Book Review: Steadfast by Mercedes Lackey

DAW
298 pp.

This installment of the Elemental Masters series is a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Steadfast Tin Soldier.” Our “ballerina” is a circus acrobat and dancer named Katie who is on the run from an abusive spouse. Our “tin soldier” is a former soldier named Jack Prescott who is an elemental magician of Fire. Our “goblin” is Katie’s husband, a ne’er-do-well named Dick, who was the Strong Man at the circus where Katie was previously employed. Since this revamp is not a precise retelling of the fairy tale, we also have Jack’s friend, Lionel Hawkins. Lionel is an elemental magician of Air, who works as a stage magician at the music hall where Jack works as a doorman. There are also a number of other helpful individuals.

After being assisted by a family of Travelers, Katie arrives at the resort town where Lionel and Jack live. She is soon hired by Lionel as his assistant. Shortly after she is hired, Lionel and Jack realize that Katie is also an elemental mage but is completely unaware of this. Since her element is Fire and they can also see that she is on the run, they set about finding a way to help her before she spontaneously combusts.

The first obstacle is getting Katie to believe in magic. The second obstacle is Katie’s husband. The third obstacle are the laws of the time period that the story takes place in, which make separating from an abusive spouse extremely difficult. (Mostly because being beaten and emotionally abused were not considered sufficient reasons to leave a marriage, nor was assaulting one’s spouse considered a crime.)

This is one of the better books in the Elemental Masters series though there is a slightly disturbing subtext where it seems that the only reason Katie is getting helped is because of something she is rather than because she needs help. As an example, it’s pretty clear that the only reason the Travelers help Katie is because she is part Traveler. Likewise, Jack and Lionel are mostly moved to help her because she is also an Elemental magician of an extremely volatile element and she might literally explode from the stress she is experiencing. Given the darkness of the storyline, the romantic elements of the story don’t really stand out or hold together, though the characters are likable individually. This particular installment of the series is a fast read, though not a very light one given the more grim elements of the story, which tend toward the heavy handed and deeply disturbing.


Steadfast: (Elemental Masters #8) on Amazon

Steadfast (Elemental Masters #8) on Powell’s Books

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Filed under fantasy, Mercedes Lackey, revamped fairytale, Review: Book

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