Rereading Elemental Masters (4)

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Three books this time because I seem to be on a binge.

6. Unnatural Issue

This is the one I always dread because of the very disgusting villain. Isn’t there another way for villains to be bad than to be sexually depraved and/or disgusting? (The villain from Reserved for the Cat is disgusting too, in a different way, and that’s much more functional.) But when it’s good it’s very good. The protagonist actually has agency, though she doesn’t really seem to know that she does, and ends up with absolutely the right people.

I hate the original fairy tale (Donkeyskin) too, for that matter. Reviewers are recommending Robin McKinley’s Deerskin instead, but I hate that even more.

I don’t mind slow pacing, on the contrary! What I do mind is the Elemental Masters gimmick of putting a protagonist in a perfectly comfortable situation for 60% or even 80% of the book and then WRECKING IT ALL. This one isn’t as bad as some of the others, but it has the gimmick all right. At least the protagonist gets to learn to be a real nurse, after she’s been working as an unqualified but effective nurse for some time. I’d have been disappointed if she’d only (spoiler) married Peter Almsley and been relegated to charity work or whatever afterwards.

7. Home from the Sea

Stakes aren’t high in this one, but that’s okay. People on Goodreads complain that there’s no plot to speak of, just daily life, but that’s okay too. People just live!

I have a strong feeling that Mercedes Lackey used a pop-history Welsh folklore book as source for all the Welsh customs, because they seem over the top and pasted on at times.

There’s gratuitous sexism, but I can shake that off as “sign of the times”. It does say “the Club and the Lodge are closed to the fair sex” at some point, after Maya Witherspoon has already been admitted, but there are more of those continuity glitches in the series so I’ll just let it go. (Eager to get my grabby copy-editor hands on the series, though. There are worse things, much worse.)

The villains are, for a change, mild and not disgusting at all: the one on the land is just annoying and, eventually, laughable, the one from the sea seems harsh but turns out to be powerless against Mari’s intelligence and resourcefulness. This may just be my (current) favourite because of that.

8. Steadfast

It’s so good for so long, why does Dick (nice punny name) have to come and spoil it like this? In other words, very bad case of the Elemental Masters gimmick. At 74% according to my e-reader.

I’d like it a lot better if “Africa” wasn’t presented as one country. Come on, the Boer War didn’t encompass the whole continent! Name names, confound it!

Also, giving in to misogyny a bit much? “The man is her husband. He has every right to do what he likes with her, and the law will support him.” *shudder* Perhaps that was indeed the case in Edwardian England, come to think of it. I don’t want to research it.

It’s in the same vein as Reserved for the Cat but with much less magic — no magic cat, no supernatural villain — so I’m wavering between “much better” and “much worse”. I think they both need to exist, anyway.


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