Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Wizard of London (Elemental Mages #5), by Mercedes Lackey


DAW Hardcover, ISBN 9780756401740, October 2005

I listened to the audio edition. Amazon continues its foolishly short-sighted practice of not allowing linking to Audible editions, even though they own Audible and presumably make money from the sale of Audible editions. So, I'm linking to a print edition.

I hadn't read any Lackey in quite a while, having grown tired of what I thought of as her typical output. A friend recommended this, and I was very pleasantly surprised.

This is a "secret history" set in late Victorian England, with Elemental Mages (who possess what we would call magical powers based in the four elemental powers of earth, air, fire, and water) and the Gifted and Talented (who possess what we would call psychic powers, which are in this world referred to as occult powers) operate quietly behind the scenes, with most of the population unaware of their existence.

Isabelle Harton, with her husband Frederick, runs the Harton School for Boys and Girls, intended to serve the children of British soldiers, missionaries, and government officials serving abroad, as well as the "gifted and talented" children who aren't adequately served by the more numerous schools serving those with Elemental powers. Sarah Jane, just nine years old, is sent to the Harton School from Africa, where her parents are missionary healers. Sarah Jane is clearly among the Talented, but it's not clear what her gift is, and of course her parents do not commit that information to pen and paper. Sarah Jane settles in quickly, and befriends a street urchin, Nan, who has her own problems and, it turns out, her own Talent, and all is well for a time.

Then it becomes clear that Sarah Jane has the rarest of all Talents, a genuine ability to communicate with the spirits of the dead. Shortly thereafter, there is an attempt by an elemental master to arrange the deaths of both girls.

Isabelle and Frederick, who have been concerned for a bit that the sudden gathering of several Talented children in London means that those Talents will be needed, now know that the girls are in immediate danger, and must find the source of the threat and the real aim of whoever their unknown enemy is. This is a fun, engaging adventure with well-drawn characters, not just the girls themselves and the other principal members of the Harton household, but their enemies and allies, including Robin Goodfellow (yes, that one), David Alderscroft, the Fire Mage who courted and jilted Isabelle many years ago, and his mentor, the Air Mage Lady Cordelia.

Very enjoyable, and I'm planning to look up the earlier books in the serious. Recommended.

I borrowed this book from a friend.