Fortune's Fool (Five Hundred Kingdoms Series #3)

Fortune's Fool (Five Hundred Kingdoms Series #3)

by Mercedes Lackey


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The seventh daughter of the Sea King, Ekaterina is more than a pampered princess-she's also the family spy. Which makes her the perfect emissary to check out interesting happenings in the neighboring kingdom…and nothing interests her more than Sasha, the seventh son of the king of Belrus. Ekaterina suspects he's far from the fool people think him. But before she can find out what lies beneath his facade, she is kidnapped!

Trapped in a castle at the mercy of a possessive Jinn, Ekaterina knows her chances of being found are slim. Now fortune, a fool and a paper bird are the only things she can count on-along with her own clever mind and intrepid heart.…

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780373802661
Publisher: Luna
Publication date: 02/27/2007
Series: Five Hundred Kingdoms Series , #3
Edition description: Original
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.37(d)

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Mercedes Lackey has written over one hundred titles and has no plans to slow down. Known best for her tales of Valdemar and The Five Hundred Kingdoms, she's also a prolific lyricist and records her own music.

Read an Excerpt

Fortune's Fool

By Mercedes Lackey


Copyright © 2007 Mercedes Lackey
All right reserved.

Shafts of golden light pierced the green twilight, penetrating the waving fronds of the forest to leave pools of light on the ground. The path to the Great Palace, paved with pearl shell, unraveled along the sand; a broad ribbon of iridescence, suddenly burning into a patch of blinding white when one of those shafts touched it. On either side of the path, at charm-ingly irregular intervals, stands of long, waving kelp, beds of colorful anemones, and coral "bushes" were being carefully tended by a small horde of tiny sea creatures.

No one ever actually set foot on the path, or truly even needed to use it. This was, after all, the bottom of the sea. People swam. Even the few two-legged people, like the Sea King's children, swam.

Nevertheless there was a path, winding through a "forest," though the forest was kelp, the "birds" were fish, and even the "hawks" had an analogue in the form of sharks and other predators.

There were all these things because the path went to a palace. The Tradition said that all palaces should have winding paths trav-eling through mysterious forests filled with enchanting wildlife.

So this Palace, although underwater, had such a path.

In many ways, it was a good thing that no one ever actually walked on the path. Pearl shell, while pretty, had very sharp edges, and no one down here wore shoes.

And that, Ekaterina, the youngest daughter of the Sea King, reflected, as she swam in adeceptively languid manner toward the palace, was a pity.

Katya loved shoes. Dainty, embroidered silk slippers. Thigh-high leather boots. Strange wooden things that were like walking with tiny tables strapped to one's feet. Dancing shoes, red-heeled shoes, shoes that were hardly more than thin little straps, shoes that were substantial enough to pound a nail with. She loved them all.

In fact, she loved clothing. She adored clothing. It didn't matter what the style, the fashion was, she loved clothing the way she loved shoes.

Sad, really, since no one wore clothing, or at least much that was like clothing, down here.

As a warrior in her father's Personal Guard, she wore her fish-scale armor of course. In fact, she was wearing it now, since she had been summoned for official business. It was as pretty as she could engineer, despite being first, and foremost, very func-tional. The fish scales glittered in the errant beams of sunlight filtering down through the kelp branches. It was the same pearly white as the shells beneath her, and gleamed with the same iridescence. The scales of the formfitting tunic were about the size of her thumbnail, while those on the sleeves of the tunic and the equally formfitting leggings were much, much smaller, about the size of the nail of a baby's littlest finger.

Her sharkskin boots were a dead white, matching the shark-skin belt and gloves. The belt held nothing at the moment. No sword, no knives. But Ekaterina didn't need a weapon. Ekate-rina was a weapon.

Her hair had been bound up into a severe knot, another pity. She had lovely hair, as pearl-white as the shell also, and the fact that living under the sea allowed only two basic hair-styles--severe knot, or floating free--was another source of private regret for her.

Small wonder she welcomed her father's regular summons. Hopefully this would be another trip to Dry Land! Even better if it was to a new bit of Dry Land, a place she had never been before! That would be glorious!

