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.

Thirteenth Child by Patricia Wede

Ever wonder about that old adage of being a thirteenth child? No? Well, consider yourself lucky, because being the 13th child isn’t a fate I’d wish on anyone. Not in this world, in any case.

Welcome to an alternate history. One where magic is the norm and fully integrated into everyday life. As you grew, you received training in magic, from your parents and at school. Can you imagine that? Magic? Part of everyday life? Here you can.

From the day she was born, only a moment or two after her twin brother Lan, Eff was treated like an outcast by anyone but her own family. A 13th child, sure to go bad sooner or later, it was even advised by many that she be killed right off and leave the family at an auspicious 12 children. Her father’s side, primarily his brothers, accused her of all manner of things, even to cursing them when she was only 5 years old and had no magical training whatsoever.

Her twin brother Lan, on the other hand, is a lauded 7th son of a 7th son, twice over lucky and twice over blessed. Lan was fated to be great while Eff was fated to bring disaster upon everyone she knew and loved and, despite her parents firm admonitions that such things were simply not true, Eff has spent her entire life trying to live down the fate of being a 13th child, ever afraid of what it might bring to those she cares about.

I adore Patricia Wede’s world, an America with magic, magic that has so changed history that we don’t even call it America anymore. The story begins when Lan and Eff are about 5 and continues until they are in their late teens. Wede’s descriptions of the community near the Great Barrier are wonderful, as well as her descriptions of the magic (the different types and how they work) and magical creatures. Out West is still ‘Out West’ but rather than the fear of rattlesakes and bandits, we are dealing with things like ice dragons and mammoths, which a magical construct called the Barrier keeps at bay. But what might happen if the Great Barrier was threatened? Sit, have a read, and find out for yourself. Trust me, it’ll be fun! ^_^