behaviour and also warn and educate girls on how to recognize blackguards. The second time Sasha encounters her she has kept her promise. She even keeps guard on him while he sleeps and tells him he is a good man.
  • Dark Magical Girl: Arachnia and a few others.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Step-parents, particularly stepmothers, will become wicked due to the Tradition unless they are very careful to avert it.
  • Deconstructed Trope: Oh yes. Godmothers are well aware that Traditional stories, romantic or poignant as they may be, can be tragic when they actually play out. The girl in the tower with the long hair may win her Prince — but only after any number of young men are murdered to increase the power of the Evil Witch holding her captive, and presuming she doesn't go mad from the loneliness first.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: Increasingly as the books go on. By The Sleeping Beauty, the beautiful princess is captured and enslaved by seven ugly, brutish dwarves; the Wicked Stepmother is the Fairy Godmother in disguise; the poisoned apple is a scheme for Faking the Dead; the prince who wakes her with a kiss has both hands in places they really shouldn't be... and that's the beginning of the story.
  • Defiant Captive: Princess Kylia in The Fairy Godmother leaves a trail of damage when captured by the Koschei, which impresses Godmother Elena.
  • Definite Article Title:
    • The Fairy Godmother (2004)
    • The Snow Queen (2008)
    • The Sleeping Beauty (2010)
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: The Snow Queen. Again, both of them, though one features a slightly more literal example.
  • Designated Villain: Genre Savvy Godmothers can do this In-Universe, setting themselves up to be the villain that a tale requires so that they can control the story and direct it down a less-harmful path than it might otherwise take.
  • Destination Defenestration: Seven-year-old Witch-killer Arachnia pushed the Evil Sorceress that had kidnapped her out of a window.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: This is the official duty of Katya's very beautiful sister Galya. Many beautiful evil Sorceresses and Witches do this to random kings, but magic enters the equation here as well. The witch that plagued the Kingdom of Nippon used this as her main shtick to power.
    • Queen Cassiopeia uses this as a political tactic.
  • Distressed Damsel: It's Traditional. Though most of the young women in these books can keep their wits enough to do something toward their own escape, even if they can't get out without help.
  • Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: Basically what the Bird told Siegfried about the Niebelung ring. Fortunately, Siggy was smart enough to listen.
  • Dragon Hoard: Gold for most dragons, but we meet two Bookwyrms note  whose "hoard" is their libraries.
    • One of the challenges in The Sleeping Beauty is for the suitors to get golden items bearing minor curses into a dragon's hoard without harming him. The dragon agrees to this because 1) gold, 2) he's immune to the curses, and 3) once word gets out that his hoard is cursed, most treasure hunters will leave him alone.
  • Droit du Seigneur: Not only common, but encouraged by the Tradition due to bawdy songs and the like. Elena is furious when Alexander tries it on her, and makes clear to the Tradition that she won’t stand for it. Alexander’s final test of character is stopping one in progress and arresting the nobleman trying it.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Sometimes Sasha feels this way but shakes the thought off pretty quickly.
  • Double Standard: Virgins, especially when found attracting unicorns. Virgin girls don't get much of a reaction for their unicorn problem, other than a raised eyebrow on the Rusalka's case. Virgin boys, on the other hand, are sources of humor. When three unicorns bond with three new (male) knights, one godmother laments at how difficult it will be to keep them virgin.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Part of the role of the good magic users is to put the heroes through enough difficulty that they lose their flaws and become more appreciative of their reward once they finally achieve it. Aleksia, the Snow Queen, particularly resents that her "clients" never appreciate what she does for them.
  • Engagement Challenge: Invoked by at least one clever monarch who wanted to find a strong, brave, and compassionate man to be a husband for his daughter and heir to his throne.
    • Also invoked in The Sleeping Beauty. This one does double duty — the Kingdom of Eltaria is wealthy, and has greedy neighbors with armies. The princes are not only contenders for Rosamund's hand, but hostages keeping said neighbors from invading until a long-term solution is found.
  • Enthralling Siren: Mostly mentioned and not shown, but Katya has siren blood on her mother's side and the most beautiful of her sisters shows it more than most. King Vladislav has not bothered to manipulate the Tradition on their behalf since they do not recognize his authority as King of the Sea. The mermaids, who do, have had different paths forged which protect them.
  • Erotic Dream: In The Fairy Godmother, as Elena and Alexander start to fall for each other, they have increasingly sexual dreams about meeting on "a shore of purple sand by an amethyst sea beneath a silver sky with three azure moons".
  • Even Evil Has Standards: When Cassiopeia's adviser Solon lies and says her daughter was butchered by a dragon, even he is disgusted at her gleeful reaction.
