RogerBW's Blog

Home from the Sea, Mercedes Lackey 19 February 2014

The eighth book (or, if you believe the publisher, seventh) in Lackey's Elemental Masters series. This time our heroine is a Welsh fisherman's daughter, and as one might expect from the title and that set-up the main supernatural beings are "selch", a variant of selkies.

There are two main opponents, rather than the single magical nasty that's been the pattern in most previous books of this series: one is the leader of the selch, who has a long-standing bargain with the heroine's family. He's magical and malevolent, but is forced to play by the rules by his position as leader. The other is a nasty policeman who's entirely non-magical, sent to the remote Welsh village for reasons which never really become clear.

This splitting of the opposition makes the policeman essentially a diversion: he has no knowledge of magic and can't do anything about it when it's used against him. Since our heroine has not only her own magic, taught by one of the selch, but the friendship of Nan and Sarah from an earlier book in this series (The Wizard of London), it's not really much of a struggle. On the other side, she may be left in a very unpleasant position by the selch, but they're never planning to kill her or imprison her soul. The stakes feel altogether smaller than they have for previous heroines.

Yes, Nan and Sarah (and Grey and Neville) are back, and they sit rather oddly with the new heroine Mari. Perhaps the problem is that it's not one fairy story that she's moving round and through: there are elements here of East of the Sun and West of the Moon, Tam Lin, and The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry, and they don't always mix terribly well together. Just to push this further, Lackey's worked in a clear reference to the late Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody stories: which are great fun, but really of rather a different genre (mystery and adventure rather than fantasy), and so another disparate element is introduced.

There's a bit of the real world mixed in too, with unrest among Welsh miners in the background, and someone's clearly been doing research on traditional Welsh peasant food and customs, harvest festivals, and Christmases. Sometimes that drags a little, but mostly the story manages to keep things moving in a workmanlike, if sometimes over-predictable, manner. (If you do not spot the heroine's True Love in the very sentence of his introduction, I am disappointed in you.)

A step down from Unnatural Issue but still enjoyable.

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