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WesternSFA
Elementary
Edited by Mercedes Lackey
Daw Books, 2013, $7.99, 313pp
Release Date: December 3, 2013
These 19 short stories all deal with magic, and the people who wield magic based on an affiliation with one of the elements of nature: fire, water, earth, or air. The stories are linked to the Elemental Masters series of novels - a few even feature cameo appearances by characters from the books - but many of them are set in times and countries other than Victorian England, thus widening the scope considerably. The mix ranges from humor (“Fire-Water” by Samuel C. Conway) to historical (Diana Paxton’s “Fire Song”) to horror (“London Falling”) by Ben Ohlander, and includes some good coming-of-age stories, in the sense of coming into one’s power and learning that with power comes responsibility.

Here are a few highlights, in addition to the ones already named. “Fire’s Daughter,” by Elisabeth Waters, takes a serious look at how inequal rights can affect a talented person. “Sails of the Armada” by Kristin Schwengel carries on a long tradition of speculating that elemental magic was involved in the destruction of the Spanish fleet sent to conquer England in the summer of 1588. “Air of Deception” by Jody Lynn Nye, is about espionage, perfume, and subtlety. The crippled heroine of “Arms of the Sea,” by Tanya Huff, demonstrates that while her back may be broken, her spirit is not. “Bone Dance” is a steampunky Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde tale with a nifty allusion to one of Shakespeare’s oddest stage directions (from the play Pericles, if memory serves). “The Flying Contraption,” by Ron Collins, is part Sorcerer’s Apprentice and part Eureka, as a ten-year-old girl named Daisy accidentally helps two brothers named Orville and Wilbur solve a problem having to do with air flow. The last story is Lackey’s own “Into the Woods.” I don’t want to spill the beans, so I’ll just say that it packs a wallop and rescues a fairy tale from its own bad history. (Take that, Bruno Bettelheim!)

There are some fine writers here, and I’m delighted to see this expansion of one of my favorite series. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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