The nearer she came to the Palace of the Sea King, the more people she encountered, though most of them were dolphins and the smaller whales, who served as her father's Palace Guard. You could always tell a Guard creature from the fluke studs denoting rank; small gold or silver rounds much like earrings, and put in the same way. She always winced at a fluke-piercing, though the cetaceans were quite proud of enduring the pain. She supposed it must be like islanders' tattoos. They, too, made a point of experiencing the pain of their decorations.

There were a few mer-folk as well; a couple of the mermaids of her mother's Court, sitting, gossiping, and combing their hair. Mermaids did that a great deal. Part of it was because when your hair was long and floating free in the water and you didn't have two dozen little cleaner-shrimp to keep it disentangled and sorted the way the Queen did, it got knots very easily.

But part of it was The Tradition, which said very clearly that mermaids spent a lot of time combing their hair, sitting on rocks and singing, or both. Her father had managed to put an end to the part of The Tradition that had once made them sit on rocks and sing sailors to their doom--now they only en-chanted the poor lads so that they forgot their One True Loves, at least until the One True Loves managed to break the spell. Her father was clever that way. He hadn't wanted sailors with their ears stopped up with wax or clay slaughtering his subjects, so back when he'd been the Sea Prince, he'd gotten hold of half a dozen very good bards and paid them generously to write songs on the new theme. It had taken several years of concen-trated effort, spreading the songs, singing them in contests, even introducing very elegant versions into several nearby Royal Courts, but the effort had paid off handsomely. Now the only sea creatures that lured sailors to their doom were the Sirens, and they didn't acknowledge her father's authority, claiming to be descended from gods. So the Sirens could handle the odd clever hero with murderous intent on their own.

Katya reflected that her father really was one of the clever-est Sea Kings of his line. He wasn't the only King of the Sea, of course; for one thing, the sea was twice as big as the Dry Land, and it would be absurd to think that one person could govern all of it. But he was certainly one of the cleverest of those cur-rently ruling. As a young Prince he had quickly come to under-stand how The Tradition shaped the lives of everything, and had determined that it would no longer be The Tradition that con-trolled the lives of his family and his people, but the other way around. To that end he had studied as much about it as he could, certainly as much as many Godmothers, and had educated his subjects in how it worked as well. But when you were a magical creature, as the peoples of the sea generally were, The Tradition had a tendency to shove you about more ruthlessly than any mortal.

Unless you knew how to do a little preemptive shoving of your own.

As Katya swam past the coral garden, she caught sight of her sister Tasha with her nose buried in a book, her back cradled by an enormous sea fan. There were no Godmothers for the sea creatures; evidently only mortals got the services of such cleverly manipulative creatures--but the Sea King was doing the next best thing to getting one.

He was training his very own Sorceress.

Now, all of the Sea King's children--and he had quite a few--had positions of real authority or meaningful jobs. He had told Ekaterina once that this was the way to make sure none of his offspring "went to the bad." "Everyone needs to have respon-sibility," he had told her. "The cleverer you are, the more re-sponsibility you need. Nothing breeds discontent like idleness."

Tasha was one of the cleverest of his daughters, and she had a real aptitude for magic. Not that Katya envied her the special tutors, the tower of her own, and all the special considerations. Not once it had become obvious that Tasha was never going to leave the Palace grounds again.

Not that Tasha cared. That was the genius of the Sea King; his children were all considered and studied as carefully as any sculptor would study a block of stone, and then positions were created for them that suited not only their talents, but their ap-titudes, and not only their aptitudes, but their desires.

Katya had enough wanderlust for twenty sailors. She was never happier than when she was sleeping in strange beds, eating strange foods, and wearing strange clothing.

Oh yes. Especially wearing strange clothing. Tasha did not even notice as her sister swam past. But then, it would take the eruption of a volcano beneath her feet to get Tasha out of a book of magical theory once she was deeply en-grossed. Such ability to concentrate was invaluable to a Sorce-ress, whose life might well depend on being able to carry out every step of a complicated ritual while an Evil Mage was throwing everything he had in the way of an attack at her head.