  • Evil Chancellor: Again, it's Tradition.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: It's noted in The Sleeping Beauty by Princess Rosa, who is in a distorted Snow White path, that "no bee will abide in the presence of evil," which lets her know to trust the stranger who came to help. This stranger also happens to be her "Evil" Stepmother, who is also her Fairy Godmother in disguise.
  • Evil Gloating: Present and naturally lampshaded in Beauty and the Werewolf:
    Elena Thank you for that quite Traditional monologue...
  • Exact Words: The typical Curse Escape Clause tends to depend on this.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Princess Andie realizing she had given her mother a reason to want her dead.
  • The Fair Folk: Played arrow straight. The King and Queen of the True Fae are explicitly beautiful yet morally unencumbered — Elena realizes at an instant that they have the power to indulge any whim they choose. However, they seem to prefer to stand by and not interfere with human affairs unless asked.
  • Fairest of Them All: A few unlucky princesses. Rosamund is the fairest in her kingdom, albeit in a small kingdom. The Queen of Copper Mountain is said to be the loveliest creature upon the earth.
  • Fairy Godmother: The central concept of the book — other than the Tradition — is that a small army of women with at least a touch of magic are out there, keeping an eye on things and trying to steer all the various stories to the happiest possible endings.
  • Fairy Tale Free-for-All: The world is one where any story can, and does happen, so there are tons of Cinderellas, a few Rapunzels, Pusses in Boots, etc.
  • Faking the Dead: Rosamund in order to escape the dwarves.
  • Fantastic Medicinal Bodily Product: Unicorns produce a range of healing items. Hair from a dead unicorn prevents illness, hair from a live unicorn not only protects from illness but from evil magic as well. Unicorn horn neutralizes poison, unicorn tears heal mental disorders, and unicorn blood cures diseases and injuries. Having it being freely offered by the unicorn (as opposed to it being harvested by force) drasticly increases the potentcy.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Both straight and subverted; All Myths Are True, but when elements from one culture turn up in Traditional storylines from another it usually means someone else has introduced them.
    • One of the best examples of this is in the short story "A Tangled Web" from the Harvest Moon anthology: it's a combination of Greek and Norse mythology with a prince of European background that was introduced in The Sleeping Beauty.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Several, of which one is to be completely cut off from the Tradition and condemned to live a completely ordinary, entirely non-magical life. (Unless that's what the person actually wants, and some do.) Rosalie being a prime example, after finding out what the Tradition intended to do with her she practically begged Godmother Bella to take it from her. As her life would have mirrored that of Fair Rosalinda, no one can blame her.
  • Financial Abuse: A tactic of Wicked Stepmothers to keep their exploited stepchildren under control, especially stepdaughters. In Elena's case, her stepmother held authority over her inheritance, and spent it on her daughters and herself. But Madame Klovis also ensured that Elena would have nowhere else to go, by making sure that no one would hire Elena. The laws of Otraria which make a parent or stepparent ultimate authority over a girl's life until she has married are fodder for that. Likely many other kingdoms have similar laws given the prevalence of Ella Cinders girls.
  • Fisher King: Kingdoms with benevolent rulers tend to be more pleasant and fertile, with nicer weather, than kingdoms with evil rulers.
  • The Fool: A Traditional role, and one which tends to convey a great deal of blind luck. Fortunately, stupidity is not a requirement; anyone in the right circumstances can act the Fool and get all the benefits.
  • Foreshadowing: Thanks to the Tradition, if something looks like the setup for some kind of fairy tale, it almost certainly is. For instance, when the female lead of Beauty and the Werewolf puts on a red cloak before going to visit the old lady who lives in the woods, it's pretty obvious that she's going to be attacked by a wolf that evening.
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: All over the place and often invoked since a confused Tradition is more biddable for those who want to manipulate it.
  • The Generic Guy: Leopold's older brother Theodore, the heir to the throne, is completely average despite being basically a nice guy. Leo got kicked out because his natural charm was eclipsing and outshining his brother.
  • Genius Bruiser: Siegfried, which kept him from going through the tragic tale he was supposed to. Not that it isn't persistent.
  • Genre Savvy: A legitimate super power in this setting. You can achieve almost anything you want if you know how to manipulate the Tradition.
  • Giant Flyer: Including the coolest of them all: the dragon.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Cassiopeia in One Good Knight.
  • Good Bad Girl: At least one Good Sorceress is shown as rather lusty but she and others fight in the side of good. The Rusalka is a zigzag example. She is supposed to be a murderous seductress revenging herself upon men but she is a virgin and she agrees to be a Scare 'Em Straight ploy rather than murder young men for real. Likely the Sea Princess Galya, who is the official sexy distraction of the Sea Court but is dutiful and devoted to the good of her kingdom.
