26. The Serpent’s Shadow (Elemental Masters) by Mercedes Lackey. 400 p. Published March 2001.
This is the first book in Lackey’s Elemental Masters series.
Maya has recently arrived in London from her native India. Her sudden flight from India after the death of her father, who she suspected was killed through supernatural means, leaves Maya alone but for a few trusted servants. She works hard to establish herself as a doctor, and even harder as a doctor for the poor. Her home, well furnished by what was left of her inheritance, also houses her practice and a small area for her foreign pets.
But Maya’s secret cure for those who come to her office is nothing short of magic. Sadly, however, her supernatural gift has gone mostly untrained, since her half-Indian, half-British heritage exiled her from both school of practice. Instead Maya is forced to improvise, using a little ingenuity and some training from a street performer to weave her defenses. And it soon becomes apparent that they were necessary.
For Maya is hunted by the same dark priestess that is responsible for her parents’ fate. Seeking to enslave Maya and use her as a source for evil energies, the priestess twists others to her will, and seeks to weaken Maya both professionally and magically. But Maya has found allies in London’s resident Magicians, a few of whom are not so stuffed up as to ignore the presence of dark powers in their city. Together, Maya and these magicians seek to remove the stain of evil.
Lackey’s depiction of turn-of-the-century London is amazing. Using Maya’s position in society, Lackey explores this time of evolution in societal standing, medicine, and women’s rights. Her use of elemental magic, while common, is refreshed by Lackey’s own gift for describing the ethereal. With vivid characters, Lackey paints an amazing parallel of Snow White. Her use of the conflicts facing Maya enrich the character and enhances the reader’s empathy. Of the five Elemental Masters novels, this remains my favorite.
Rating: 4 out of 5