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Never After
Rebecca Lickiss
Ace Books, 261 pages

Judy York
Never After
Rebecca Lickiss
Rebecca Lickiss has always been an avid reader, and began telling stories at an early age. She received her BS degree in Physics from George Mason University, and worked for a while as an engineer evaluating weapons software. She now lives in Colorado with her husband and children, where she spends her free time reading and writing.

Rebecca Lickiss Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Eccentric Circles

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

Prince Althelstan wants to get married, but his parents, mostly because they're trying to keep him from marrying his cousin Vevilia (as if she would have him!) tell him that he can only marry a princess. The only available princess he can find is still a toddler, and so he sets out on a quest. He manages to find an enchanted castle, buried by weeds and herbage. He is not surprised to find the inhabitants asleep. He kisses every woman in the place, to no avail. Even when he kisses the beautiful young woman who he thinks must be a princess he has no luck. Upstairs he finds a trio of sleeping princes, but he has no intention of kissing them. So he thinks back to his dear old cousin, and decides to ask for help.

His dear old cousin has run away from home. She doesn't want to marry some boring sop and spend her life producing babies and embroideries. She wants adventure. When her cousin catches up to her, he convinces her to go to the castle and kiss the princes for him, because he has become quite smitten with the young woman he couldn't wake up. He has also convinced a trio of wizards to come along and help him, but their motivations, at least the leader of the three, are more inclined toward all that gold laying around than the suffering of the sleepers. The only thing that stands in their way is the princes' fairy godmother, Urticacea. She insists that Vevilia must take a princess test to prove that she's worthy to kiss the princes. Turning straw into gold... how easy.

The true charm of Never After is the sense of humor with which Rebecca Lickiss infuses the story. She adds bits and pieces from other fairy tales. In one scene, Rumplestiltskin benefits greatly from Vevilia's advice. She sarcastically asks him if he's going to want her firstborn child, and when he complains about how awful a burden a baby is, she suggests he just take the baby back to its parents. Another example is the discovery of the real reason why the Princess got bruised when sleeping on top of twenty mattresses and one pea. I found this quite funny, in a sort of, "Yeah, of course!" way. The remarks, the way the author uses the stereotypical aspects of fairy tales blend well together, making a humorous story that reads lightly and quickly. If one of my friends was depressed, and they liked fairy tales, this is the book I'd hand them. It's that pleasing and pleasant a read.

Part of this is characterization. For ages we've (as a collective down through the years) have written stories with the prince being mighty and strong, and the princess being a swoony wimp. Then, more recently, we've turned that on its head, and made the princes weak and the princesses warriors, and thus this is becoming a bit of a stereotype in itself. Lickiss manages to walk the line, by creating characters that have both strengths and weaknesses. Althelstan is the strong, typical old time Prince who, while not exactly quick on the uptake, is very dedicated. His devotion to the unknown princess is very sweet. He's a good prince, and an enjoyable character. Vevilia is strong, filled with a combination of bad luck, determination and the need for adventure that brings her vividly to life. Even old, set characters such as Rumplestiltskin are given new life and purpose. It's wonderful to see old characters in a new light, and to see the conventions used with a deft twist instead of abandoned.

You probably wouldn't want to start Never After before bed. While its sweetness would provide pretty dreams, its engaging aspects will keep you reading to see what happens next. It even ends like a proper fairy tale, promising the reader that they all live happily ever after... and really, what more can you ask?

Copyright © 2002 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at

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