Friday, November 28, 2008

Retelling of: Snow White

The Serpent's Shadow by Mercedes Lackey

Mercedes Lackey's heroine is Maya Witherspoon, the daughter of an English surgeon and a high-caste Hindu woman, who has inherited both her father's doctoring talents and her mother's magical abilities. Maya flees to London in the early 20th century because her mother's evil sister, Shivani, has murdered both her parents. Maya creates a new home for herself in the strange city with the help of her loyal household servant, Gupta, and her seven pets she inherited from her mother, which are more than what they seem. Alas, Shivani pursues Maya to London, but our heroine has many loyal friends to will come to her aid, including the handsome Peter Cook, a British elemental Water Master.

This novel is so well crafted that I didn't even know that I was reading a retelling of a fairytale until the second reading! Lackey gives the novel a whimsical quality by enhancing the London world with magic, elemental masters, and supernatural pets. Moreover, the author also discusses serious topics such as mixed parentage and racial and gender prejudices, as well as the mistrust of foreigners, women's sufferage and Hinduism. I know that sounds like a lot packed into a couple hundred pages, but it all fits and flows really nicely together.

Other retellings of fairy tales in the Elemental Masters series include:

The Gates of Sleep is the story of Marina Rosewood, a woman who was cursed in her infancy and raised in the countryside by three of her parent's closest friends. However, when tragedy strikes, Marina is forced to go live with the same aunt who placed the curse on her as an infant. Can Marina escape her aunt's clutches and break the curse?

Phoenix and Ashes is a tale of the repercussions and pain of war, as well as the story of a young woman forced into servitude by her wicked stepmother, a dark Earth-mage. Our heroine, Eleanor Robinson, a budding Fire-mage, is magically bound to the household hearth, after her father dies in the trenches in WWI. Yet this doesn't stop Eleanor from falling for a neighboring baron, an Air Master and war hero. If only she can make it to the costume ball, then perhaps her lot in life will change.

The Wizard of London follows the adventures of two young girls boarded at the Harton School for Boys and Girls, a school dedicated to teaching children with magic that does not pertain to the four natural elements. Sarah Jane is the daughter of missionary parents away in Africa and Nan is a smart ex-street urchin, both attending the Harton school. Together the two friends develop their own unique abilities and face a dark, insidious woman in this retelling of the Snow Queen and Grey's Ghost.

Resevered for the Cat is the tale of young ballet dancer, Ninette Dupond, who strives to become a famous dancer. Following the advise of her feline friend Thomas, who is actually an Elemental Master, Ninette impersonates a famed Russian ballet dancer. Yet the recognition that Ninette receives arouses the attention of another more sinister nature, a dangerous elemental spirit, one that seeks to use Ninette for its own purposes.

The Fire Rose artfully weaves the real world event of the 1905 San Fransisco earthquake with the tale of Beauty and the Beast. Rosalind Hawkins leaves her home in Chicago for San Fransisco to become a governess in the household of a wealthy rail baron and Fire Master, Jason Cameron. Upon arrival however, Rosalind discovers that there are no children, but that it was her services as a medievalist and classical scholar that were wanted instead. And so, Rosalind settles in as research assistant to a man whose face she is forbidden to see.

The Black Swan delves into the tale of Swan Lake from the perspective of Odile, the lonely and manipulated child of Baron Eric von Rothbart, as she watches and cares for the enchanted flock of swan maidens. As Odile develops a closer bond with the enchanted maidens she discovers that her father is not the honorable individual she thought he was. Will Odile challenge her father's authority and help the women she has come to call her friends?

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