This latest latest Elemental Masters novel is set in Victorian England and is based on the fairy tale "The Snow Queen".Isabelle Benson has learned that an Elemental Master is behind the attempts on her students' lives - and the would-be murderer is someone very close to her former flame, the "Wizard of London".
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©2008 Mercedes Lackey; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
"Interestingly drawn characters hold our attention to the end, even if the good ones are very, very good, and the bad are full-blown villains." (Booklist)
The Elemental Masters have been fantastic companions during my (rather boring) house cleaning exercises. If only I could get a brownie to help me😊!
Much as I love these tales, this is the weakest of the Elemental Masters novels. Most of the story involves Sarah and Nan, young, magically-talented girls who come to live at the Harton School in London, run by the also-talented Isabelle Harton and her husband. Sarah has been sent home to England "for her health" from her parents' hospital in Africa, along with her remarkably wise and capable African Gray parrot, simply called Gray. Nan is taken in from the streets, where she has been living a tenuous life with her drunken and drug-addicted mother, and she becomes a valued friend to Sarah and an asset to the School, even as she begins to learn how to manage her ordinary and extra-ordinary talents.
Also living in London is Lord Alderscroft, the so-called Wizard of London and a Fire Master, head of the Elemental Masters group. However, Alderscroft has come under the influence of Cordelia, a secretive and powerful Master. She has gradually cut him off from all of his ordinary enjoyment of life and his friends and surrounded him with a crowd of the politically influential, since she hopes to accompany Alderscroft as he rises to political power and influence. And then she begins to crave even more power, power beyond the usual reach of women in this Edwardian era.
This is a weak adaptation of the Ice Queen tale, with Alderscroft as the stricken boy, and while the adventures of Sarah and Nan are interesting, the story really hasn't got the weight of Ms Lackey's usual plots. The narrator does a creditable job with slightly different voices and reads at a reasonable pace.
Actor/director/teacher. Split my time between Beijing and Seattle now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving or riding my bike.
This is a perfectly pleasant fantasy book for bright twelve-year-olds. I would happily read it to a niece or a nephew, but as an adult read it is a good deal short of satisfying. The narration is competent but a trifle cloying, perhaps even for twelve-year-old ears. I have enjoyed several of Lackey's books, but I probably should have investigated a little more deeply before I snapped this one up when I saw it on sale.
For those looking for whimsy and a Victorian London setting in a fantasy tale, I would strongly recommend "Neverwhere" by Neil Gaiman, a book which will delight young people and adults alike.
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!
The Wizard of London is the fifth of Mercedes Lackey’s stand-alone novels in her ELEMENTAL MASTERS series of fairytale retellings. It’s so loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” that you probably won’t even notice the few similarities. There’s an ice queen, but the theme of The Wizard of London (if there is one, which I doubt), has nothing to do with the theme of “The Snow Queen.”
The story starts when a little girl named Sarah arrives from Africa (where her parents are missionaries) at a London boarding school that is known to educate and train the children of Elemental mages. There she finds an ethically and religiously diverse cast of excellent teachers and attendants. She also befriends a young street urchin named Nan whose mother is a neglectful drug addict. Together Sarah and Nan have various girlish adventures such as acting in plays, doing chores and school projects, visiting the country, solving little mysteries, acquiring avian familiars, practicing some magic, and producing a version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (a big nod to Rudyard Kipling’s Puck of Pook’s Hill here). Their headmistress, Isabelle, often has special tasks for them such as attending a séance to help debunk the local medium.
Eventually the story gets on with it and we meet the “Ice Queen.” She is Cordelia, an Elemental mage who mentors David, the man who suddenly dumped Isabelle (the headmistress) without explanation years ago. Gradually we learn that Cordelia made a deal with an ice elemental and has certain disturbing magical skills that she uses to try to gain power over others, especially David. When she’s not doing evil stuff, she is lamenting the fact that she’s a woman and, therefore, forced to gain her power in such an unethical way.
The Wizard of London is marketed to adults, but a lot of the time it feels like a children’s story since it frequently focuses on the two girls and is often simple and told in short cute episodes that end with the girls being praised for being nice, smart or brave. These parts of the story are quite sweet and childish. But then, as she does in every ELEMENTAL MASTERS book that I’ve read so far, Lackey throws in that super evil villain that reminds you that you’re not reading a children’s book. The story flip-flops between these two tones — sickly sweet and pathologically violent — and also can’t seem to settle on a particular main character or story line. It jumps around all over the place. The disparate plot elements are also strangely jumbled. They don’t feel like they go together organically or fit into the story of “The Snow Queen.” I think I would have left out Robin Goodfellow, the Morrigan, the Wild Hunt, and Aleister Crowley completely, and I won’t even mention the weird part where the headmistress (quite the proper lady) shows up garbed in merely a scrap of chemise and wielding a spear. That was really odd. It also seems to me that Lackey keeps changing the rules to her elemental magic system. It’s never consistent.
As usual, all the protagonists are unfailingly wonderful all the time. They’re smart, they’re nice, they’re brave, and all of their ideas are correctly 21st century American even though they live in Victorian England (all of Lackey’s ELEMENTAL MASTERS protagonists are like this). The villains, or course, are all on par with Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy.
Michelle Ford does the narration for Audible Studio’s version of The Wizard of London. Her voices are wonderful, but she has a few mispronunciations, including twice mispronouncing the word “sidhe” which she pronounces as “seed-hay” even after Nan misunderstands it as “she” and has to be told that how it’s spelled.
All of the Elemental Masters novels are good, but I think this one is my least favorite. I'm not entirely sure why. It seems kind of fragmented to me. It is worth reading, however, especially if you're going to continue on to read Home from the Sea (book 7), in which some of the key characters from this book re-appear. Also, it does give a little more insight to Lord Alderscroft, who is a minor but important character in all of the other novels. Most of the Elemental Masters novels take place when he is a much older, solitary man living in the HQ of the Elemental Masters' council (the "White Lodge"), as their acknowledged leader. This novel was fascinating because it takes place when he is in his late 20's or early 30's and partially explains why he is the way he is.
One issue I had with the audio book - and it was fairly minor as the word wasn't used often, but it was a huge irritation for me - is the reader's pronunciation of the word "sidhe". She pronounced it SEE-DAY, which is not only incorrect, it doesn't even make any sense based on the spelling of the word. I just have to wonder...who on earth assigned this woman, and the entire crew involved in production, to read a fantasy novel without making sure that SOMEONE knew how to say sidhe? What's more, the way it was used in the book involved a play on words with with the word "she" (female) that was completely lost and non-sensical due to the mispronunciation. It can't be all that difficult to make sure strange and unusual words are figured out ahead of time and communicated to the reader. Other than that, she was a good reader. Her "cockney" accent for Nan was well done, and the characters were distinguishable by her tone and style.
Wonderful fun. . . Now that audible has kindly given me the last chapter missing on my first version. I was specially happy my complaint was address and a solution found.
"Where's the epilogue?"
I love Mercedes Lackey books and it's wonderful that this series is now available as audiobooks. I've really been enjoying them, and this one was no exception.
The only problem I have is that for some reason, the epilogue has not been included in the recording! So the ending isn't really as satisfying as it is in the book. Where is the epilogue?
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