  • Good Is Dumb: The straight-up heroes, virtuous maidens, etc. also tend to be naive compared to the cunning, experienced villains. Fortunately they have intelligent allies.
  • The Good King: From various paths:
    • As a rule, the kings that started out as valiant peasants or that won an Engagement Challenge.
    • Those born to the throne if they had a Godmother to guide them or were otherwise made aware of the Tradition.
    • Redeemed Arrogant Bully oldest princes.
  • Good Princess, Evil Queen: One Good Knight's heroic and resourceful protagonist Andie vs. her Bitch in Sheep's Clothing mother Queen Cassiopeia.
  • Graceful Ladies Like Purple: Godmother Bella, who is called the Lilac Fairy for her trademark color.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: The Tradition almost twisted Aleksia into one.
  • Groin Attack: Prince Leopold gets a little too touchy-feely while trying to wake up the sleeping Rosamund. She promptly knees him in the royal jewels. Lily practically busts a gut laughing. Siegfried is impressed at her spirit and good sense. Later while getting some self defense training Rosa accidentally kicks Siggy in the danglies too. It impresses her that he does not get mad at her but rather he points out that it is the most effective way of disabling any man trying to attack her.
  • Guile Hero/Guile Heroine:
    • Prince Sasha of Led Belarus and The Sea King Vladislav.
    • Effective Godmothers
    • Most of the major focus characters of the books are Guile Heroes in fact.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: The Tradition gives this to many princesses or destined princesses, and a few Heroes in keeping with the trope's roots in Traditional fairy tales.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power:
    • Fairy Godmothers, generally, have limited magic but know the usual Traditional paths by heart. Their job is to intervene at just the right moment to nudge the story the way they want it to go.
    • Sasha has small magics being a Songweaver, Seventh Son and Fortunate Fool, but used creatively and wisely he has kept Led Belarus peaceful and prosperous, which is more than one can say for powerful magicians.
    • The Drachenthal girl carried off by the Jinn was more impressed with Lesser Skalds, who guide and manipulate paths and are her homeland's equivalent of Songweavers, rather than Greater Skalds or Bards who forge new paths that might bring about lots of grief.
  • The Hedge of Thorns: Practically every evil stronghold.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Happens to characters on the path of redemption (Jerkass princes who mess with the wrong elderly woman in the woods, for example).
  • Hide Your Lesbians: There aren't many Traditional stories involving a same-sex couple, and as a result the Tradition has trouble figuring out what should happen when it inadvertently creates a situation where a Traditional romance should arise when both parties are of the same gender. Elena takes advantage of this at the end of the first book by going herself to rescue a married Damsel in Distress while her boyfriend (who happens to be said damsel's brother-in-law) leads the charge against the Big Bad, to ensure that none of the established relationships get screwed up by the Tradition.
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Bad singers and other horrid musicians are acceptable targets for humor in Lackey's works, and this series is no exception.
  • I Call It "Vera": Both averted and played straight: Champions are able to make any weapon in their hand a magic weapon, but owning a sword called Haeldrin the Wyrm-slayer would surely give you an advantage should you meet an actual Wyrm.
  • Idiot Ball: Enacted in-universe by the Tradition, since some fairy tales rely on the characters making really dumb decisions. For example, the husband of a woman who was getting set up to be the mother of a Ladderlocks knew the mysterious woman who moved in next door was a sorceress, but such was the power of the Tradition that he was compelled to steal lettuce from her garden anyway.
  • Impossible Task: All too often, especially issued from Wicked Stepmothers.
  • Incest Is Relative: Siegfried was supposed to fall in love with his aunt Brunnhilde, due to the path assigned to him by his homeland's Jerkass Gods. He manages to fulfill his side of things a different way, and a friend of his takes up with Brunnhilde.
  • Invoked Trope: How Godmothers, Champions, and other smart characters steer circumstances to their advantage.
  • It's All About Me: The general attitude that marks an unsympathetic character. Queen Cassiopeia and Prince Alexander (pre-Character Development) are not-so-shining examples.
  • It Sucks to Be the Chosen One: Not all fairy tales have a happy ending, so being chosen to be part of one of those is really unpleasant. Then there's the tales about people who go through a lot of grief before getting their happy ending, which sometimes don't reach completion, and the fact that tales often have dozens of would-be heroes get killed before the official Quester saves the day.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Prince Octavian. It is revealed that the reason he was awful to his brother Julian was because he was trying to help him in a misguided way. And after he fails his quest he gets on the path of redemption a lot quicker than his brother Alexander.
