The Five Hundred Kingdoms are literally a fairy tale universe. Fairy tales happen there according to Tradition. Tradition is a magical force that sets parameters on how a fairly tale can work out, and that often means ways the people living the tales don't like. Sure, it is nice to be a Hero who slays the Dragon, but that isn't so nice for the people and animals the Dragon slays before the Hero arrives.
Eltaria is a wealthy and happy little kingdom. Sadly, that means it is a kingdom constantly at war with neighbors who want to seize its wealth, which would end in a much less happy kingdom.When King Thurman dies, his daughter Rosamunde and her Fairy Godmother, Lily, must figure out how to keep Eltaria from this doom. They invite princes from around the five hundred kingdoms to trials to determine who should marry Rosemunde and become King. Lily and Rosamunde must come up with trials that will test not only the military prowess of the candidates but their minds and hearts.This is definitely a fairly tale for grown-ups. Who knew there were geopolitics in fairly tales? The plot is full of wit and ingenuity, while on occasion being side-splittingly funny (especially the curse of Leopold),and the characters are (sometimes literally) charming. This fairy tale combines Sleeping Beauty with the Ring cycle. Towards the end there is even a dramatic rescue by a hero with the help of others.This is one of the most delightful books I've ever read, and I am going to read the others of the Five Hundred Kingdoms books as soon as possible.