Enchanted? Listen to more titles in the Elemental Masters Series.
©2005 Mercedes Lackey; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
interesting, thought-provoking, brilliant
I loved the feel of it, the overall sense of realness WW1 brings to the story.
the accents, if you are not a British citizen than the rhythm of the dialog wouldn't be present as vividly.
to avoid any spoilers, I would just say that the entire journey of hard won Freedom was very moving and a very dear concept.
This story is a great retelling of Cinderella, with WW1 as a back drop. That said it is very difficult to say you can't see the ending coming... but this is definitely a book that proves, it's not the destination but the journey that matters. You will enjoy a new landscape as you travel down a fresh path into an old tale. It may even open your eyes to the thought that Fairy Tales may come in, at first glance, ordinary packages.
Enjoyed the ease of listening while driving. The storyline was good and easy to follow with frequent breaks from listening.
The horror and carnage of world war I is depicted in a way that brings it to a very personal level. The impact on the daily lives of all strata of British life and how they tried to cope with privation and loss is wrenching. Toss this all together with a wicked stepmother,two nasty stepsisters, and a cruelly treated stepchild. Then add magic good and sinister, a handsome young man and you have a whopping good story!
I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature. Life's too short to read bad books!
Each of Mercedes Lackey’s ELEMENTAL MASTERS novels is a stand-alone fairytale retelling. Some of the novels have overlapping characters, but you can read these books in any order. The fourth book, Phoenix and Ashes, is a mostly pleasant Cinderella story set in England during The Great War. Maya, the Indian doctor from The Serpent’s Shadow, is a minor character. I listened to Michelle Ford narrate the audio version of Phoenix and Ashes (Audible Studios). She is perfect for this tale.
Unlike some of the other ELEMENTAL MASTERS stories, Phoenix and Ashes stays pretty close to the source material; you can tell this is a Cinderella story. Eleanor Robinson’s father is killed during WW1 and Eleanor is left living in the house she grew up in with her socially-climbing evil stepmother and two stepsisters. They cast a spell on Eleanor and make her their slave while they attend teas and balls. Eleanor’s “fairy godmother” is a local witch who helps Eleanor develop her own magical skills. Her helpful woodland creatures are the salamanders that usually accompany fire mages in Lackey’s ELEMENTAL MASTERS books. Most interesting is Prince Charming — a young soldier who was sent home with “shellshock.”
Lackey does a nice job of portraying the horrors, the deprivations, and the massive amount of death that The Great War caused. We see an England that is nearly devoid of healthy adult men within a certain age range. Women were running the farms and businesses. German submarine blockades of merchant ships meant that people were hungry. So many of the English soldiers never came home, and those who did were maimed and/or afflicted with PTSD, a brain disorder that people didn’t believe in until recently. Lackey shows us the scorn that the military held for those who suffered from “shellshock” and also the way they were slow to adapt to the Germans’ technological advances. A few times Lackey attempts to bring in some socialist opposition to the war, which could have been really interesting and informative, but this is dealt with so quickly and superficially that it was of no value.
As in the other ELEMENTAL MASTERS books, the evil villains are totally over-the-top sadists, making them seem like caricatures rather than real people. Eleanor’s stepmother is so hilariously bad that it’s hard to take her seriously. In contrast, the protagonists always display surprisingly modern ideas for their time. They’re always progressive feminists who despise the class structure they were born into. A little more diversity and nuance to Lackey’s characters would be nice.
Still, for a fluffy fantasy read, Phoenix and Ashes is mostly entertaining. It’s easy to sympathize with Eleanor’s plight, cheer when she manages to win little victories over her evil stepmother, and feel excited knowing that she’ll triumph in the end. Unfortunately there is a long odd section in which Eleanor learns about passion, balance and responsibility from the creatures on Tarot cards in some sort of dreamland. This was bizarre and boring and didn’t feel like it fit in an ELEMENTAL MASTERS novel since, I think, Tarot has not been mentioned as related to this magic system before. The ending of the story, when Eleanor gets revenge, was also abrupt and not especially satisfying. Sort of like my ending to this review.
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I am so pleased to report that this one is so much better then the previous one. It reads like Mercedes Lackey's Five Hundred Kingdoms series. The characters are developed stronger and come into their own in a more mature way. The dots come together in an intriguing, maybe spell binding path. I liked it and I think you will too.
I will definitely listen to this again! I think this book is one of the best that M. Lackey has written, and it's one of the best performed books I've heard to date. I've owned a paper copy for years now. Picked up the audio book in part because I knew I'd like the story, and the other positive reviews from several other listeners.
What I look for in a good Cinderella story:
1) Heroine. The Cinderella character needs to have both a good reason for not striking out on her own, as well as the cleverness and character to work her way through and out of the situation. I want the Heroine to have a backbone and earn her freedom/reward.
2) Guide. A guide that helps Cinderella stand on her own, without doing all the work for her.
3) Hero. Hero figure that isn't one-dimensional.
4) Outcome. Mutual character growth, standing against customs and traditions to work towards the happy ever after.
This book? Has all of this and more - with the added bonus of excellent writing, good character development, and how Lackey built the story from three different viewpoints: the heroine, the hero, and the villain.
Other things I particularly enjoyed:
- The research and recreating a setting of the world of Britain World War I is compelling, especially as we approach the 100th anniversary of that time in history.
- The growth of the magic system overall of Lackey's Elemental Masters Series.
Michelle Ford is one of the best audio book performers I've experienced - she managed multiple voices and emotional inflection for all the variety of characters in this book, and her vocal dynamics throughout really draw the listener into the world of the story.
I agree with another reviewer - this really is one of the best audio books available if you enjoy 'Urban Fantasy'!
This is a different view of a Cinderella story. I enjoyed the twists and turns.
Its great to see that sometimes we have to save ourselves.
I loved Serpent's Shadow. I felt the author used the war to fill in for the lack of original material. I finally couldn't stand it any more and listened to the last two chapters. Maybe it's me. I listen to romances as an escape mechanism. I want to hear about the direct action. This story was impersonal and I found the ending disappointing. Overall, I really didn't like this
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