by Kate Holmes, fantasy (2000)
LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52383-3
The original Hans Christen Andersen's The Wild Swans (or is it a Grimms' version?) is quite a sadistic tale, I must say. When I first read it when I was around eight, I walked up to my mother and asked her, "Why is this heroine so stupid? The prince treated her so bad and she marries him?" Anyway, I am pretty curious as to how an author would make a fairy tale that hints of everything from rape to masochistic tendencies into a light-hearted romp.
And well, it works.
The hero King Richard Henry Michael Bledgabred Taillefer, King of Avalon, Darian, Longshore, and the Western Isles, Duke of Lemaire-over-the-Sea, Count of Borghame, Chosen of God and, by His Gracious Might, Anointed among Men has a problem. He's had it with women who just wouldn't stop babbling. He swears that when he meets a woman who wouldn't babble him to death, he'd marry her.
Heroine Princess Arianne has an even bigger problem. Her twelve irritating brats that are her brothers have been turned into swans by an old crone (why not pigs?) for being very naughty, and now she has to knit twelve nettle shirts for them to turn them back into annoying brats. She couldn't speak or even make a tiny-bitsy sound while she's at it.
So naturally, King Richie stumbles upon her. Those hair! Those bouncy... ahem. And a plus is that she isn't talking. What luck. His lil' buddy John Paul, bearer of the royal scepter and guardian of future kingly brats, agrees too. After showing off with his hands how good a dragonslayer he is, he eats up everything in Arianne's house. When he asks "Goldie" to come back with him, she rolls up her eyes and agrees. He wants to make her his mistress, she wants to knit, and a bad cleric wants to be king. Naturally, the palace just explodes in fun.
The Wild Swans is wonderfully generous when it comes to bawdy, raunchy humor. There's John Paul, for one. And Richie's preoccupation with Arianne's mammary glands. The whole story has a delightfully kooky tone to it that I just can't help but to laugh. Richard is truly a rascal - arrogant, overbearing, over lusty, and downright charming. I am not that fond of Arianne, if truth be told, who gets annoying at times with her overbearing "innocence". When Richard kisses her, I half expect her to have a nervous breakdown.
There's also another niggling problem. I doubt these two people really know each other well enough by the last page. I can't help but to be reminded of Saki's short story Tea. One day, Richard may just come back from a manly jousting tournament to find Arianne sitting in the gardens and babbling nonstop. True, he learns to listen by the end of the story, but a little bit more emotional development would be nice.
The Wild Swans, needless to say, is grand prime time fun. There may not be much to remember and savor after the last page is read, but it is very good while it lasted.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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