Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Wizard of London

The Wizard of London: Elemental Masters #4 (Elemental Masters)

Mercedes Lackey

Date: 2006-10-03   —   Book

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Fiction, Fantasy

This book, which was published subsequent to The Serpent's Shadow, goes into the history of one of its characters. Lord David Alderscroft is the Wizard of the title, a fairly young man whose Element is Fire but whose specialty is almost the inverse, right down to his frosty manner. I could not, at first, identify the fairy tale this one is based on, quite likely because the only version of the original I've ever read is the bowlderized (and somewhat confusing) Andrew Lang version in the colored Fairy Tale series.

This is the story of the Snow Queen, of the man who must break out of the prison of ice by discovering the meaning of love. It's not quite as interesting in that respect as you might think: most of the attention in the book is rightfully placed on the love he spurned many years ago (and who went on to marry a worthier man, who does survive the novel) and her protegés: practitioners of a stranger magic than that of the Elemental style. Her trainees are, in fact, British boarding school children, sent home by parents in India. Isabelle— the spurned love— started her school when she realized the horrible shock and neglect that many such children experience upon being sent to a "foreign" land and culture; some of the children are wholly normal, and the ones who have magic keep their abilities secret as their parents taught them.

Isabelle runs the school in a way that we moderns would approve: she serves food from "home" (India), and does not expect children raised in a hot land by loving servants to tolerate cold rooms and colder emotions. She also trains those whose abilities the Elemental Masters cannot understand— the telepaths, the clairvoyant, the kinetics. All in all, she has a very odd job description. An attempt on two of her students sets her on a path that crosses her former life among the gentry of London, and she discovers that unless she deals with her past, there is danger to them all.

What is kind of sad is that you see the potential for Lord David at the end of this book, but in The Serpent's Shadow he is portrayed as a respected old man, but in a way that comes across as more than a little narrow-minded and curmudgeonly. Pity.

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