  • Jerk Ass Gods: The Drachenthal pantheon, which mirrors the Norse pantheon, is a prominent example but also the Olympia gods.
  • Karmic Transformation: Elena turns Prince Alexander into a jackass to teach him to stop behaving like one.
  • Kid Hero: Seven-year-old Witch-killer Arachnia killed her Evil Sorceress via pushing her out a window.
  • Kids Are Cruel: The stepsisters of every Ella Cinders come to the household as children. Also the witch killer sociopaths were cruel to animals and younger children.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Champions, who are armed fighters with a touch of magical ability who ride forth when the Tradition requires it. The most smart of them associate with Godmothers, who can help them decide which tactics to use to keep the Tradition on their side.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: In The Snow Queen, when a minor character needs to be made to forget that he just blabbed the villain's plot to Godmother Aleksia.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Another thing the Tradition can enforce on certain people if they meet certain requirements, usually the punishing kind. Fairy Godmothers and Wizards do their best to keep it in check or it will go for Disproportionate Retribution. They also make sure people get this, either in a good way or a bad way.
  • Loophole Abuse: A major weapon in the arsenal of Godmothers, White Wizards, etc. in trying to subvert the Tradition.
  • Lottery of Doom: In One Good Knight, to select the weekly virgin sacrifice.
  • Lovable Rogue: Prince Leopold from The Sleeping Beauty. He would never break his word or betray his host and would be on the bucket brigade if the town burns down, but his penchant for wild parties, wilder women, and general mischief has kings paying him off to stay away.
  • Love Potion: Various love potions and love charms get an offhanded mention. One Good Knight features a lust spell which works wonders to distract Queen Cassiopeia.
  • Love Revelation Epiphany: In The Sleeping Beauty, Godmother Lily doesn't realize she's developed feelings for Jimson until Jimson accidentally calls her "my love".
  • Lower-Deck Episode: Some subplots are full fairy tale stories in their own right, seen from the perspective of the characters who assist the heroes and heroines to their happy endings.
  • Machine Worship: A possible fate of Kai of The Snow Queen:
    given his turn of mind, he would have become a Clockwork Artificer, one of those repellant individuals who tried to reduce everything to a matter of gears and levers, and tried to imprison life itself inside metal simulacrums. While not usually dangerous to the public at large the way, say, the average necromancer was, Clockwork Artificers could cause a great deal of unhappiness—and in their zeal to recreate life itself, sometimes resorted to murder.
  • Magical Seventh Son: Sasha has some small magics, in part because he's a seventh son. Also, in One Good Knight, Gina mentions that three of her siblings have magical abilities.
    "That kind of startled my parents, they had no idea that there was magic in their blood, but the sibs in question are the seventh born, the ninth born, and the thirteenth born, so that probably explains it."
  • Magic Knight: Champions.
  • Magic Mirror: Mirror slaves are popular for both Good and Evil magic workers; the Good ones, of course, do not actually treat them as slaves.
    • The Snow Queen is a Mirror Magic specialist.
    • As is Godmother Lily, in The Sleeping Beauty; it becomes plot-relevant.
  • Magic Wand: Used by Godmothers and other magic users. They are mostly a focusing device for magic; breaking the wand does nothing at all.
  • Magnetic Plot Device: Character who fit a Traditional mold will attract Traditional friends and foes.
  • Man in the Machine: May be inflicted by some Clockwork Artificers, as "imprison[ing] life itself inside metal simulacrums" sounds like this trope.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Both Sasha (a seventh son) and Katya (thirteen siblings) from Fortune's Fool. Also Gina (like Katya, one of fourteen) from One Good Knight.
  • Meaningful Name: Useful in certain circumstances, especially if a Traditional Hero with the same name as you succeeded in doing something you're trying to accomplish. Terrible at other times, such as when your name sets you on a Traditional path that ends badly.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Characters subjected to a Karmic Transformation will start to lose their humanity to whatever they've become unless they get occasional 'breaks' as a human again. This complicates Elena's program to reform Alexander.
  • Minimalist Cast: Beauty and the Werewolf, since almost all of it takes place in Sebastian's deserted castle. Unfortunately, this makes the identity of the Hidden Villain obvious by default.
  • Moral Myopia: Prince Alexander in The Fairy Godmother. It takes an extended Break the Haughty sequence to snap him out of it.
  • Mundane Utility: As with most Lackey books, generally averted. Characters with magic typically do their work by hand and save magic for things only magic can do. Played straight in One Good Knight where a group of virgin girls use volunteer unicorns to purify mushrooms so they can eat them.
