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Goats, gripes, and grasping for greatness
Books: Elemental Magic, edited by Mercedes Lackey 
10th-Dec-2012 10:09 pm
Read Irresponsibly
Elemental Magic, edited by Mercedes Lackey. Fantasy, paperback, 311 pages. Anthology.

This anthology is a set of short magic stories set in the Lackey Elemental Masters world, with the two guiding boundaries of a focus on the Greek elements (plus spirit) and nothing more modern than 1919. Interestingly, while one character focuses on vengeance, none of the stories have the main character as the antagonist, the evil archanist, or the corrupted one. They all have heroes, heroines, and upstanding warriors for the good. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. It's a Misty Lackey book. That is what you get for your money.

To the negative, there was a fair amount of repetition in the "ignorant young woman/boy suddenly discovers her/his powers and saves the day" style of story. There were also two "you don't have to be evil!" confrontations, three "girl/boy with weak powers (who will never be a Master) is good enough after all," and enough giggling sylphs to make me check that they came from different authors.

To the positive, the stories did span a huge range of timelines and locations. For example, there were two very different stories set in Hawaii (one native - "Makana" - and one invasive - "Queen of the Mountain" ) and one totally different-tasting story sitting in the mountains of the Old West - "For the Sake of Clarity." I also appreciate that two of the stories set in the New World were not whitewashed. One of them had the very blatant lesson to not ignore the servant class ("Tha Thu Ann"), while the other one had a disabled black man for the hero of the tale ("The Collector"). The story about an altar boy figuring out his Element in "Fire's Children" was so comfortably formulaic that I could feel the ending sliding over me like a blanket, or perhaps like a true priest's blessing.

As is the Lackey style, some of the stories pulled from legends and fables we already know. "A Song of the Sea" invoked the deadly Sirens. "The Fire within Him" borrowed from Icarus. "To Ride the River-Horse" took the story of Rapunzel to Wales. Other stories borrowed the elemental friends, such as "The Phoenix of Mulberry Street", and gave them new incarnations. In general, the stories' conflicts were small, the tragedies personal or local, and the elemental escapades irrelevant to greater history. "War to the Knife" was a rare exception, set as Napoleon left Spain.

It may be to Lackey's editorial credit that none of the stories stood out as superb, and none of the stories stood out as abysmal, either. Elemental Magic was a uniformly good collection of enjoyable tales from various perspectives. There was just enough variety to keep me interested, and enough similarity to make this book an easy entry into the assumptions of how magic works in this universe.

I picked this book up because I really enjoyed some of the Lackey Elemental Masters series - namely The Fire Rose and The Serpents Shadow - and wanted to read other authors' takes on that world. I recommend this book to fans of the Elementals series, and for people who enjoy anthologies on such a theme. The magic is easy to understand in these stories, and this is a good light reading gift for anyone unfamiliar with the Elemental Masters world.

New-to-me Books for 2012

January
House of the Star by Caitlin Brennan, YA fantasy. 282 pages; hardback; stand-alone. 3/5 stars on Goodreads (3 = "liked it"), 4/5 stars on Amazon (4 = "liked it"); straight into the giveawaybox (eta: gone)
Gwenhwyfar by Mercedes Lackey, Fantasy. 404 pages; hardback; stand-alone. 2/5 stars on Goodreads (2 = "it was OK"), 3/5 stars on Amazon (3 = "it was OK"); straight into the giveawaybox (eta: gone)
Blood Engines by T.A. Pratt, Urban fantasy. 336 pages; paperback; first in the series. 3/5 stars on Goodreads (3 = "liked it"), 4/5 stars on Amazon (4 = "liked it"); going to keep it around and loan it to friends
Hexed edited by uncredited, listed under the first author, Ilona Andrews. Urban Fantasy, 326 pages. Paperback; anthology of four novellas. 3/5 stars on Goodreads, 4/5 stars on Amazon; going to loan it to friends who like Kate Daniels, then likely give it away.
Paranormalcy, by Kiersten White. YA Fantasy, 335 pages. Hardback; first in the series. [3/5 on Goodreads] Giveawaybox. (eta: gone)
Stormwalker, by Allyson James. Urban Fantasy, 330 pages. Paperback; first in the series. [3/5 on Goodreads] Giveawaybox. (eta: gone)
The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson. YA Fantasy, 423 pages. Hardback, stand-alone. [3/5 on Goodreads] Giveawaybox. (eta: gone)
Shadow Ops: Control Point, by Myke Cole. Urban Fantasy... sort of... 382 pages. Paperback, first in the series. [4/5 on Goodreads] Giveawaybox.

February
Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson, fantasy. 672 pages. Paperback; first in the series.[4/5 on Goodreads] Borrowed.
Westward Weird edited by Martin Greenberg and Kerrie Hughes. Hell-if-I-know, 302 pages. Paperback, anthology. [3/5 on Goodreads] Giveawaybox.(eta: gone)
Discount Armageddon, by Seanan McGuire. Urban fantasy, 360 pages. Paperback; first in the series. Keeping it for now.

