by Deva Fagan
Sometimes, I like to choose random books that Goodreads thinks I would like. Ironically, I’m really bad at remember to update my Goodreads account, so sometimes its suggestions are a little off the wall. Anyway, this one looked reasonable–a fairy tale-ish book for younger readers–so I gave it a try.
Sadly, though, I didn’t find a great deal to love about this book. Fortunata has struggled to keep her father going since the death of his wife (her mother). Once an amazing shoe-maker, her father lost his talents. Once his wife died, the elves who had always come to tidy his workbench at night ceased to appear, and he is convinced that until they return, his skills will be lacking. Fortunata (who also narrates the story… another mark against it, as I am innately prejudiced against first-person narratives), however, knows that there never were magic elves–it was simply her mother, slipping down to the workshop every night to clean things up.
Now, let us pause a moment. Doesn’t it seem like the logical thing to do would be for Fortunata to simply take over her mother’s task? Instead, she tries her best to sell the terrible shoes her father is making. Eventually, they end up having to run away from town, blah blah blah, their donkey gets stolen by a wicket traveling amusement-wagon owner, and Fortunata and her father are forced to travel with them as Fortunata becomes the fortune-teller’s assistant.
FINALLY about a third or more into the book, we get to the main story, where Fortunata gives a fortune to a prince and has to travel with him to see if it comes true (and it has to come true, or else or father’s life is forfeit).
While I enjoyed some of the dialogue and characters, overall this book seemed lacking in direction. Fortunata spends the entire book believing that the saints and magic (all the same, which also annoyed me, even in a fictional world) were just a bunch of hooey. But sometimes, things that are inexplicable do happen. Even so, Fortunata never really seems to change her mind, even while these things are never explained. It was as though the author herself wasn’t sure whether or not magic exists in Fortunata’s world.
There were way too many villains. There was the evil dude who disposed a random king in another city (who also happened to be the evil dude from the first chapter). There was the evil wagon-owner. There were his evil henchmen. There was an evil princess (two, actually). There was an evil witch (? her story makes her the victim, but she leaves them locked in a cage and then they steal stuff from her and once again you aren’t really sure who was supposed to be wrong or right and we never address that whole thing again really; it was just a tool so we could explain why the princess is evil, except we don’t believe in magic, right? So it doesn’t really explain it, unless magic actually is a thing…???).
Fortunata makes a living out of lying. Her fortune telling is all a deception and she knows it. The prince falls in love with her, but everything about her is a lie, and she never seems really apologetic about that (I mean, she says sorry, but more like she’s sorry that he had to find out about her lies, not that she told them in the first place). I guess that, in the end, that was what really made this book unpalatable to me. It was as though the moral of the story was, “Everyone lies, so lie when you have to, and try to not get caught.”
I’ll give it a 2/5. It didn’t actually make my eyes bleed, but most certainly did not inspire me to seek out any of Fagan’s other works.