cover image The Godmothe

The Godmothe

Elizabeth Ann Scarborough. Ace Books, $19.95 (294pp) ISBN 978-0-441-00096-8

Scarborough's new fantasy adds an interesting riff to a familiar theme: What if fairy godmothers existed today and they had enough magical power to effectively meddle in real-world problems? Though Scarborough (winner of a Nebula for The Healer's War) has lots of fun with this concept, she securely grounds her tale by setting it in and around a believable social-services agency in Seattle and by making her protagonist sympathetic and realistic. Rose Samson is neither stereotypically gorgeous nor foolishly stupid, and she willingly joins forces with Felicity Fortune, a ``Godmother'' who shows her how the archetypes in Grimm's fairy tales are still relevant in our blighted modern world. The two work with, among others, a sweet and smart pair of Hansel and Gretel-like abandoned children named Hank and Gigi, a Snow White (``Sno'') who is royal only by dint of her father's rock-star status and ``Cindy,'' who is suing her stepmother for control of her trust fund. In each case, Rose and Felicity attempt to interweave their magical aid with large doses of human initiative and social responsibility. While this narrative blending of conscience and enchantment is undermined by preachiness and a too earnest desire to avoid simple solutions to complex issues, Scarborough's well-detailed settings and the humor implicit in the clash between magical solutions and grim reality make this tale, while not the author's best, both entertaining and compelling. (Sept.)