I’m quite a fan of Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series and just finished Steadfast. Most of the other books are about Masters, but this book is about “regular” Elemental Magicians. It seems to fit in sometime in the late 1800s – although I don’t think the date is specifically mentioned. It does reference a character (Jack) returning from the Boer war – I’m assuming the second Boer war (1899 – 1902).
There are three main characters in this book.
Lionel Hawkins is an Air Magician who makes his living as a stage magician. His show is enhanced by the Elemental creatures of Air that like to help out and show off. Changing his act each season, Lionel has stuck with the same venue which has some advantages, and some disadvantages. The biggest disadvantage is finding and keeping a good assistant. His latest assistant, Suzie, has met a fellow and is waiting for someone else to fill her shoes so she can go get married.
Enter Katie Langford, a small half-Traveler who is on the run. Formerly an acrobat and dance with the circus, she has escaped from her brutish, cruel, and vengeful husband. She’s just the sort of assistant that Lionel is looking for – more so, because Katie has magic herself. An untrained and unawakened Fire Magician, it’s up to Lionel and Jack to help Katie discover and control her magic.
Jack Prescott is a former soldier who lost his leg in the Boer War. He now works as the theater’s stage doorman. He also happens to be a fire mage. Suffering from the guilt of not speaking out against the atrocities of that war, Jack is everything that Katie’s husband is not – kind, thoughtful, and bent on bolstering Katie rather than beating her down.
Katie must learn control, before her thug of a husband tracks her down.
I thought this was an interesting read in light of the recent Jian Ghomeshi allegations… since there is a significant feminist / suffragette theme to the book. How could there not be, when the main adversary is Katie’s husband. At that point in English history, women had few rights, which meant that wife-beaters were protected by the legal system. Jack’s revelations on the plight of Suffragettes was powerful – and explicit.
I loved Jack’s back-story and character. He really made the book for me, though I did like Katie. I like how she slowly formed a backbone, and learned some valuable lessons along the way.
I did enjoy this book, although it definitely reminds me of Reserved for the Cat, another Elemental Master’s novel with a very similar setting. I don’t recall liking that as much as I did the story of Katie and Jack, although it’s been a while since I read it.
I do so love historical fiction that cleverly adds in magic, so I’ll give this one a 4/5!