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Mercedes Lackey
book cover

Book 1 of the Elemental Masters series
2001, March, hardcover

Who recommends: Linda, Isabel, Lori, Robin, Margaret, Suzanne, Edith, Barbara
Who discommends:

Just finished reading this and highly recommend it! Anyone who enjoyed THE FIRE ROSE will also enjoy this. While this one is set in England instead of America, England also has its set of magicians in hiding (as in THE FIRE ROSE) who are connected with the elements--fire, water, air, or earth. The heroine is the daughter of a British physician and a Brahmin woman of the highest caste (from India) which makes her pretty much an outcast of both cultures. Maya is also a physician, having been taught and assisted by her father. Her mother was a sorceress who made a lethal enemy by marrying below herself. When both are killed, Maya, a household of pets, and her servants go to England and are in hiding of a sort. She manages to get a job as a doctor and gain respect against prejudice.

Maya has magical powers of her own but has had no training. The hero is a water magician who offers to train her. I loved the characters, plot and romance. I was trying to think of which fairy tale this resembles but I couldn't really see anything until one instance at the end. So it must be Sleeping Beauty.<g> But mostly its just its own separate story that doesn't resemble any fairy tale. I also enjoyed the glimpses of the medical field of old and am glad I was born in this era.<g>--Linda (20 Mar 01)

Linda has already covered the particulars so I will just enthusiastically second her recommendation. Very nice blend of romance and magic in turn of the Century (hmm, I supposed one should now note it's the turn of the 20th Century) England.

It was enough to inspire me to reread THE FIRE ROSE. Which is still the better book in my eyes, with more interaction between the hero and heroine and the beauty and the beast story. But THE SERPENT'S SHADOW is set in the same magical world and has the same appeal so for all you FIRE ROSE enthusiasts, go read this new book.--Isabel (12 Apr 01)

I've just read Lackey's latest, THE SERPENT'S SHADOW, which I definitely enjoyed. I've only read one other book by her, THE FIRE ROSE, the prequel to this book.--Robin (13 May 01)

I also managed to find Mercedes Lackey THE SERPENTS SHADOW. I enjoyed this too, though not quite as much as THE FIRE ROSE. I wasn't quite sure whether it was the same universe - the element based magic was similar but the social side was quite different. In TFR 2 fire magicians couldn't live in the same city but in TSS not only were there a lot of fire magicians living in London, apparently quite amiably, but 2 were married to each other. If it is the same universe, why the differences? If not, why the similarities?--Margaret (10 Jun 01)

Lackey's SERPENT'S SHADOW was fine. I enjoy this author for the sort of pleasant, predictable style and stories. You know just what you are getting, and when you are in the right mood for her latest book, she never disappoints.--Suzanne (09 Jul 01)

Mercedes Lackey's SERPENT'S SHADOW. A SF/Romance - the tale of Maya Witherspoon, the daughter of a Brahmin mother (who had a touch of magic) and a British military man serving in India (who gave Maya her touch of Earth Mage). It seems that Maya's mother died of cholera. Shortly after that death her father died of a krait bite in India, leaving Maya to make her way to England.

Maya's mother had left to her seven - count them, seven - "pets" that turn out to be more than pets. Sigh, I really wish their role had been further developed into the story rather than getting glimpses of their powers at the climax of the book.

Once in England, Maya applies to the Fleet Hospital to practice as a physician, which lands her square in the path of a few people that entangle her future. As an Earth Mage, her talent is in healing, and the majority of the book deals with her work in or around the Hospital.

This book has the same languid narrative style as THE FIRE ROSE - somewhat appropriate to turn of the century England setting. The author gets high marks for giving a good sense of the squalor of London, and of showing the prejudice of the wealthy against women in general and against a young woman of half-Indian ancestry who wished to be a physician in particular.

The romance comes in with a Water Mage named Peter, the sole non-aristocratic member of the Mages in London. It is Peter who stumbles across Maya and the two find they have much in common, then find they like each other, and their relationship develops as slowly as the pace of the book.

Maya has shielded her presence from detection, partly in fear that her father's death was not an accident, but the London Mages still sense a power at work. At the same time, a strange presence is suffocating people who all have a tie to India. It seems expedient that the Mages identify who has shielded his or her presence.

I liked THE FIRE ROSE better. THE SERPENT'S SHADOW, while a pleasant way to spend a few hours, is not a keeper. If you're looking for a fantasy with a good sense of time and place, this is quite satisfying. Not a lot of action but good solid characterizations.--Barbara (06 Jan 02)

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