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    Review of PHOENIX AND ASHES by Mercedes Lackey (see her website)


    DAW Books, October 2004

    When her father remarries and heads off to war, Eleanor Robinson is left in her wicked stepmother's power. The stepmother, Allison, really is wicked--and is a dark Earth-Mage to boot. When Eleanor's father is killed in the trenches of World War I, Allison confines Eleanor to the house, causes everyone in the English village to forget she even exists, and turns her into a servant.

    Eleanor is miserable with her enslavement--and with the frustration of her hopes to go to Oxford. When her godmother, a less powerful witch, notifies her that Eleanor is an untrained Fire-Mage, Eleanor sees a chance to break free--but she needs allies and her stepmother's compulsion prevents her from seeking them--or even speaking of how she is being treated. Although Eleanor has fallen for the neighborhood Baron--who also happens to be a war hero and an Air Mage, she can't tell him what is wrong. But if she can only make it to the costume ball, she hope she'll discover real allies.

    Author Mercedes Lackey (see more reviews of novels by Lackey) retells the Cinderella fairy tale with an interesting twist of elemental magic. After a somewhat slow first half, with way too much of Eleanor feeling sorry for herself, thinking that she is being treated no better than a servant--as if it's okay to treat servants like that but not her--and a strangely powerful but helpless Allison who can't simply accomplish what she needs by magic but must somehow gain the support of others, Lackey picks up the pace. The use of the Tarot in Eleanor's dream-training is fascinating and worth even more time than Lackey put into it. The story rushes to an exciting conclusion as Allison proves ready to take any step necessary for her success--no matter what the cost to those around her.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 12/31/04

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