Now, Mischa, the Crown Prince, would not dare to allow his mind to be so focused. A King--or a Prince in line for the throne--needed to be able to divide his attention among a dozen or more things at once, and change from task to task on an instant, exactly like a juggler keeping a complicated number of balls in the air at once.

Mischa was superbly suited for such a thing, to the extent that the people were already calling him "Prince Mikael the Clever."

That was a talent he shared with Ekaterina, though the throne was absolutely the last thing she wanted. Ever. Not all the lovely dresses in the world and the ability to wear them underwater could have bribed her to take the throne.

The kelp forest abruptly gave way to open sand, and the Palace rose up before her in all its splendor. A dazzling ray of sun pierced through the surface of the ocean far above, and bathed the intricate spires and delicate towers in green-tinted glory. It looked for all the world as if nature had conspired to put that shaft of sunlight right there--

And of course, Katya knew very well that it had.

Here again was the hand of The Tradition at work. The Tra-dition decreed that the first sight of the Sea King's Palace should be of it bathed in a shaft of sunlight piercing the depths.

So, of course, it was. All the time--well, all the daylight time at any rate. By night, as long as there was a moon of any strength, it was bathed in moonlight. As a child, Ekaterina had taken particular and mildly mischievous delight in dragging visitors through the kelp forest on wretched and stormy days just to see that shaft of sunlight break through the clouds in time to perform its magic.

The walls were made of pink coral, carved and polished to a soft glow. Beautiful patterns had been inlaid around each window in mother-of-pearl, black and red coral.

Unlike the fortress-palaces of Rus, this place could not possibly withstand a siege, or even the attack of a child with a sling and a stone. There looked to be two dozen spiral spires, like the long and delicately pointed seashells or a narwhal's horn, and half again as many filigree towers. In fact there were twenty-one spires and nine towers, each of them the private domain of someone in the Royal Family. Not just the King and Queen and their brood, but the Dowager Queen, and several assorted Aunts and Uncles. Whenever another family member turned up, if there were no vacant places available for them, another was created.

This wasn't just whim or fancy. This was, after all, the sea, and such an arrangement made it possible for the Royals to come and go as they liked without having to pass through the rest of the Palace. When you lived at the bottom of the sea, an exit was as easy as swimming out your window, and the towers gave discreet points from which to do so. No doubt many Royals in the past had taken such exits to have adventures--or even to meet with a paramour they had rather their spouses didn't know about.

To Katya's immediate right, the parade grounds, which just now were empty, but often as not held her brother Mischa as he drilled his troops. For the most part, the Sea King's troops were ranged in "battles" that had very little to do with war. There were monsters in the sea, enormous behemoths that came with ravening appetites for which a whale was nothing more than a morsel to whet the appetite. When they appeared, they had to either be killed or driven away, and it took strong creatures armed to the teeth to do so. Mischa thrived on combat, hence his position as the Commander of all of the Sea King's forces.

And though the army was a small one, it was formidable, for Mischa employed magicians alongside the armsmen, training the two to work together as a seamless whole. To Ekaterina's certain--and it was very certain--knowledge, no one else in the sea kingdoms did such a thing. As a consequence, it was vanishingly unlikely that any attempt to take this kingdom by force would succeed.


