Home From the Sea: An Elemental Masters Novel
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I’ve been a faithful fan of Mercedes Lackey’s novels for many years. I’ve read every Valdemar book and have taken a lot of pleasure in her Elemental Masters tales. Much as I love them, it’s hard not to notice that the quality of the novels has gone downhill over the past several years. Home from the Sea is entertaining, but as stories go, it’s rather shallow.
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“Mari Prothero has lived all her life with her father, Daffyd, in a tiny fishing village on the coast of Wales. Though Daffyd takes his boat out on the sea regardless of weather, Mari has learned not to fear for his safety, for her father is a Water mage, and always comes home safely with a large catch. Mari knows that in her family, children are expected to marry at eighteen, to an appropriate stranger. However, Mari is a fledgling Water Master with a rebellious nature. She has no intention of agreeing to any arranged marriage. But Mari has yet to learn the truth of the magical heritage that must be protected by these very marriages. For the Protheros are descended from Selkies—magical beings who are able to change from seals to humans—and to continue her line, she must marry a full-blooded Selkie…”
If I had to pick one word to describe this novel, I think the one that I would use is “pleasant”. The book is fairly well written. It has characters that are likeable, and it has a few characters that you love to hate. It has a detailed setting, utilizing both land and ocean. It has both the mundane and magical. In short, it seems to hit pretty much every element that you might want in a retold fairly tale. The problem is that it’s kind of paint-by-numbers. None of these elements really shine on their own and define the story.
For example, there’s a constable that shows up in Mari’s town. He’s there almost from page one, and it’s obvious that he was sent by parties unknown to stir up trouble. Unfortunately, he never rises to anything more than an annoyance, showing up at intervals to be unpleasant and then vanishing again until more unpleasantness is needed. It’s like the author felt that a complication was needed, and she created this poor guy to fill the need and never took him beyond that. He really doesn’t add anything to the plot.
This seems to be the main issue that I have with this book: there are too many things in it that have nothing to do with the main plot. The constable only shows up to be a monkey wrench in the works. Two mages from a previous book, Sarah and Nan, take up fully half of the novel and contribute nothing to the main Selkie storyline—they seem to be there only to watch and be another point of view for the main narrative.
And yet, I would still describe the novel as “pleasant”. It’s certainly readable—I finished it in a day or so—and it’s definitely engaging. I just don’t happen to think that it’s constructed as well as it could have been. I’d like to see this series get back to how it was in the earlier books, when each book was tightly focused on one specific fairy tale and wove that story into an historical setting. I enjoyed getting to know Mari, but her tale wasn’t on par with previous books.
Home from the Sea is a light novel, long on description and atmosphere but short on the basic mechanics that make a novel work as a seamless unit. I can’t say that I didn’t like it, but I can say that there is much in it that could have been improved upon.
Also by this author: Beauty and the Werewolf, Brightly Burning, Changes, Changing the World, Conspiracies (with Rosemary Edghill), Crossroads, Elemental Magic, Exile’s Honor, Exile’s Valor, Finding the Way, The Firebird, The Gates of Sleep, Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit, Intrigues, Joust, Legacies (with Rosemary Edghill), Phoenix and Ashes, Redoubt, Sacrifices (with Rosemary Edghill), The Serpent’s Shadow, Steadfast, Take a Thief, Under the Vale, Unnatural Issue
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on June 27, 2012.