… the elemental magicians who work with creatures of earth, air, fire and water? Mercedes Lackey has written a new novel in this world, Steadfast.* Katie Langford thought that her abilities were limited to acrobatics and dance until her parents died. Without them to protect her, others in the circus that was their home start to take advantage of Katie. When she flees her abusive husband, she is guided to a seaside resort where her acrobatic abilities make her the perfect assistant for Lionel Hawkins, a stage magician in a music hall. Very quickly, she learns that some of his magic is real, done with the help of sylphs and other air elementals, rather than sleight of hand. Together with Jack Prescott, a fire magician, Lionel starts to teach Katie how to handle her own magical powers. All is going well, until the unthinkable happens.
The Elemental Masters novels are very good historical fantasies, with ties to folk tales and a strong helping of romance. (The title of this book is a hint to its tale; another is the fact that Jack is a veteran of the Boer Wars who is missing part of one leg.) Steadfast is set in England during the late 1800s, with a rare look at the lives of performers in music halls during the time period. It features a number of strong female characters who overcome the restrictions society places on them. The characters and settings are lushly detailed, the adventure is fast-paced, and the romance is sweet and subtle.
* The stories set in the world of the elemental masters stand alone, although some characters appear in more than one book. Works in this collection include The Serpent’s Shadow, The Gates of Sleep, Phoenix and Ashes, The Wizard of London, Reserved for the Cat, Unnatural Issue, Home from the Sea and Elemental Magic: All New Tales of the Elemental Masters.
Reviewed by Fran (staff)