Okay, so, I didn’t count the number of fairy tales contained in this slim little story, but my rough estimate is: about 17,208.
Or if not, something close to that! If you’re interested, there’s an appendix so you could in theory go through and count the total references, but I didn’t, so I don’t know. All through the frame story, characters frequently recount fairy tales in a paragraph or two, mostly as family history because this is that kind of world. When it’s not family history, then it’s someone just passing through, wrapped up in their own fairy story.
What would it be like to live in a world chock full of fairy tales? And know it? A bit scary, for one thing; certainly it makes for ornate family histories. Fills the world up with potential, as anybody can set out to seek their fortune and wind up either cursed to ferry people across a river for hundreds of years or (of course) marrying a princess and inheriting half a kingdom.
So Allisandra, unappreciated by her family, sets out in just that way. She’s already carrying an obvious fairy tale blessing, having been polite when it counted; and a much less obvious blessing as well, having been selfless when it counted; and she surely has every reason to want to head out and leave her rather awful family behind. Let me see, I think she gets involved in five or six more fairy tales before the end.
Nice twist on the 12 Dancing Princesses: in this version, Allisandra rescues one dancing prince. Matteo was actually my favorite character: grim backstory, resourceful when it counts, and a sharp sense of justice.
Clever writing, ornate world, not a lot of character development but more than we see in actual fairy tales. Fairy godmothers, indifferent parents, selfish sisters, good friends, any number of enchantments — it all makes for a delightful story. About the only complaint I have is that I’d like it to have been twice as long so Matteo could’ve had equal time with Allisandra.
If you’re into fairy tales at all, especially if you’d like to try your hand at catching a million references to obscure fairy tales, definitely check this one out.