Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Book & Audio Review: The Gates of Sleep by Mercedes Lackey

The Gates of Sleep

Mercedes Lackey
Narrator: Kayla Fell
Series: Elemental Masters (Book 2)
Publication: DAW; First Edition (April 1, 2002); Audible Studios (October 20, 2009)
Length: 389 p.; 14 hours and 32 minutes

Description: Mercedes Lackey's magical Elemental Masters series recasts familiar fairy tales in a richly-imagined alternate Victorian world

For seventeen years, Marina Roeswood had lived in an old, rambling farmhouse in rural Cornwall in the care of close friends of her wealthy, aristocratic parents. As the ward of bohemian artists in Victorian England, she had grown to be a free thinker in an environment of fertile creativity and cultural sophistication. But the real core of her education was far outside societal norms. For she and her foster parents were Elemental Masters of magic, and learning to control her growing powers was Marina’s primary focus.

But though Marina’s life seemed idyllic, her existence was riddled with mysteries. Why, for example, had she never seen her parents, or been to Oakhurst, her family’s ancestral manor? And why hadn’t her real parents, also Elemental Masters, trained her themselves? That there was a secret about all this she had known from the time she had begun to question the world around her. Yet try as she might, she could get no clues out of her guardians.

But Marina would have answers to her questions all too soon. For with the sudden death of her birth parents, Marina met her new guardian—her father’s eldest sister Arachne. Aunt Arachne exuded a dark magical aura unlike anything Marina had encountered, a stifling evil that seemed to threaten Marina’s very spirit.

Slowly Marina realized that her aunt was the embodiment of the danger her parents had been hiding her from in the backwoods of Cornwall. But could Marina unravel the secrets of her life in time to save herself from the evil that had been seeking her for nearly eighteen years?

My Thoughts: This retelling of Snow White is set in Edwardian England and the Elemental Masters world.

Infant Marina Roeswood was cursed by her father's older sister Arachne at her christening. To save her from the curse, the final godmother mitigated the curse but couldn't remove it. The only hope was to hide Marina from her Aunt Arachne until she turned eighteen and the curse rebounded to the aunt.

Marina was taken by three of her godparents to Cornwall where she grew up in an unconventional household made up of artists and Elemental mages. She only knew her parents through their letters to her and were sort of unreal to her. Marina's elemental gift was water which was different than the gifts of her aunt and uncles. So they called in another godmother who was a water mage to teach her. And just in time too....

When Marina turned seventeen, her parents died and her Aunt Arachne became her guardian. She removed Marina from everything that she had known and brought her back to her parents' home where she tried to turn her against her parents and encourage a marriage with her son Reggie. Arachne and Reggie were not elemental mages. They were much worse. They were Satanists who had developed a way to steal power from those with magical ability and use the power for evil. Arachne also wanted to find out what had happened to her curse and reinstate it before Marina's eighteenth birthday.

The worldbuilding was intriguing. I liked the combination of magic and the social issues of the day. Arachne owned pottery factories where she hired young women to be paintresses who decorated the pottery with lead paint which poisoned them over time. Since Arachne sought out young girls with magical ability, she was able to strip their magic from them while they were being poisoned.

The only problem I had with this one was that the romance seemed to happen too fast. Marina meets the Earth Master Dr. Andrew Pike when she rescues a young woman who has run from his new sanitarium. Dr. Pike has founded his sanitarium to help those with mental issues, mostly arising from the magical abilities, but gains most of his funds from wealthy families and wealthy women who mostly need a rest from the rigors of their busy social lives. 

When Marina learns that the young woman she found is a charity patient who is suffering from lead poisoning, she asks to work with Dr. Pike since her water magic would allow her to remove the lead from the young woman's body. The two grow closer as they work together.

When Arachne manages to trigger the curse by having Marina prick her finger on a loose nail is the cradle that was made for her as an infant, she transfers the girl to Dr. Pike's sanitarium to get her out of the way while she dies. Arachne doesn't know of the relationship between Dr. Pike and Marina and doesn't realize that he will be able to help her.

The story had great characters and was wonderfully written. 

Favorite Quote:
These were the books that Aunt Margherita, Uncle Thomas, and Uncle Sebastian had been taught from! And her parents, of course. If she closed her eyes and opened her mind and widened her shields enough to include the books, she could see them, younger, oh much younger than they were now, bent over desks, puzzled or triumphant or merely enjoying themselves, listening, learning. 
I bought this hardcover in 2002 and the audiobook recently. You can buy your copy here.

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