February is turning into quite the nostalgia month, isn’t it: first with Ready Player One, plus a couple of books that I read once way back when. And now I continue that accidental theme by looking at a book that makes me laugh and feel the warm-and-fuzzies every time: My Unfair Godmother, by Janette Rallison.
Tansy Miller’s got trouble: her parents are recently divorced, and now, her ne’er-do-well boyfriend has landed her on the wrong side of the law. After a run-in with the police, Tansy also has a run-in with a flighty and near-incompetent fairy godmother-in-training named Chrysanthemum Everstar, or Chrissy for short. Chrissy has been assigned to grant Tansy three wishes as an extra credit project, so it seems Tansy is in luck. But a series of misinterpreted wishes not only brings Robin Hood and his Merry Men to the twenty-first century, but also sends Tansy, her stepfamily, their house, and Hudson, the police chief’s son, back to the twelfth century. But this is the Middle Ages, where fairy tales rule, and Rumplestiltskin is due for a visit…
This is one of those books that you read either with a cup of tea, lying in bed, or taking a bath—anywhere you want to relax and escape. Which isn’t to say that the writing or the story is bad or cheesy. The shenanigans of the fairy-tale-dominated twelfth century meeting with modern sensibilities are immensely entertaining. Much of this comes from Robin Hood and his men not understanding modern currency or law, or from when they help Tansy make a getaway in a minivan.
But the interactions between the humans and fantasy characters are funniest of all. Poor Tansy and her family are thrown into one crazy situation after another either because Chrissy misinterprets a wish, or because her leprechaun assistant, Clover, is bored and greedy; no one can catch a break when dealing with those two. It’s almost like watching Alice talk to a Wonderlander: whatever logic Tansy throws at them goes right over their heads in a delightfully frustrating way.
I love it when characters’ wits and patience are tested in a new and confusing place, and poor Tansy gets a ton of that. I like Tansy because she is a bookworm, and very compassionate, but she is also impatient, a little impulsive, and a bit of a snark. These qualities play out nicely in her banter with Hudson, who is accidentally brought along for the ride. Hudson may be a handsome, broad-shouldered teenage brooder, but he’s very careful and calculating, coming up with escape plans and negotiations. On occasion, he does swing in to save Tansy, but she has plenty of opportunities to save herself too.
The book itself is framed as Chrissy’s extra-credit project, so it begins and ends with a series of letters between professors and headmistresses regarding Chrissy’s work. On the one hand, you kind of feel bad that Chrissy keeps getting rejected from a good fairy school, but you understand that her own flightiness is the problem. It’s not like she’s heartless, though, as she does provide a few shortcuts for Tansy, and she promptly steps in when things get really, really sticky. Just the same, you wouldn’t choose her for a fairy godmother.
Sometimes, a little escapism is a good thing, so if you’re looking for a some fluffy, fairy-tale enjoyment, check this book out, as well as its companion book, My Fair Godmother.