Letter From The Editor - Issue 59 - October 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
Princess Alethea's Magical Elixir
  Book Reviews by Alethea Kontis
July 2012

Title: Home from the Sea
Author: Mercedes Lackey
EAN: 9780756407278

I adore Mercedes Lackey - By the Sword is one of my all-time favorites, as is her beautiful collaboration with Andre Norton: The Ship Who Searched. I keep the Bardic Voices books on hand at all times for my re-reading enjoyment. They are all in hardcover, and the dust jacket for The Lark and The Wren is very worn.

However, I haven't read a Lackey novel in quite some time. I never warmed to her seemingly never-ending Valdemar series, much to my disappointment. But I was in the mood for some really good, fun, fantasy, and Home from the Sea had just arrived on my doorstep, so I thought, why not? Even if it is technically Book Seven of the Elemental Masters series. <rolls eyes at never-ending series>

Based on the infamous Jody Lee cover art, I actually assumed this was yet another Valdemar novel - I'm a little surprised that DAW didn't go in a different direction with a new series (thus signaling that it was a new series - I might have picked it up earlier!).

All this said, I enjoyed Home from the Sea very much, having never read any of the other Elementals books. There are two distinct storylines that take their time to intertwine . . . which I realized and was perfectly okay with. The first was the story of Mari Prothero and her father Daffyd, who live on the outskirts of a small fishing village in Wales. The Protheros have always been seen as outsiders due to some odd family history, but that prejudice is all but wiped away when a new sheriff comes to town.

There have been riots in the mining towns, and some high muckity-muck is sniffing for anarchists in the ranks (of which there are, of course, none). But some other shadows of the Prothero past come to light, involving magic and an ancient deal made with the Selch (not to be confused with selkie) gods of the sea. Mari comes of age and renegotiates the deal on her own terms, in a wonderful scene much like Rune of Westhaven and the Ghost of Skull Hill (The Lark & The Wren).

The second - and more confusing - thread involves Nan and Sarah, girls with intelligent and powerful birds for familiars, who return from their travels to London to work for Lord Alderscroft, head of the Elemental Masters. Alderscroft sends the girls to this fishing village to investigate this stirring of new magic. Nan and Sarah befriend Mari and ultimately fold into her storyline.

Nan and Sarah's side of the story left me a little cold - no doubt because I hadn't read the first six books in this series - but Mari's intriguing tale kept me reading all the way to the end. I also kept getting knocked out of the story trying to figure out if the Nan/Sarah sections were written from Nan's or Sarah's or a more omniscient point of view. They felt more detached and not as riveting and personal as Mari's chapters. But this might simply be a nitpicky pet-peeve - your mileage may vary.

If you are in the mood for a really good fantasy that will be a really quick read, I happily recommend Home from the Sea. If you've read the first six books, I'm sure it's just that much more fabulous, but this novel is certainly strong enough to stand on its own.

Title: Thieftaker
Author: D. B. Jackson
EAN: 9780765327611

First and foremost, I would like to thank D.B. Jackson for being one of the most patient and wonderful souls in the universe. I fought long and hard to get Thieftaker into my TBR pile - I've wanted to read this novel for years, since the first time he mentioned this labor of love full of magic and Revolutionary New England to me. Once in hand, I carried the ARC everywhere with me for weeks before going on book tour, trying to find time to sneak a page in and failing miserably, and then right before I left on my 21-day non-stop whirlwind, I promptly lost it somewhere in my very small apartment. <sigh> I saw Jackson on my way to Nashville and he lent me his own, personal copy of the ARC when I admitted my untimely absentmindedness. (I found the book as soon as I got home, of course.)

Happily for everyone, Thieftaker did not disappoint, and I'm very glad I was forced to wait for a less tumultuous time in which to lose myself in the wilds of its lush description. Jackson has an enviable gift for detail, the ability to put his reader smack-dab in a location (Boston, 1765) with such intensity that you can hear the burr in voices, smell the smoke and tea in the air, and wince when the hero gets punched in the face.

The hero in question is Ethan Kaille, thieftaker by profession on the streets of Massachusetts Bay during the Stamp Act riots in the summer of 1765. Kaille is hired to recover stolen items and quietly dispatch the person or persons who stole them. His efforts are both aided and hampered by the fact that he's also a conjurer - someone able to work magical spells in an age where even innocents are burned at the stake as witches.

In the midst of the riot-rabble, a young girl from a wealthy family is murdered under mysterious circumstances. Kaille is hired to recover the heirloom brooch that she had in her possession . . . and if he discovers the identity of her killer, so much the better. Kaille is not a man to let the question go unanswered, even when all fingers seem to point in a similar direction and snooping elsewhere has bloody consequences. Thieftaker is a delicious murder mystery sundae, with a sprinkle of supernatural bravado and a few famous historical figures for cherries on top.

It's too bad that I didn't have my own copy of Thieftaker on hand when I saw Jackson so that he could sign it . . . but that's okay. I bought the t-shirt and had him sign that. When you finish this one, trust me, you're going to want to buy the t-shirt too. And possibly read a few history books. For those interested in delving deeper, Jackson has compiled his sources and a chunk of information on his website: www.dbjackson-author.com

Read more by Alethea Kontis


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