  • My Beloved Smother: Demeter, Persophene's mother in A Tangled Web.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: This is how unicorns feel about virgins. In Fortune's Fool a male unicorn shows up to protect a malicious spirit from the protagonist because she is a virgin.
  • Nature Adores a Virgin: Unicorns are attracted to virgin humans: stallions to virgin women and mares to virgin men. This can be embarrassing if your virginity (or your gender) is not something you want announced to the world.
  • Necromancer: Unseen, but they exist, as mentioned in comparison to Clockwork Artificers:
    not usually dangerous to the public at large the way, say, the average necromancer was, Clockwork Artificers could cause a great deal of unhappiness—and in their zeal to recreate life itself, sometimes resorted to murder.
  • Neutral Female: Openly defied in both One Good Knight and The Sleeping Beauty.
  • Nice to the Waiter: The Tradition enforces this trope, rewarding those who honor it and setting up those who ignore it for a few rounds of Break the Haughty. So it's a very good idea to be nice to the old beggar woman at the crossroad and give her food, she may very well be a magician in disguise.
  • Noble Demon: Arachnia before her Heel–Face Turn, Adamant and Periapt the Dragons (on first appearance — they turn out to be straight-up Heroes once people stop trying to slay them and actually listen to what they have to say).
  • No-Harm Requirement: In The Sleeping Beauty, one of the challenges for Rosamund's suitors is to add a (cursed) item to a dragon's hoard without harming the dragon in any way. It weeds out a lot of suitors who can't come up with any methods that don't involve violence.
  • No Man of Woman Born: The Tradition tends to leave loopholes like this, and a clever White Wizard or Fairy Godmother will look for them and exploit them.
    • In One Good Knight, the Evil Vizier quite literally cast a spell that said "no man" could cross the border of his kingdom. The knight who arrives, Sir George, reveals that Godmothers know at least three workarounds for this one — send a woman, send a non-human (e.g. a dwarf), or have someone change his name to Noman.
  • "Number of Objects" Title: Applies to the series and a book:
    • The series as a whole.
    • One Good Knight
  • Obviously Evil: Arachnia, especially after her Heel–Face Turn. She likes the appearance of evil more than she likes causing actual pain.
    • Godmothers make use of this when they need an "Evil" force to try the heroes but do not want to put anyone in real danger.
  • Of Corset Hurts: Daphne, Elena's rather plump stepsister, has to be fitted into one in The Fairy Godmother. Elena even has to put her foot on the back of Daphne's back to make it lace. But since Daphne gained the weight by eating everything in sight so Elena would not get it, it is hard to feel sorry for her discomfort.
  • Off the Rails: The only way to guarantee The Tradition won't mess with you is to take a violent swerve off the normal path.
  • Offing the Offspring: Queen Cassiopeia in One Good Knight makes sure her daughter's name is drawn in the Lottery of Doom, shutting down claims that the drawing is rigged and terminating the kid's research into certain things in one fell swoop. Also King Henrik in The Fairy Godmother hints that he would not feel particularly sorry if his Unfavorite third son dies in his quest for Princess Kylia's hand in marriage. Elena makes sure he suffers for it.
  • One Steve Limit: In Fortune's Fool, Galya is the name of both one of Katya's sisters and a unicorn.
  • Overprotective Dad: King Stancia.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Most dragons are intelligent creatures, not rampaging monsters. However, if they get co-opted into a Traditional tale that requires a ferocious beast, the Traditional force will make them act against their better natures at least a little.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: Katya and her sisters are the daughters of the Sea King, but they have siren ancestry to give them legs instead of tails (which neatly averts the Mermaid Problem). Only Katya and her father are comfortable on land, however.
  • Outdoor Bath Peeping: Discussed in One Good Night, when warrior Gina and naïve princess Andie contemplate a bath in a stream. Gina is not amused by Andie's innocent questions about what could possibly go wrong.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Some Kings oust the Tradition from their kingdoms, thus weakening its power, but the cost is the loss of magic in the lives of their subjects. And of course if something Traditional does go wrong, no one knows what to do, meaning that even a small problem can quickly grow into a catastrophe.
  • Outside-Context Problem: A story being interrupted by an element from a completely unrelated story (usually a sign of direct interference), or a Kingdom which usually runs on certain Traditional paths encountering something from a different setting (e.g. the Ancient Grome kingdom of Acadia bring menaced by a Western-style dragon). This also happens when a Kingdom with no experience with the Tradition suddenly encounters a Traditional problem.
  • Pair the Spares: In The Sleeping Beauty after Prince Siegfried wins the engagement challenge and Rosamund's hand, Leopold wakes up the woman Siegfried was fated to marry and marries her himself.
