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Elemental Magic: All-New Tales of the Elemental Masters Mass Market Paperback – December 4, 2012
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"This is Lackey at her best, mixing whimsy and magic with a fast-paced plot." — Publishers Weekly
"Fans of light fantasy will be thrilled by Lackey’s clever fairy-tale adventure." — Booklist
"Richly detailed historic backgrounds add flavor and richness to an already strong series that belongs in most fantasy collections. Highly recommended." — Library Journal (starred review)
"Mercedes Lackey fans will thoroughly enjoy this fun escapade into turn-of-the-century England.... I find Ms. Lackey’s Elemental Masters series a true frolic into fantasy and Reserved for the Cat is no exception. Witty and dry, the magic in her books is always so believable, as are her characters." — Fantasy Book Spot
"The Elemental Masters novels are beautiful romantic adult fairy tales.... Master magician Mercedes Lackey writes a charming fantasy." — Midwest Book Review
"Once again, Mercedes Lackey has created a rich, lush depiction of England's Elemental Masters, combining elemental magic, fantastic creatures, coming-of-age elements, and the realities of war.... Lackey's elegant wordcraft combines humor with the knife edge of desperation.... I highly advise people to read this book, and I desperately urge Mercedes Lackey to keep writing the Elemental Masters Novels." — Fresh Fiction
About the Author
Mercedes Lackey is a full-time writer and has published numerous novels and works of short fiction, including the best-selling Heralds Of Valdemar series. She is also a professional lyricist and a licensed wild bird rehabilitator. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband, artist Larry Dixon, and their flock of parrots. She can be found at mercedeslackey.com.
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The cover promises "seventeen all-original stories of the elemental magicians of Edwardian Britain including an original story by Mercedes Lackey" The cover art carries same theme as previous books.
Only one story features elemental magicians from Edwardian Britain. Another can be allowed since it takes place in the same time frame in Massachusetts and has a reference to a previous book's character.
The others are well-written and interesting as always. The anthology should just have a different title.
To the negative, there was a fair amount of repetition in the "ignorant young woman/boy suddenly discovers her/his powers and saves the day" style of story. There were also two "you don't have to be evil!" confrontations, three "girl/boy with weak powers (who will never be a Master) is good enough after all," and enough giggling sylphs to make me check that they came from different authors.
To the positive, the stories did span a huge range of timelines and locations. For example, there were two very different stories set in Hawaii (one native - "Makana" - and one invasive - "Queen of the Mountain" ) and one totally different-tasting story sitting in the mountains of the Old West - "For the Sake of Clarity." I also appreciate that two of the stories set in the New World were not whitewashed. One of them had the very blatant lesson to not ignore the servant class ("Tha Thu Ann"), while the other one had a disabled black man for the hero of the tale ("The Collector"). The story about an altar boy figuring out his Element in "Fire's Children" was so comfortably formulaic that I could feel the ending sliding over me like a blanket, or perhaps like a true priest's blessing.
As is the Lackey style, some of the stories pulled from legends and fables we already know. "A Song of the Sea" invoked the deadly Sirens. "The Fire within Him" borrowed from Icarus. "To Ride the River-Horse" took the story of Rapunzel to Wales. Other stories borrowed the elemental friends, such as "The Phoenix of Mulberry Street", and gave them new incarnations. In general, the stories' conflicts were small, the tragedies personal or local, and the elemental escapades irrelevant to greater history. "War to the Knife" was a rare exception, set as Napoleon left Spain.
It may be to Lackey's editorial credit that none of the stories stood out as superb, and none of the stories stood out as abysmal, either. Elemental Magic was a uniformly good collection of enjoyable tales from various perspectives. There was just enough variety to keep me interested, and enough similarity to make this book an easy entry into the assumptions of how magic works in this universe.
I picked this book up because I really enjoyed some of the Lackey Elemental Masters series - namely The Fire Rose and The Serpents Shadow - and wanted to read other authors' takes on that world. I recommend this book to fans of the Elementals series, and for people who enjoy anthologies on such a theme. The magic is easy to understand in these stories, and this is a good light reading gift for anyone unfamiliar with the Elemental Masters world.
If, however, you enjoy seeing what other minds do with the playground of the mind that Lackey has built with her tales...
Like the Valdemar anthologies, Lackey fans from the fantasy writing world put in their visions and stories - sharing their own ideas of what kinds of events might take place and what kinds of people might rise to deal with those events.
Some of these are too short - in that I would adore seeing a collaboration between Lackey and these folks for full length novels - but many of them are just perfect, capturing the essence of the Elemental mystery that Lackey has so enchanted us with in the series.