A Spell For Susannah
by Jody Wallace, fantasy (2008)
Samhain Publishing, $6.50, ISBN 1-59998-872-0
A Spell For Susannah is set in the Middle Kingdoms, a world inspired by fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty and... oh, The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Humans and fairies co-exist in the same world, with fairies often showing up at christening parties of titled humans to bless the child with good things. That is, except for the fairy Malady who delights in cursing kids with body odor and other fun stuff. Finally, the humans have had enough of her so thirteen human kings who, along with the Emperor, ended up making a deal with the representatives from the Fairy Alliance for Ethics to ban the wicked fairy Malady from showing up at christenings. Malady, in retaliation, curses these humans so that the families of these kings will bear only female children from now on.
So, for next thirty years, Malady's curse causes all kinds of problems among the nobility. You see, due to the laws of the land, females cannot hold properties or titles. In fact, they have to stay at home and look pretty until they get married, upon which they would stay at their husband's place and look pretty. As for marrying commoners, it is also quite impossible since there is a law in place that allows a commoner to marry a nobleman's daughter only after this fellow has performed a great deed that earns him a title.
Not that Princess Susannah and her eleven sisters are complaining. You see, they have a secret. Susannah has been learning fairy magic on the sly. She is hoping to master a spell that will allow her to visit the fairy realm so that she can meet these folks and persuade them to reverse Malady's curse. But something went wrong the first time she tried to cast the spell and somehow the portal thing takes her and her sisters instead to this castle. They have discovered the presence of this magical place that can be accessed by any armoire in their own castle, a place where cute princes are more than happy to dance and show the princesses a good time. Okay, the princes are a bit on the dull and witless side, with one of them being called "Prince Fabio", but ladies sometimes have to make do with what they are given. Alas, these princes are also cursed by magic to be impotent, so Susannah, at 35, is still missing out on at least one kind of pleasure.
Their mother is not amused as she suspects that her daughters are off cavorting with men in their dancing shoes and all for half a year now, but she and her husband can't prove anything. As a last resort, the King and Queen bring in Jon Tom, a PI, to find out what their daughters are doing every night. Susannah is determined that Jon will not find out anything, of course, but alas, Jon is cute enough to make her doubt her ability to tell the man no. This is dangerous indeed because Jon specializes in discovering solutions to tricky problems. Susannah wants to be left alone in her study of fairy magic so that she can find a way to break the Female Curse as well as the curse plaguing those poor princes in that magic castle.
This is a tongue-in-cheek romp (think, oh, Piers Anthony's fantasy stories). Even the hero's name seems suspiciously like a funny, what with it being an abbreviated version of a well-known euphemism for a man's little buddy, hmm. While the fantasy setting is a hodge-podge mix of various recognizable fairy tale elements, there are also many satirical elements that poke fun at contemporary conventions. Some of these, like the Prince Fabio reference, really stand out as a too-obvious joke since these characters are in no way supposed to know the Fabio that Ms Wallace and me know of, but on the whole, this story is a very amusing romp. Susannah can be quite a silly bint at times, but I like that she's no pushover and she has her heart in all the right places. Jon is a pretty decent hero too, more like a naughty rogue who ends up being a complete putty in Susannah's hands rather than some kind of alpha male type.
Ms Wallace has achieved a very nice balance between the story and the humorous elements in A Spell For Susannah. The storyline is pretty strong and coherent without being buried under a mountain of jokes. Everything comes together very nicely here, making it a pleasurable story to read and laugh with.
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