The Wizard of London, by Mercedes Lackey (Elemental Masters #5)

>> Tuesday, August 08, 2006

With The Wizard of London, I get to the end of Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters series, and it's a bittersweet feeling. Oh, well, this one came out in 2005, so I guess there is hope that there might be more additions to the series in the future!

The Harton School for Boys and Girls, run by Isabelle and Frederick Harton, is one of the few schools that takes students whose magic doesn't pertain to the elements, and who are, therefore, frequently ignored by the Elemental Masters. Such unheeded gifts include clairvoyance, telepathy, and the very rare ability to truly communicate with the dead. Sarah Jane's parents, missionary healers in Africa, send the 12-year-old to Harton, and she is happy there, especially after she befriends Nan, a street urchin. After an attempt is made on Sarah and Nan's lives, it is clear that a powerful Elemental Master wants one or both girls dead. Isabelle Harton must seek the aid of the Elemental Masters of London, though the Masters' Circle is led by Lord Alderscroft, who once cruelly jilted her
Unfortunately, The Wizard of London was very disappointing. There were some interesting parts, but on the whole, this book was much too unfocused. A C+, and I'm being very generous.

This is where I should write what this book was about, but see, that's exactly what my problem with it was: what the hell was it about? I have no idea.

Was it about Isabelle and Frederick Harton? Was it about their school for psychic and non-elemental magician children? Was it about students Sarah Jane and Nan and their magic birds? Was it about Isabelle's former fiancé, Lord Alderscroft and the dangerously evil female Master who isn't the good friend he thinks she is? I guess the answer would be all and none of the above.

My complaint isn't really that there is a lot going on, because a good author (like Lackey) can handle plenty of separate plot threads. I've enjoyed quite a few books like that. The thing is, all those plot threads have to feel at least somewhat integrated in order for a book to work. There has to be some feeling that they are all contributing to some kind of overarching, "bigger" plot. And that just didn't happen here.

At first, I just thought Lackey was taking a bit too long to set things up. But when a couple of hundreds of pages had gone by and still nothing was set up, when the action was still episodic rather than a real plot, actually going somewhere, I realized the whole book was going to be like that.

Oh, there were some interesting moments. I quite liked Isabelle, and I thought the atmosphere was excellent. Lackey paints an extremely vivid picture of the times, and the setting becomes almost a character in its own right. I especially enjoyed the glimpses of the psychic scene of the late 19th century.

And that was something else. When I started the book, from all I'd heard about it, I had thought I was going to get basically Lord Alderscroft's story. Not his early story, not the reason why he became the bind idiot we saw in The Serpent's Shadow and Phoenix and Ashes, but his story after this. Even though I hadn't liked him at all, I was interested in seeing how Lackey might redeem him. The hints that this book would be based on the Snow Queen myth made it especially interesting.

But no, it wasn't to be. And most irritating: it took me a while to notice, because it took me a long time to realize when the book was set. Until about 150 pages into it, I was convinced it was set after Phoenix and Ashes, and so I kept getting jolted out of the story by what I thought were inaccuracies and anachronisms.

As I said, disappointing. I'm definitely going to keep reading Lackey, though, because when she's good, she's great!


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