Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Healing Magic

I have been looking for some new series to get into as I have thoroughly exhausted my regulars, so I have been scouring the bookshelves for something new to try.  Mercedes Lackey is an author I enjoy, and she has about 1000 different series for me to choose from, so I picked up The Serpent's Shadow, the first in the Elemental Masters series.  I LOVED IT!  As always SPOILERS AHEAD!
Maya Witherspoon is the daughter of an English military doctor and a high caste Brahmin.  Maya grew up in India, learning the art of healing from her father, finishing school and becoming a doctor in her own right.  From her mother, Maya learned to believe in magic, watching her mother who was a powerful magic user.  Maya herself has magic, but according to her mother it is not the magic of her people, but rather her fathers and to learn it she must go seek out others who use her kind of magic.  After the untimely death of her parents Maya and her household flee to London to avoid the same fate.  Maya gets sets up a practice in her own house, catering mostly to the poor, the theatre workers, the "kept"women, and anybody else in need of a discreet physician who does not mind if she is female.  Maya also works in the charity hospital a few times a week for free.  Maya is lucky enough to have received a substantial inheritance from her parents, allowing her to own a house modified to her own purposes, including a conservatory filled with tropical flowers and the home to several exotic animals.   The animals were another gift from her mother and consist of two
mongooses, a small monkey, a parrot, a peacock, a hawk, and an owl, all who are much more then they seem. Maya along with her friend Ameilia (who is training to be a physician) work against the ingrained sexism to help as many as they can.  Maya has an extra weapon to help her with her healing, she is able to access the magic of the earth to assist her in her physiking.  Maya's use of magic triggers the interest of the White Lodge, a group of men who are considered Elemental Masters, essentially people who have a magical affinity for one of the four elements, Water, Air, Fire or Earth and have mastered the use of it.  There is some controversy as the Lodge has no Earth masters, as almost all the Earth masters are female or lower class and God forbid they allow either of those into their vaunted club.  Peter Scott, a Water Master is one of the rare non upper class magic users allowed in the Lodge and he is tasked with finding out about Maya.  He meets Maya and the two get along well, with Peter offering to teach Maya as much as he can and then finding her an Earth Master to finishing her tutelage.  Meanwhile, Maya discovers her mothers sister Shivani is the one who is intent on killing Maya.  She is intent on this because of the fact that Maya's mother married an English man and gave birth to a "half-breed" daughter.  Maya, Peter, the pets, and a few others band together to defeat the evil through the combination of their various magics and the help of some of the Indian gods and goddesses.  Peter and Maya marry, convince the Lodge to open up and they all live happily ever after until the next book.
I have to admit that I picked this series to start because the book was all yellow and teal and awesome.  I am glad I did 'cause I loved this book, and hopefully will love the rest of the series as well. What I loved the most about this book is that it centered on medicine, one of my passions is medicine (which is also what pays the bills, so that works out well for me) so any story that uses the medical profession in a fairly accurate manner makes me very happy.  I appreciated how the author combined the medicine and the magic together, not using magic as a way to totally skip over conventional medicine, but more of a way to augment what they were doing, getting bones to mend faster after they had been set, encouraging skin to heal after surgery, things like that.  I also really liked how Maya practiced medicine through out the whole book, not just until
Peter found her.  Too many books will really do a great job with whatever convention they are using to launch the story, but then it peters out as the "action" takes over.  This book had Maya working on patients until the very last page, in very interesting and fairly accurate ways.   I loved learning about India (which is one of my favorite countries, just for the sheer diversity of it) and of course now must research all of the various gods, goddesses and other various goodies I read about. I also liked that we got to see things from the "bad guys" perspective, we got to see the motivation of Shivani and why she was so intent on violence and murder.  I love it when this happens because for me it gives a much more plausible feel to the whole thing. One thing that was kind of cool, especially near the end is that you could see where the author payed homage to a few fairy tales, and Snow White in particular with the whole old woman with the poisoned apple bit, the seven small animals/companions, and even the kissing the dusky maiden awake thing (though that was for a reason, not just true love).  The few things I did not enjoy so much were pretty minor, I felt like the author was shoving the women's lib and racism down our throats, it got a bit heavy handed at times, but did not detract from the over all story so it was bearable. A few times I felt that the solution to some of the characters problems were a bit pat, or a bit over the top, but it was still fun.  The other thing that was a bit more of an issue was that the reader does not get a whole lot of info on how the Elemental Masters thing worked.  The focus was more on Maya and her unconventional combining of magics and techniques and her training was glossed over pretty quickly.  We see Peter use his Water Mastery a bit, but again no real insight into how it works.  I am hopeful later books will remedy this.  Overall the story flowed beautifully, the characters where fairly well fleshed out, the little extras that make a book special were all in there, and the cover was just awesome.  I give this book an 8 out of 10 shadow snakes.
How do you choose a new series? Do you love it as much as I do when a book accurately portrays your profession?  What is my deal with yellow covers?

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