Steadfast by Mercedes Lackey (Elemental Masters)

1-9-15 –I know, I know. Another review of me happily gushing over Mercedes Lackey and her Elemental Masters series. But, as this is the first book that I have read in 2015, it rather does deserve pride of place.

Based on the Steadfast Tin Soldier, this the tale of Katie Langford, a circus acrobat under the fist of an abusive strongman husband who takes her fate into her own hands and runs away. After spending time with Travelers (of whom her mother was one), she makes her way to the seaside town of Brighton. There, assisted by (what else?) magic, she lands a position as a magician’s assistant at a dance hall. What Katie does not know is that Lionel, her new employer, is also an elemental Air magician. Not only that, but the doorman of the dance hall, Jack, is also one, though his element is Fire. Together these two men realize early on that something is different about Katie and there very much is. She is attuned to Fire, the most emotional of the elements. Lionel and Jack take it upon themselves to, firstly, convince Katie of the existence of magic and, secondly, to train her in her newfound abilities. Lionel was taught from childhood by his father in the skill of his element and so takes over Katie’s initial training, then transferring her over to Jack in the specifics of her element. The friendship that blossoms between these three is wonderful to read, the three different lives represented by Lionel, Katie, and Jack making a wonderful tapestry against which this story is set. What is also beautiful is the camaraderie that develops between Katie and the Fire Elementals, a strong relationship for a magician so young in her abilities.

As Fire is the most emotional of the elements, the emotion of this book is high and deep. It will make your heart swell, leap into your throat, and wring tears from yours eyes. And, of all the stories that I have read thus far, it ends in such a lovely fairy tale fashion that Disney should be quite jealous indeed.

Paused: The Ruby Key by Holly Lisle

Mankind is Sunkind

And rules by the light;

Nightlings are Moonkind,

And rule in the night;

Or there will be war.

Ever read those books that don’t offer any Prologue? Rather they just toss you into the book and explain as they go? Well, this is one of those stories, and, personally, I enjoy them more often than not. I enjoy learning through characters’ memories and conversations.

All Genna and Dan know is a world of covenant and promise between humans and nightlings. Never to speak, never to meet, never to break covenant and promise. However, now their village cheiften has offered their lives and the lives of everyone in the village as forefeit to the nightlings in return for immortality. Now Genna and Dan must make an alternate deal, with even higher stakes, with the nightlings in order to preserve their lives, those of their family, and everyone in their village.

Holly Lisle’s writing is lovely, her descriptions rich and lovely. AND the text is even printed in indigo! If you like fantasy and magic, this is definitely a book you may want to pick up. 🙂 So far, I’m really enjoying it.

UPDATE, 1/28/2010: I have stopped on this book for now. I took it and put it in my classroom for my students to enjoy. 🙂

War for the Oaks by Emma Bull

Eddie McCandry actually had a fairly normal, if not partially sucky life, as the head a rock band in Minneapolis. One night, on her way home, she finds herself being followed by a strange man and even stranger (and scary) dog. She soon finds out that they are one and the same. It’s a phouka, a fun-loving, prankster fey creature with the ability to turn into an animal. And he has a message and mission. Message first: Eddie has been chosen by the faeries to be their ‘mortal element’ in the upcoming war between the Seelie and Unseelie Courts of the Fae. Without a human on the battlefield, blood cannot be shed nor lives taken, and, in order to win a war, you need both. Poukah’s Mission: to protect Eddie from the creatures of the Unseelie Court who would like nothing better than to see her blood spilled.

It actually took me two tries to read this novel, and that’s really because I just became distracted. However, when I decided to finally finish it, I truly loved it. The interaction between Eddie and the poukah and the faeries that she becomes embroiled with is just wonderful! All the old adages about faeries are true in this story; brownies will clean your house if you ask nicely, fae hate to be thanked (it physically hurts them), and they enjoy walking amongst humankind and playing at love.

One thing that tended to bug me is that the poukah is never given a name. He’s just called “Poukah” throughout the entire novel. However, his charming nature and fierce defense of Eddie make up for it. There is also a theory for that. Names are very powerful in the fae world as well as the human one. For someone to know your True Name gives them a measure of power over you in this story so that may be why our poukah never gives his, if he has one.

There is music, adventure, romance, and all that jazz in War for the Oaks.  This book was also on the reading list for White Wolf Games  as they prepared to release their Changeling: The Lost role-playing game in Fall of 2007, a game that focuses on the old nature of fairy tales. The stories that the Grimm Brothers pulled together, those dark, blood-and-thunder cautionary tales of old that we have sanitized and prettified over the last century.

If you ever wondered about what would happen if the faery and human worlds crashed together, this novel is definitely one for you.