By taking the nonsensical fairy tale of Rumpelstiltskin and pulling it through a fantastical re-creation of a historical legend like the adventures of Robin Hood, Janette Rallison has prepared a very special sequel to her first young adult fantasy novel, My Fair Godmother. While many of her themes and her advice regarding magical beings appears again in My Unfair Godmother, this time Rallison has more to offer. In one of her funniest and most creative novels yet, the author simultaneously rectifies the perplexities in Rumpelstiltskin and the discrepancies in the historical records of twelfth century England.
Most people have heard of King John of England, brother of Richard the Lionheart, who reigned during one of the most troublesome periods in British history. Of course, no one would expect that he just could have been the gold-hungry king in Rumpelstiltskin or that Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men might have been very merry because they were dishonorable, greedy thieves. What happens in a story when there are two villains, one of which is already marked by generations of readers as a legendary hero?
Get ready for a more serious and comical representation of a fairy tale in My Unfair Godmother, where a teenage fairy named Chrysanthemum “Chrissy” Everstar is back to grant three wishes to an unfortunate modern teenager and teach the real meaning behind magic and moral lessons. However, instead of simple rivalry between sisters on account of one boy like in My Fair Godmother, My Unfair Godmother gives the spotlight to Tansy Miller Harris, a seventeen year-old who has been tormented for a long time by her parents’ sudden divorce.
Rebellion is a vocation Tansy takes on involuntarily in reply to her father’s betrayal of his family by giving up novels and dating less-than-worthy “bad boys.” Being shipped out to Arizona to live with her father and his new family worsens the circumstances, especially when Tansy experiences a second and third betrayal at the hands of her new boyfriend and a potential love interest. Soon Chrissy is stopping by Tansy’s residence with the reluctant leprechaun Clover to put an end to Tansy’s very high rating on a nifty “pathetic-o-meter.” Tansy’s anger against personal injustice lands her in the Middle Ages after meeting Robin Hood and realizing that she is the miller’s daughter and insane King John is the king in the creepy story of Rumpelstiltskin. For a girl who only asked to be able to turn things into gold, Tansy will have to deal with a large share of trouble that involves her family and a new friend in magical wishes gone wrong.
Firstly, the idea of combining the reign of King John and the exploits of Robin Hood with Rumpelstiltskin is ingenious. Some of the most humorous scenarios are when Tansy confronts King John or Robin Hood. Also, Rumpelstiltskin now has credible motives for his sinister actions unlike in the original tale, as does the king. Although the reality of living without modern conveniences in the Middle Ages is not as sharply noted in My Unfair Godmother as in its prequel, a former reader of Rallison’s fantasy novels will be more intrigued by her new discussion of morals in stories, an interesting expression of this novel’s themes of justice and altruism. The author’s version of Robin Hood is also an admirable part of the storyline, an innovative perspective of how a popular man’s reputation could have the opposite of the romantic hero depicted by deceptive storytellers.
As always, Rallison gives her retellings of history and fairy tales the benefit of logic and common sense. For example, mitigated robbery by hardened, self-concerned criminals could have been carefully masqueraded as noble rebellion against a tyrant. Like Lloyd Alexander’s perusal of the origins of Greek myths in The Arkadians, Rallison expertly asks and hypothetically answers questions regarding the origins of Robin Hood and Rumpelstiltskin in a magical and historical setting by painting vivid, realistic pictures of society and the very similar systems of “justice” used in modern and medieval times, i.e. modern police and medieval military forces. The police, the character of Hudson aside, are described as being corrupted ruffians with no respect for civil rights, while King John’s soldiers are earlier images of the same bad organization, only with armor and swords instead of guns.
However, despite these great elements, three things that didn’t seem to fit into the story were the romance between Tansy and Hudson, Tansy’s reaction to her future baby, and the use of time travel to permanently change a past event. Somehow, the author’s preoccupation with the police and corrupted, oppressive governments results in outstanding, overwhelming topics that ironically leave no room for meditation on family relationships and the responsibilities of raising a child. Also, changing the past in the narrative so that it has an effect on modern existence for each of the main characters was more confusing and bothersome than necessary, since time travel was initially a factor that worked well in relation to the plot. Nevertheless, while My Fair Godmother is more light-hearted, My Unfair Godmother has more memorable quips and more imposing content amid Rallison’s spell-binding storytelling.
Original review: Part 1: Janette Rallison expands her sense of humor in ‘My Unfair Godmother’; Part 2: Janette Rallison expands her sense of humor in ‘My Unfair Godmother’; Part 3: Janette Rallison expands her sense of humor in ‘My Unfair Godmother’, Examiner.com