Phoenix and Ashes by Mercedes Lackey
Fans have endured a long three-year wait for the Elemental Masters’ return, but they need not languish in suspense any longer. Mercedes Lackey sets her Cinderella tale against the backdrop of World War I in Phoenix and Ashes.
Eleanor Robinson’s fortunes have gone from good to intolerable. When her father remarried, she found herself relegated to the status of a servant. But upon her father’s untimely death in France, the horror truly begins: Her stepmother, Alison, cuts off one of Eleanor’s little fingers and uses it to magically bind her to the house in utter servitude. Freedom still may be at hand, though, in the forms of Eleanor’s godmother (also a mage) and the little creatures that live in the fire.
Eleanor isn’t her stepmother’s only target. Reggie Fenyx, a pilot and Air Master, has come home wounded and shell-shocked. While trapped in a collapsed bunker and tormented by Earth monsters, he shut himself off from his power. He must regain it before Alison launches an attempt to marry him off to one of her daughters. She’ll use any means to achieve her ends, magical or mundane, because Dark Masters never are satisfied with anything less than destruction. Even greater dangers await both Reggie and Eleanor, unless a way is found to fight back.
Lackey departs slightly from the series’ previous novels by making Eleanor a little less competent and confident. She’s by no means a weakling, but neither does she display the indomitable will of past heroines. Though not what readers may expect, Eleanor is perhaps more realistic for her moments of doubt and desperation.
An absolutely fascinating plot line uses the Tarot deck as a magical teaching tool. Eleanor is tutored in her dreams, as she confronts and learns to understand the archetypal symbols of the Major Arcana. The metaphoric encounters free the author to be more creative and imaginative, which draws readers into the tale in a unique way. This also allows an entirely different world to be introduced and explored.
Metaphor meets magic as Elemental powers clash in this wholly enjoyable novel. Phoenix and Ashes delivers a strong, colorful story.