Thursday, November 18, 2021

Book & Audio Review: Phoenix and Ashes by Mercedes Lackey

Phoenix and Ashes

Mercedes Lackey
Narrator: Michelle Ford
Series: Elemental Masters (Book 3)
Publication: Audible Studios (October 20, 2009); DAW; 1st Printing edition (October 5, 2004)
Length: 15 hours and 18 minutes; 416 p.

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

Eleanor Robinson’s life had shattered when Father volunteered for the Great War, leaving her alone with a woman he had just married. Then the letter came that told of her father’s death in the trenches and though Eleanor thought things couldn’t get any worse, her life took an even more bizarre turn.

Dragged to the hearth by her stepmother Alison, Eleanor was forced to endure a painful and frightening ritual during which the smallest finger of her left hand was severed and buried beneath a hearthstone. For her stepmother was an Elemental Master of Earth who practiced the darker blood-fueled arts. Alison had bound Eleanor to the hearth with a spell that prevented her from leaving home, caused her to fade from people’s memories, and made her into a virtual slave.

Months faded into years for Eleanor, and still the war raged. There were times she felt she was losing her mind—times she seemed to see faces in the hearth fire.

Reginald Fenyx was a pilot. He lived to fly, and whenever he returned home on break from Oxford, the youngsters of the town would turn out to see him lift his aeroplane—a frail ship of canvas and sticks—into the sky and soar through the clouds.

During the war, Reggie had become an acclaimed air ace, for he was an Elemental Master of Air. His Air Elementals had protected him until the fateful day when he had met another of his kind aloft, and nearly died. When he returned home, Reggie was a broken man plagued by shell shock, his Elemental powers vanished.

Eleanor and Reginald were two souls scourged by war and evil magic. Could they find the strength to help one another rise from the ashes of their destruction?

My Thoughts: This retelling of Cinderella is set in an alternate England with magic and with World War I raging. Eleanor Robinson was the daughter of a factory owner who was determined to go to Oxford even though women were not granted degrees. However, when her father remarries a woman with two daughters and then enlists in the army, things change.

Eleanor's new stepmother is an Earth Master who has chosen the dark path. She resents that she couldn't convince Eleanor's father to change his will before he enlisted. She is determined to use Eleanor's fortune and puts a spell on Eleanor which prevents her from leaving the house and also makes the people in the small town forget about her. To cast the spell, she chops off the smallest finger of her left hand and buries it under the hearth stone. Eleanor becomes an unpaid, over-worked drudge for her stepmother and stepsisters.

Reggie Fenyx is the son of the local gentry. He and Eleanor met when they were younger because she was as intrigued with flying as Reggie was. Reggie also enlisted in the new flying corps. But a plane crash and being buried alive while being tormented by Earth Elementals has caused severe shell shock. He also had many physical injuries including a very bad knee. He's been sent home to recover but is depressed and suicidal. 

When Eleanor, who is a nascent Fire Master, manages to tweak the spell binding her enough to venture to the field where Reggie used to keep his airplane, the two meet again. Reggie is one of the few who recognize her as Eleanor Robinson. The two rekindle their friendship and Eleanor's good sense helps him deal with some of his injuries.

Meanwhile, Eleanor's stepmother is determined to get Reggie to marry one or the other of her odious daughters and is willing to use her dark magic to accomplish her goals. It will take both Reggie and Eleanor to defeat her plans.

I loved the lyrical style of the writing, the details about the privations suffered both on the battlefield and at home during World War I, and the wonderful and richly drawn characters in this story. The narrator did an excellent job with the various characters.

Favorite Quote:
Eleanor looked up and lifted an eyebrow. "I think I see why you never married, Sarah," she replied, with irony.

Sarah laughed. "Well, and I reckon if I wanted something that'd come and go as he pleased, take me for granted, and ignore me when he chose, I'd get a cat. And if I wanted something I'd always have to be picking up after, getting into trouble, but slavishly devoted, I'd get a dog."
I bought and read the hardcover in 2004. The Kindle and audiobook are recent purchases. You can buy your copy here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love getting comments. Let me know what you think.

This blog is now officially declared an Award Free zone! I do appreciate your kindness in thinking of me and I am humbled by your generosity.

Your comments are award enough for me. Comment away!