Sara 's Reviews > The Serpent's Shadow

The Serpent's Shadow by Mercedes Lackey
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's review
Jul 27, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: book-club-sf-fantasy, fantasy, romantic-fantasy, victoriana, historical-fantasy, fairy-tales, british-influence
Read in August, 2011

This was an enjoyable lighter read. It is a Victorian (or really Edwardian-era) fantasy with a dash of mild romance. It's the first book in the Elemental Masters series and the story is a very loose take on the Snow White fairy tale.

I always enjoy books with magic systems that are based on the elements, so I liked the fact that in this series, there are masters of Fire, Air, Earth, and Water. The main character is an Earth master, or has the potential to be if she learns how to use her magic to its fullest extent. Maya Witherspoon uses healing magic in her work as a physician. She had to overcome a lot of challenges to become a physician in Edwardian London because not only is she a woman, but she also has both Indian and British parents and thus experiences prejudice from all sides.

Maya came to London after her parents died, seeking opportunity in the medical community and hoping to escape from a dark force that troubled her family in her native India. In London, Maya opens her own practice and builds a home with electric lights and a wonderful conservatory full of profusely flowering plants. Here, the seven "pets" she inherited from her mother can live in a tropical environment.

But she soon learns that an unseen enemy is still trailing her. One thing I have noticed about Mercedes Lackey is that she can create some really evil, nasty villains and the one in this book is definitely along those lines. Maya needs to learn more about how to use her magic if she is to combat this threat. Fortunately, a retired sailor and Water master, Peter Scott, is more than happy to teach Maya about Western magic as it is understood by his magical association. His associates, however, may have different ideas.

There were some cool parts of this book involving elemental magic. There were also a lot of interesting details about the history of medicine, women's rights, and colonial relations. As I said, it felt like a "lighter" read with a limited cast of characters and a story without too many suprises, but that's fine and I enjoyed it.

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