March
Fair Game, by Patricia Briggs, Urban fantasy. 293 pages; hardback; third in the series. Keeping it.
The Modern Fae's Guide to Surviving Humanity, edited by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray, Urban fantasy. 308 pages; paperback; anthology. Giveawaybox.(eta: gone)
Tempting Danger, by Eileen Wilks. Paranormal romance, 301 pages. Paperback, first in the series. Giveawaybox.(eta: gone)
Too Much Information, by Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes. Comic book, 127 pages. Paperback. 9th in the series. Keeping it.
Touch of Power, by Maria V. Snyder. Fantasy romance. 390 pages, paperback. First in the series. Giveawaybox.(eta: gone)
Out Whom Shall We Gross?, by Brooke McEldowney. Comic book. 87 pages, paperback. First in the series. Keeping it.
Sonata for Piano and Armpit, by Brooke McEldowney. Comic book. 87 pages, paperback. Second in the series. Keeping it.
Sphinx's Princess, by Esther Friesner. YA Fantasy. 365 pages, paperback. First in the duology. It was a loan. 4/5 on GoodReads.
Sphinx's Queen, by Esther Friesner. YA Fantasy. 347 pages, paperback. Second in the duology. It was a loan. 4/5 on GoodReads.

April
Bone Shop, by T. A. Pratt. Urban Fantasy. Online. Prequel to the Marla Mason series.
Kitemaster and Other Stories, by Jim C. Hines. Fantasy. e-book anthology. 3/5 on GoodReads, 4/5 on Amazon.
How is that Underling Thing Working out for You?, by Scott Adams. 128 pages, paperback. Comic. Keeping it.
Teamwork Means You Can't Pick the Side That's Right by Scott Adams. 128 pages, paperback. Comic. Keeping it.
The Sentinel Mage, by Emily Gee. Fantasy. 509 pages, paperback. First in the trilogy. It was a loan. 4/5 on GoodReads; 4/5 on Amazon.

May
Dragon Ship, by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. e-ARC. Science Fiction. Fourth in the series; 14th in the Universe.
Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers, YA fantasy. 549 pages; hardback; stand-alone. Giveawaybox. 4/5 on GoodReads; 4/5 on Amazon.(eta: gone)
Eon, by Allison Goodman. YA Fantasy. 531 pages, paperback. First in the duology. It was a loan.
Silence, by Michele Sagara. YA Fantasy. 289 pages, hardback. First in the series. Keeping it.
Divergent, by Veronica Roth. YA Dystopia, paperback, 487 pages of story, 72 pages of afterwards. First in the duology.
Princeps, by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. Fantasy. 496 pages; hardback; fifth/second in the series. Keeping it.
Black Blade Blues, by L. A. Pratt. Urban Fantasy. 398 pages; paperback; first in the series. It was a loan.

June
Home from the Sea by Mercedes Lackey, fantasy. 311 pages; hardback; seventh/eighth in the series. Keeping it for now.
Kitty's Greatest Hits by Carrie Vaughn, urban fantasy. 308 pages; paperback; anthology related to the series. Keeping it for now.
Nightshifted by Cassie Alexander, urban fantasy. 331 pages; paperback; first in the series. Giveawaybox.
Hex Appeal edited by P. N. Elrod, urban fantasy. 356 pages; paperback; anthology. Keeping it for now.

July
Spellcast by Barbara Ashford, fiction (urban fantasy). 433 pages; paperback; first in the series. Keeping it for now.
Monster in My Closet by R. L. Naquin. Urban Fantasy. E-ARC. First in the series.
Spellcrossed by Barbara AShford, urban fantasy. 448 pages; paperback; second in the series. Keeping it.
Cyanide & Happiness; Ice Cream & Sadness by Kris, Rob, Matt, and Dave. Comic books. 160 and 176 pages; paperback. Loaners.
Raven's Shadow by Patricia Briggs, fantasy. 334 pages; paperback; first in the duology. Loan.

August
Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews, urban fantasy. 433 pages; paperback; sixth in the series. Keeping it.
Greywalker by Kat Richardson, urban fantasy. 352 pages; paperback; first in the series. giveawaybox.
Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill, urban fantasy. 341 pages, paperback; first in the series. giveawaybox.
Friday Night Bites by Chloe Neill, urban fantasy. 357 pages, paperback; second in the series. giveawaybox.
Charming Blue by Kristine Grayson, urban fantasy/romance, E-arc, stand alone (I think). delete.
7th Sigma by Steven Gould, science fiction / western. 384 pages; paperback; stand-alone (I think). Keeping it for now.

September
Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris, urban fantasy. 325 pages, hardback, 11th in the series. probably giving it away.
Something Red, by Douglas Nichols, e-ARC. Stand-alone.
What Do You Want to Do before You Die? by Jonnie Penn, Dave Lingwood, Duncan Penn, and Ben Nemtin. NonFiction, gigantic paperback, 224 pages. Giving it away to someone who needs it.
Cast in Peril by Michelle Sagara, e-ARC. Book 8 in the Chronicles of Elantra.
Ashes of Honor, by Seanan McGuire. Urban fantasy, paperback, ?? pages. Book 5 in the October Daye series.
Last Wool and Testament, by Molly MacRae. Mystery, 319 pages. Paperback, first in the series.

October
Reason to Believe, by Diana Copland. Paranormal romance. e-ARC. stand-alone.

November
Matched by Ally Condie, YA Dystopia. 369 pages; paperback; first in the series.
Crossed by Ally Condie, YA Dystopia. 367 pages; hardback; second in the series.
"How Beauty Met the Beast" by Jax Garren, Urban Fantasy. E-ARC novella; first in the series.
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson, fiction. 358 pages; hardback; stand-alone.
Velveteen vs. the Super Junior Patriots, by Seanan McGuire. Urban fantasy, anthology. Hardback.

December
Elemental Magic, edited by Mercedes Lackey. Fantasy, paperback, 311 pages. Anthology.

Books abandoned in 2012:
Vamparazzi, by Laura Resnick. Accidentally picked up book 3; couldn't invest in the characters.

In case you want back references, here is the Books for 2011 round-up post
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