Excerpted from Fortune's Fool by Mercedes Lackey Copyright © 2007 by Mercedes Lackey. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Fortune's Fool (Five Hundred Kingdoms Series #3) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 134 reviews.
payton_sage More than 1 year ago
Fortune's Fool is a delightful addition to the 500 Kingdom's series. It takes the readers to the icy waters of the Artic Ocean, where we meet Katya, a mermaid with siren's blood. Her special spot in the family, forteenth born along with being the seventh daughter, gives her ablities that the others do not share. She is her father's eyes and ears on the dry lands that border his kingdom. She is sent to gather information for him in places like "Nippon" or what I believe is modern day Japan. Meanwhile, Sasha, the seventh son of the king of Led Belarus, is a wise fool and a songweaver makes his rounds about his father's kingdom. He is kind and wise but ever so lonely. The two make a cute match and fall quickly in love. However, they are both duty bound to honor their father's wills and are seporated. Katya finds herself in a situation where she has bitten off a little more than she can chew. Never the less, she attacks the problem head on and does her share in the "saving the day" aspect of the story. Overall, I love how Mercedes Lackey takes traditional stories from all over the world and makes them fit together. The characters are easy to love reading about and I am thrilled when they return in future stories. I also like how aspects of the plot line links back to the previous stories as well. However, if you haven't read the other stories you will still enjoy this one. As a quick side note, having read a previous review I thought that the love making scene was going to be really X rated. It wasn't. It was fairly quick and the descriptions were minimal though a bit more than The Fairy Godmother. I did enjoy some of the humor that the characters interject at the expence of Sasha. I enjoyed this story, and so will you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Fortune's Fool is the seventh son of a seventh son -a magical motiff mirrored by his true love, who is the seventh daughter of the Sea King. I've always appreciated Lackey's use of symbolism, and here the Traditions remind me of our collective unconscious, where so many ruling forces, such as religious beliefs and parental injunctions reside. I had fun reading this book because the characters found love and then fought to preserve it, and the 'villain' didn't need to get gory in order for that to happen. Frankly, I find the formulaic 'throw stones at the heroes' has gotten tedious. In contrast, Fortune's Fool entertains with humor and wit. Sasha and Katya give me hope that more people will consciously do something to improve their world.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In the real world of fairy tale, or the Five Hundred Kingdoms, knowing how the Tradition works and knowing how to manipulate it means everything in order to live happily ever after. Magically, Mercedes Lackey spins a satisfying tale of the Fortunate Fool or Seventh Son of the king of Led Belarus to match the Seventh Daughter of the Sea King. Thus while in public Sasha is derided and laughed at, in private, he is his father¿s wise secret emissary to ensure that his kingdom is prosperous and peaceful. On the other hand, Katya is her father¿s secret agent. With her ability to walk on dry land, she is able to be his eyes and ears and sometimes act as his agent with humans. After a perilous misson in Nippon, her father sends Katya to the kingdom of Led Belarus.Both Katya and Sasha understand the Tradition very well, and so, Katya recognizes Sasha as a Songweaver who can persuade the Tradition to his will and a fortunate seventh son, and he recognizes Katya as a magical being. Of course, they fall in love with Katya¿s father¿s blessing. Thus when Katya goes on a rescue mission for her father, Sasha understands that duty comes first. However, when she fails to return, he know he must go to find her. However, he has his own adventure on his way to the sea, winning important allies in the battle to come, for an evil jinn has been kidnapping young magical maidens in order to gain power from them. With patience and the help of many allies, Sasha is able to help rescue Katya who has an important role in the rescue herself. Another wonderful story by a master.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
jjmcgaffey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Love this. I only just got it and this is my third (fourth?) re-reading (I read it from the library and the bookstore before). I still got lost in the story despite having to jump up and deal with other things constantly.
ericnguyen09 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lacky has always been known for her characters, her feminist vision, her lush settings. The lush setting is the only thing here to look forward to in the third of the romance-fantasy Five Hundred Kingdom series.Set in a Sea Kingdom and the kingdom of Led Belrus, Fortune's Fool concerns the diguises we wear. The heroine, Ekaterina, for example, is the spy for her royal family. Meanwhile, Sasha, her love interest, is a fool in public and an intelligent wise soul in private; he roams around playing songs, while in reality building spells for prosperity. Held to social duties, they are the only ones to know each others pains and limits to which they must adhere. They become lovers. It's only natural. But everything is so natural in this story, it becomes predictable and farce-like, wild and reasonless. For example: the princess is kidnapped, Prince goes on Traditional journey to find her. He naturally passes all the tests and trials--encounters with rusalkas, Baba Yagas, and the likes. While the dips and detours to multiple folklores can be fun, what is lacking is a coherence: how these fit in. It never gets answered and the hand of the author is evident--Lackey uses it as devices only for later coincidences--he meets the rusalka only for her to point him to the Baba Yaga; the Baga Yaga is only useful in that she's holding captive a magical wolf and goat--to be used later for convience. Readers end up feeling cold and empty and tricked.While a happy ending is expected--the journey is why we read these, it's the characters we want to become attached to. Lackey has rarely disappoint. But this is one of those moments when she misses and she misses badly.
