37. The Wizard of London by Mercedes Lackey. 342 p. Published October 2005.
This is the 4th book in the Elemental Masters series. I know I haven’t posted book 3 (Brightly Burning) yet, but as this is part of A Midsummer Night’s Challenge, it takes precedence.
The Wizard of London, a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen”, features two paralleling stories that merge to become one fantastic tale. Set in Victorian England, Sarah Jane arrives at The Harton School. Her parents, missionaries in Africa, have decided that it is time she receive an education more pertinent to her particular powers – clairvoyance and telepathy. Along with her grey parrot, Sarah finds herself immersed in a wonderfully enriching atmosphere. But she soon finds Nan, a street urchin wish abilities of her own, and wishes the same life for her. A sudden turn of events finds Nan in danger, and as she seeks refuge with the school, she becomes a student and Sarah’s best friend.
While on a school trip to The Tower of London, Nan befriends one of The Queen’s Ravens – mystical birds that are linked to the security of the kingdom (side note, these are real. It is believed that if the Ravens ever leave the tower, the Kingdom will fall). The Raven decides that Nan is better company that the tower gaurds, and joins her, Sarah, and Grey at the school.
In our second plot line, we meet a younger version of David Alderscroft (met previous Elemental Master books), leader of London’s Wizard’s Circle. Alderscroft, a fire mage, is under the tutelage of Lady Cordelia, the only other Fire Mage in his circle. But rather than teaching him about conflagration, she has him supress his emotions and approach magic through the cold logic necessary for Ice Magery – removing heat instead of creating it.
Alderscroft has a history with the madam of The Harton School, and a sudden reunion sets him at odds with himself. As Alderscroft is also responsible for his position in society, he travels to the country to attend a hunting party and get away from Mrs. Harton’s presence in London.
As the girls progress through their training, word of Sarah’s ability to speak with the dead spreads among the occult-oriented gentry. But someone is obviously threatened by the girls’ abilities, and a devious plot is set to ensnare them and upset the school. Only Sarah and Nan’s own cunning, aided by a holy order of warriors, can keep them safe. As such, the school decides to take a prolonged trip to the countryside.
While touching at times, the two stories now come into direct conflict, and in a sudden battle involving all parties, Alderscroft is brought to realize the perversions his twisted magic has caused.
Here is where this novel ties in with A Midsummer Night’s Challenge: as Sarah, Nan, and the rest of the school are enjoying their time in the countryside, they decide to hold a little play for the locals. You guessed it: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And, as the greatest surprise, Robin Goodfellow himself has taken a liking to Sarah and Nan. As a gift to them he takes on the roll of Puck (i.e. himself) in their production.
As the novel progresses, Puck confronts Alderscroft, warning that his twisted magics would not be tolerated. The engagement that culminates the book begins as a battle between Puck and Alderscroft – a battle that could mean the end of Puck’s presence on Earth if he wins.
The first half of this book, focusing on Sarah and Nan, is quite possibly my favorite of the Elemental Masters series. But as Alderscroft begins to take on more significance, the scenes that involve him dilute Lackey’s grip on the reader. With so much focus on the youngsters and their school (I believe this is the foundation of another Lackey series, but I haven’t checked), the bland characters and occurrences of the Alderscroft plot-line comes off as brittle and ill constructed. Thankfully the characters of The Harton School shine brightly enough to carry the book through to the end.
Rating: 3 out of 5