Free Agent by J. C. Nelson
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“When it comes to crafting happily-ever-afters, the Agency is the best in the land of Kingdom. The Fairy Godfather Grimm can solve any problem—from eliminating imps to finding prince charming—as long as you can pay the price.
Working for Grimm isn’t Marissa Locks’s dream job. But when your parents trade you to a Fairy Godfather for a miracle, you don’t have many career options. To pay off her parents’ debt and earn her freedom, Marissa must do whatever Grimm asks, no matter what fairy-tale fiasco she’s called on to deal with.
Setting up a second-rate princess with a first-class prince is just another day at the office. But when the matchmaking goes wrong, Marissa and Grimm find themselves in a bigger magical muddle than ever before. Not only has the prince gone missing, but the Fae are gearing up to attack Kingdom, and a new Fairy Godmother is sniffing around Grimm’s turf, threatening Marissa with the one thing she can’t resist: her heart’s wishes.
Now Marissa will have to take on Fairies, Fae, dragons, and princesses to save the realm—or give up any hope of ever getting her happy ending.”
This is a fun little debut novel, and there’s a lot more going on in its pages than might be apparent from the synopsis. Marissa initially starts working with the wrong guy, causing a huge kerfuffle with Grimm. She develops feelings for this guy during the course of her job, and this causes fireworks when he gets in the way of some magic aimed at someone else. The princess in question, Ari, has spent little time in the mundane world and moves in with Marissa while attempting to fit in. Grimm’s other employees are very friendly towards Marissa, which complicates things even more.
I really liked the characters. Grimm is seen only through mirrors, but his personality is a strong one, and he comes across as fairly warm for a supernatural being. Ari is cute as the princess out of her depth, and I enjoyed watching her gain confidence and strength as the story went on. The prince that Ari was supposed to be matched with reminds me a nastier version of Prince Edward from the movie Enchanted. He has that whole over-the-top attitude, and the author manages to make it both painfully amusing and chilling by turns.
There’s a good dose of humor running through the story, with a lot of it coming from Marissa’s self-deprecating view of her life. She hints at jobs she’s done for Grimm in the past, with a running joke about gnomes that comes into play at a few different points in the story. The humor is balanced by some pretty serious sections, including a couple at a werewolf village that really drive home the stakes in this particular narrative.
One thing that I wish had been made clearer up front is how much the “real world” knows about the magical one. At times it sounds like magic is, if not out in the open, at least acknowledged; at other times, I got the impression that “normal” people don’t know that it exists. It’s a minor quibble, and not one that ruined the book. I’m pretty sure that magic is still hidden from us Muggles and went with that assumption while reading.
I can foresee many fun and action-packed stories in this series’s future. You can’t just drop a Fairy Godmother into the modern world and not expect hilarious mayhem to ensue. Free Agent is a solid start to a new series, and I’m definitely looking forward to more installments.