  • Parental Favoritism: Both played straight and subverted. Particularly wise parents can invoke this, as Sasha's father did, and make his seventh son The Unfavorite in public because it's a very lucky Traditional role.
  • Poke the Poodle: In The Fairy Godmother, the Evil Sorceress who comes to a royal christening is defused early when Godmother Bella introduces her to a potential boyfriend. She fulfils her Traditional role with a half-hearted curse that the Princess will wake up on her Dangerous 16th Birthday with... incredibly tangled hair. Apprentice Godmother Elena still needs to set up a Curse Escape Clause because otherwise the Tradition would warp it into something properly evil.
  • Power Dynamics Kink: After Elena captures Alexander, he de facto becomes her slave: she transforms him into a donkey, makes him do a lot of work to reform his character, and frequently makes fun of him. However, there's Belligerent Sexual Tension between them, with each of them being secretly attracted to the other, which eventually culminates in a romantic relationship.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Since the Tradition invests a great deal of magic in those it is trying to control, evil magic users benefit from attracting Questers and Abandoned Children in the Woods, and from kidnapping certain would-be protagonists so that they can continually drain off the power that the Tradition is shoving at them.
  • Professional Sex Ed: The Fairy Godmother: Prince Alexander says this is normal in his kingdom, and was done for him.
    • The lady in question takes the "education" part seriously, and gives him some very useful "training" for when it's his turn to initiate someone.
  • Prophetic Name: Can be useful or a burden, depending on the prophecy.
  • Pungeon Master: The Tradition itself. It loves puns. Bookwyrms, for example, are intelligent dragons who hoard books.
  • The Quest
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Elena in The Fairy Godmother. Most characters who really understand the Tradition come to resent how it interferes with the lives of others.
  • Rags to Royalty: Happens routinely — there are a lot of Fairy Tale Tropes about commoners marrying the Prince or Princess, after all.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Women on the "Ladderlocks" Traditional path.
  • Recurring Dreams: One way for the Tradition to give characters a nudge. In The Fairy Godmother, Elena and Alexander share a series of Erotic Dreams once conditions are right for them to fall in love.
  • Red Riding Hood Replica: Beauty and the Werewolf, the sixth main story of a Fractured Fairy Tale series, which is a twist on Little Red Riding Hood, mixed with Beauty and the Beast, and as implied by the cover art of a woman in a red cloak, and the blurb on the book's back.
  • Reformed Rakes: A story in the universe, as said in Beauty and the Werewolf: "The Rake's Reward.":
    The poor misunderstood rakehell...the man who was a rogue because he was deep inside he was still a lonely, neglected little boy... the good girl who would redeem him with her love and help him become the gentle man he was meant to be...
    Except, [...] that was seldom how the scenario played out, once the rake got what he wanted. The habits of a lifetime are very hard to break, and the Tradition was perfectly happy to perpetuate those habits, so that the The Rake's Reward generally turned into The Sadder but Wiser Girl.
  • Rescue Romance: Traditionally mandatory... which can be awkward if the two characters don't want to fall in love, and really inconvenient if either party is already intended to end up with someone else.
  • Romance Ensues: If there's a setup for a Rescue Romance or something, the Tradition will force that romance, unless deliberately averted.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Some Kings and Queens, but more Princes and Princesses. Katya's family in Fortune's Fool is a good example.
  • Rule of Three: As per tradition, the third of something is likely to be significant: the third daughter, the third day, etc.
  • Rule of Seven: Same as the above — a Seventh Son is Traditionally lucky, and the Seventh Son whose father was also a Seventh Son is luckier still.
  • Save the Princess: Shows up particularly in One Good Knight, where Sir George arrives just in time to save Princess Andie from a dragon. She has a big enough heart to feel sad for all the other girls who weren't saved (though they turn out to be okay).
  • Sacred Hospitality: A Traditional force, with Traditional loopholes. Offering a guest a meal that does not include bread or salt means that you have not technically broken bread or shared salt with him, so that guest is not bound by the laws of hospitality.
  • Screw Destiny: The Tradition will irresistibly force a path on characters and cannot be blocked. The only escape is to change circumstances until they no longer fit the fairy tale.
  • Secret Test of Character: It's common for Traditional encounters to check the character of a potential hero.
  • Serpent of Immortality: Invoked in-universe in The Sleeping Beauty. When Godmother Lily is undoing the "look like she's dead" spell on Rosa, one component of the ritual is a snake ring on Rosa's hand to symbolize rebirth.
  • Shared Dream: In The Fairy Godmother, Erotic Dreams shared between two of the characters is a sign that the Tradition is trying to put them together.
