This Elemental Masters book does not seem to follow the usual fairytale format. Instead, this is one of those “faery bride/groom” stories. The story follows Mari, a young woman with a great deal of magical power who discovers the secret behind her family’s unusual luck. Meanwhile, two young women need something to do that they might actually be good at; they are dispatched to locate a new Water Master.
The Elemental Master books tend to be very hit or miss for me. In this case, it was mostly hit with a few misses. Our heroine is reasonably interesting and strong minded, and I would have really liked the story to be mostly about her, instead of also being about the other two girls who are apparently characters from one of the Elemental Master books I have not read yet. Nan and Sarah are certainly interesting characters, as are their pet birds, but I was more interested in Mari’s story than in Nan and Sarah’s. (Also, I was kind of annoyed about the way they were inserted into the story. They were apparently asked to go on an investigation because they were useless as teachers. The reasons why they were judged to be bad at teaching kids seemed kind of ridiculous to me, considering they are both young and inexperienced. )
Other minor problems I had with the book are the narrative elements around Mari’s father and the nosey constable who had been recently assigned to Mari’s village. Let us start with Mari’s father. Early on, Mari’s father is depicted as being a very lucky, prosperous fisherman with a tendency to be reckless. It turns out that the reason why he is reckless is because he is being protected by the Selch (magical beings with the ability to change into a seal or into a human), with whom his family has a Bargain that amounts to a marriage alliance. Later on, once Mari becomes aware of the Bargain, suddenly her father is incompetent and “feckless,” even though his only possibly “feckless” behavior is going out into storms, (which is reasonably safe for him, considering he is being protected).
The nosey constable is someone who has been recently assigned to the area due to a mine strike. He is extremely unwelcome to the village as he is stupid and rude. The constable is mostly there to serve as a kind of additional nuisance while Mari deals with the Selch clan chief who appears to be the actual villain in the story. The constable decides to poke around Mari’s home for no stated reason or motivation, and he does not seem to have much characterization beyond “stupid bully.” (I do not object to a character being nothing more than a stupid bully. I do object when the stupid bully character isn’t even really necessary to the story. Also, he was incredibly boring as far as antagonists go.)
Aside from these issues, the book is entertaining, and a very fast read.