TheLostEntwife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Yet another fun book in what's turning out to be a favorite series of mine. In Fortune's Fool, the story of a Songweaver, the Seventh Son and Fortune's Fool is told - along with the story of the 14th daughter of The Sea King.It's fun seeing the different cultures being explored - this was easily identified as Russia and there were some fantastic creatures introduced. And once again, my favorites.. the Unicorns. Oh, they make me laugh so much.While I didn't like this book as much as I liked the first two, it still is a solid story - I think there was just a little too much mooning going on (the wooing kind, not the drop your pants kind). Mercedes Lackey introduces a few more mythical creatures and they are a blast to see develop and, of course.. the Unicorns.Fun, fun books!
FlorenceArt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A nice little romance. I enjoyed the humor in the way the book uses fairytale clichés, but the story and storytelling are a little too simplistic. This gives the book a sort of childish charm but gets annoying, especially at the end where the "and they all lived happily" stuff is told in a little too much detail.
seekingflight on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This third book in the 500 Kingdoms series was probably my least favourite of the four. A pleasant read, with likeable characters, but too many disparate elements for my liking, without anything to tie them together. This did not leave a strong impression.
pacey1927 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lackey's third book in the "Tales of The Five Hundred Kingdoms" series, is similar to the previous two, yet falls just short of their success. In Fortune's Fool we meet Sasha the seventh son of the King of one of the dry land Kingdoms. He is known as his traditional role as the Fortune's Fool...the joke of the kingdom who also falls into luck often. We meet Katya, the seventh daughter of the Sea King, who is a spy and gets to go on many adventures for her father. She has a rare ability to be able to walk on dry land as easily as she can swim through the seas. Katya enjoys her missions as much as Sasha enjoys his rounds of the kingdom for his father, the chances to get away from the act he has to employ as the "fool". Katya and Sasha no sooner meet and begin to court, than she is called away on another mission from her father. When she is kidnapped, Sasha begins his own rescue mission to find her. This is a fun, quick read that I actually saved for awhile, knowing it would be good. And I wasn't disappointed. I liked the characters and the story was much in the same pattern as the previous two. However, the story did fall slightly short. I think that the couple's courtship was far too short before she was taken away. I also think Sasha could have benefitted from more adventures on his way to find her. The resolution was fun, but also too short and sweet. The epilogue was the best part of the story and I would have been happy to have seen some of the things discribed in the epilogue in more detail as well. Still, this remains a fun, strong series. I hope Lackey plans more books after the fourth "The Snow Queen".
SunnySD on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The seventh son of a seventh son and the Sea King's seventh daughter, Sasha and Katya are fated to the be traditional Fools of fairy tale reality. As such, both have very specific roles to play, because in the Five Hundred Kingdoms, Tradition reigns supreme, backed (and sometime thwarted) by the Godmothers. But both Sasha and Katya have learned to deal very well with the often tricky workings of Tradition - bending it to their wishes as much as it is possible to do. Now the pair will have their work cut out for them: Katya has been taken prisoner by an evil Jinn, and Sasha and two very unlikely Champions may be her only hope. I've always liked Lackey's work, but this particular tale doesn't stand up well to the tight writing and suspense of the majority of her Valdemar novels. Nor does it use the many layers of folk mythology packed between its pages as well as her earlier Five Hundred Kingdoms books. It really feels more as if she was trying to stuff in creatures and bits from as many traditions as she could - and possibly as if she'd been up way too late watching InuYasha reruns. This particular tale just isn't up to par.
bryn_or_lunatic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was such a quick read. I was really unimpressed with this one and I absolutely adored the first two. The plot was lame and too simple for a Mercedes Lackey novel. It was a good mindless read. All the cross-species relationships kinda bothered me even though it's set in Fairy Tale world.
heatherlj14 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was an excellent book. It has love, adventure, danger and a hint of mystery that makes it irresistible.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The fairy godmother, fortune's fool, and the sleeping beauty are my favorites, but all six books and accompanying novella are awesome. I only wish there were more books in the five hundred kingdoms series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An excellent interpretation of classic fairy tale themes, this book kept me entertained until the last page.
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