  • Ship Sinking: In-universe — some characters have to resort to interesting measures to keep the Tradition from making them fall in love. In One Good Knight, Princess Andie becomes blood-siblings with Sir George, causing the Tradition to back off since it doesn't allow characters who know they are related to fall in love.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In The Fairy Godmother, when the main character is at the hiring fair, Mort is the last person waiting, even after she leaves. His name isn't mentioned, but Mercedes Lackey is a fan of Terry Pratchett and has confirmed outside the book that yes, that was Mort.
    • Drinking Dragons' blood allowing people to understand animals is a reference to The Saga of the Volsungs when Sigurd does it and can understand birds.
    • The "All Forests Are One" spell, which may be a reference to Charles de Lint's Spiritwalk.
    • "Fair Rosalinda", as a reference to an old ballad.
    • Also references to "Felicia and the Pot of Pinks" and "Puss in Boots":
      she made a point of getting a particular pot of flowers into the hands of a young woman, and once she ensured that a handsome kitten was adopted by a mill-owner with three sons.
      • Leopold is descended from the youngest son in one of the "Puss in Boots" occurrences, as when Siegfried is surprised that he knows about Wise Beasts, Leopold's response is, "Let me tell you about my great-grandfather and his boot-wearing cat."
  • Simple, yet Opulent: Solon in One Good Night loves things that are more costly and fine than they look.
  • Spare to the Throne: Given how often Traditional stories involve princes or princesses, there are usually a lot of royal siblings around besides the Heir.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Dragon's blood can be used to give somebody this ability; diluted dragon's blood gives the ability temporarily while the pure stuff makes it permanent.
  • Spoiled Sweet: in Beauty and the Werewolf, Bella's stepsisters Amber and Pearl are rather frivolous and prone to caring more about fashion than anything else, but they are also sweet-natured and well-intentioned. At a masked ball that the Wool Guild was holding, Bella notes that girls who put on airs would turn up their noses at the gathering, but Amber and Pearl see people having fun and are more than happy to join in.
  • Standard Hero Reward: The father of one character was a kingdom-saving hero who was offered the 6-year-old princess. He married one of her bodyguards instead.
  • Superhero Paradox: It's Traditional for a warrior hero king to fight fantastic beasts or invading armies. In the case of someone like Siegfried, who had already dissuaded his neighbors from trying anything, the Tradition creates monsters that he has to deal with.
  • Surprise Incest: The Tradition doesn't prevent siblings or other family members from falling in love when they are unaware of the relation. Siegfried's parents were twins who met as adults and didn't know they were brother and sister.
  • Sweet on Polly Oliver:
    • In The Fairy Godmother, Princess Kylia experiences a very brief Tradition-compelled attraction to Elena thanks to Elena coming to her rescue disguised as a man. It is quickly derailed when Elena reveals that she's female, however.
    • In One Good Knight, Princess Andie starts having Erotic Dreams about Sir George, the knight who rescued her (since the Tradition is pushing for a Rescue Romance), but she puts a stop to it by having them swear to be blood-siblings. In this case "George" can't take the easy route of revealing herself to be "Georgina" because she is in disguise to evade a "no man shall enter" spell.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Useful for exploiting loopholes in the Tradition, such as when it's necessary to rescue a fair maiden without having her and her rescuer fall in love. The Tradition normally enforces Rescue Romance, but it doesn't have much in the way of established paths for lesbian romance, so sending a woman in disguise as a man to perform the rescue dead-ends the Traditional path and frees both maiden and hero from being trapped on it.
    • One of the Princes in The Sleeping Beauty is in fact a Princess.
    • Sir George in One Good Knight is actually Georgina.
  • Talking Animal: All animals can talk, but only those with intelligence and a touch of magic have anything useful to say.
  • Teens Are Monsters: The sociopathic Witch Killers are teenagers. Also many wicked step-siblings.
  • Theme Twin Naming: Bella's twin stepsisters are named after gems, Amber and Pearl.
  • Theory of Narrative Causality: The Tradition, which is pure magic, so those who are affected by it are sources of magic that can be harnessed. This explains a lot of fairy tale tropes, like why evil witches hold princesses captive (it provides a steady supply of magic) or why Fairy Godmothers don't intervene before the climax of the story (they don't have much magic of their own and need the Traditional 'boost' of a big moment to have enough power to work with).
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted in at least one notable case; in The Snow Queen, part of Godmother Aleksia's background involves her stepmother losing a child in infancy, which could have resulted in her turning hateful and embittered in the style of a Wicked Stepmother—but she receives what certainly seems to be grief counseling from the kingdom's Godmother, and continues treating her stepdaughters with motherly love and kindness. (This might, in fact, be a very common method, given the array of tactics in the Godmothers' arsenal to manage the Tradition, but this incident is the most obvious case.)
