Friday, October 9, 2015

The Serpent's Shadow


Today's post is on The Serpent's Shadow by Mercedes Lackey. It is the second her Elemental Masters series. It is 343 pages long and is published by DAW. The cover is blue with the main character on it with her seven animal companions. The intended reader is someone who likes fantasy, magic, and a little fun with history. There is no sex, no language, and only a little violence in this book. The story is told from the perspectives of the main character. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the dust jacket- Maya Witherspoon has lived most of the first twenty-five years of her life in her native India. As the daughter of a prominent British physician and a Brahmin woman of the highest caste, she had known only luxury. Trained by her father in the medical arts since she was old enough to read, she graduated from the University of Delhi as a Doctor of Medicine by the age of twenty-two. Welcomed into her father's lucrative practice, she treated many of the wives and daughters of the British military personnel who made up a large percentage of their patients in the colonial India on 1909.
But the science of medicine was not Maya's only heritage. For Maya's aristocratic mother Surya had not just defied her family, friends, and religion to marry May's father, she had turned her back on her family's powerful magical traditions as well. For her mother was a sorceress- a former priestess of the mystical magics fueled by the powerful and fearsome pantheon of Indian gods.
Though Maya felt the stirring of magic in her blood, her mother had repeatedly refused to train her. "I cannot," she had said, her eyes dark with distress, whenever Maya asked. "Yours is the magic of your father's blood, not mine..." Surya had never had the chance to explain this enigmatic statement to her daughter, before cholera claimed her life. Yet Maya suspected that something far more sinister than the virulent disease had overcome her powerful mother.
But it was Maya's father's death shortly thereafter which confirmed her darkest suspicions. For her father was killed by the bite of a krait, a tiny venomous snake, In the last hours of her mother's life, in the seeming delirium of her final fever, Surya had repeatedly warned Maya to beware "the serpent's shadow." With the sudden loss of her father, Maya knew she must flee the land of her birth or face the same fate as her parents.
In self-imposed exile in London, Maya surrounded herself with every protection possible. All the magic Maya knew had been learned by covertly observing her mother, and by cobbling this knowledge together with the street-magic gleaned from a few genuine fakirs. Her workings were a mixture of instinct, extrapolation, and trail-and-error. Crude, but somewhat effective, her spells let Maya hide household behind a wall of secrecy in a poorer section of the city. Here, in a small but adequate house, she lived with only the most loyal of her mother's servant and her mother's seven unusual "pets"- if you could use such a word for creatures who seemed for more like friends. For Charan, the little monkey, Rajah, the peacock, Mala, the falcon, Sia and Singhe, the mongooses, Rhadi, the parrot, and Nisha, the owl, seemed far too sentient to be ordinary animals. Maya knew that these seven unusual and loving companions had been in some way special to her mother, but their secrets were hidden from her, perhaps forever.
In her new home she fought the dual prejudices against her sex and her race to continue in her medical profession. Inly her scholastic abilities and her extreme determination enabled her to meet with any success. She managed to placed herself in a minor position at a prestigious hospital while she pursued her own medical passions: helping the poor at a tiny clinic where the welcomed any doctor, and setting up a small, controversial practice which specialized in "female complaints" and offered "absolute discretion."
But Maya knew that she could not hide forever from the vindictive power which had murdered her parents. She knew in her heart that even a vast ocean couldn't protect her from "the serpent's shadow" which has so terrified her mother. Her only hope was to find a way to mater her own magic: the magic of her father's blood. But who would teach her? And could she learn enough to save her life by the time her relentless pursuers caught up with their prey?

Review- This is a fun read. It is not very historically accurate but it a great deal of fun. The magic system is based on the four basic elements and people who can use them. There is another magic system but Maya cannot use that one, so we the readers do not get to understand it. But other than playing fast and loose with history this is a good book. I liked the characters, I liked the plot, and I really liked the world. We do not get as much magic in this as in the first book in this world The Fire Rose but we get more world-building itself. We have a pretty good idea about that this world is very like our own and can see the differences without problem. The dialog is good, the pacing is good but the sense of time is not there. I think that this book takes about a year overall but there is no real way to know other than when Lackey talks about the weather but that is only done in passing. I look forward to reading the next one.

I give this book a Four out of Five stars. I get nothing for my review and I borrowed this book from my local library.