  • The Tragic Rose: Girls with the name "Rose" or similar are likely to find themselves on a poignant or even horrific Traditional path.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Discussed in The Fairy Godmother:
    Elena had gone out of her way to get both [Alexander] and Octavian into situations where, even if they were brought down lower than the humblest commoner, they were not in any danger of dying. Except, perhaps, by being monumentally stupid.
  • 24-Hour Armor: Worn by Sir George in One Good Knight. Justified several ways, including the fact that it is enchanted with spells that make it comfortable to wear.
  • Twincest: Also Surprise Incest, with Siegfried's parents, who met as adults and didn't know they were brother and sister.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Provided you can set up the "Ragtag Bunch of Misfits restore the lost heir to the throne" story and not "heroic castle defenders repel the murderous peasant uprising."
  • Unicorns Prefer Virgins: Unicorns are attracted to and very protective of virgins of the opposite sex, and tend to become mindlessly fawning around them. There's a bit in Fortune's Fool where three female unicorns come rushing to protect the virgin male hero from a female ghost — but then it turns out the ghost is a virgin, too. And then a male unicorn shows up, intent on protecting the ghost, because she's a virgin female, after all...
    "No problem... this is a creature of darkness!"
    "But..." the hesitant one said, as she dropped her head to sniff at the water. "A virgin creature of darkness..."
    "I'm sure there are virgin creatures of darkness all the time," the leader retorted, stamping her forehoof.
  • The Unfavorite: Invoked in Fortune's Fool by the king of Led-Belarus. He had studied the Tradition enough to know what benefits the disdained seventh son of a king would bring; so while in private Sasha was the treasured young trickster and luck maker, insofar as the court and boyars knew....
  • Ur-Example —> Trope Maker —> Trope Codifier: The trope-making sequence exists in universe. The discussion of "Robbin' John's Army" in One Good Knight is the clearest description of one person's heroics becoming a well-worn Traditional path as others imitate him.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: In One Good Knight to mollify a rampaging dragon. Subverted in that none of the women are killed, and by the second act it's plain that some of them aren't even virgins. Even the dragon isn't what he seems.
  • Virginity Flag: Unicorns are attracted to virgins of the opposite sex.
  • The 'Verse: The Five Hundred Kingdoms.
  • Weak, but Skilled: Most Fairy Godmothers have relatively little magic of their own — certainly not enough to force the Tradition to what they want. What they do have is the knowledge of precisely when a nudge will turn the story off of one path and onto another.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Played straight and averted. The Tradition can turn previously decent women bitter when they become stepmothers unless outside forces act to help.
    • Aleksia's stepmother just barely averted it thanks to counseling by Godmother Veroushka.
    • In Beauty and the Werewolf Belle is told by Elena that she, by being so controlling of the household, accidentally saved her stepmother from that fate.
  • Winter Royal Lady: All the Snow Queens qualify, but Aleksia in particular, who is actual royalty.
  • Woman Scorned: Rusalkas, Wilis. They are the unquiet spirits of women who were betrayed or abandoned by men and generally take their pain out on all men indiscriminately. They can find peace and move on if they truly forgive the men who wronged them, but it is very difficult for them to forgive both the men and themselves.
  • The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: Single women in power must beware of loneliness in case the Tradition sends them a Cad, a Rake, or some other betrayer who will take advantage of them.
    • Aleksia in The Snow Queen
    • Elena for much of The Fairy Godmother. Making sure that the elements aren't in place for the Tradition to do this plays an important part of that story. The would-be Cad is turned into a Knight Protector, ensuring that the Tradition is now more interested in making sure that he lives up to that role rather than keep trying to shove him into the Cad role. This also ensures that Elena can have a successful relationship with him, which stymies the Tradition from sending any more Betrayers after her.
    • Lily (playing the role of Queen-Consort Sable) in The Sleeping Beauty.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: The Queen of Copper Mountain is a contender for the title.
  • Would Hurt a Child: When two teenage siblings run around killing good witches because they like to kill and cause pain, even the mildest Godmother would not hesitate to send a dragon after them by invoking the threats mothers give to children when they misbehave... which are just as valid a Traditional path as formal tales are.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: The main dramatic tension of the series occurs when characters are stuck in a tale they don't want to be in.
  • Youkai: When Katya travels to Nippon she encounters Lady Tamiko the Kitsune. And gets her father an alliance with the Twelve-tailed Kitsune.
  • Youngest Child Wins: Since that's how it generally turns out in stories, well...

Alternative Title(s): The Fairy Godmother, One Good Knight


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