Lackey, Mercedes: Wizard of London, The

After reading Mercedes Lackey’s dragon books, I also grabbed The Wizard of London from the library, because it incorporated some short stories involving two Victorian girls with psychic abilities, which I’d rather liked for being refreshingly different for Lackey (though occasionally verging on twee). When I read this novel, I was not just coming down with a cold but smack in the middle of one, heavy drugs and all, so my opinion is not exactly objective. Even if I’d been healthy, though, I don’t think it would have been as good as the dragon books. I wonder if maybe it’s not trying to juggle too much, what with the girls, their teacher, the title character, and the Bad Guy. Whatever the reason, it’s kind of flat: the ending is thematic but unexciting, and the presence of Puck—did I mention that Puck is a character?—felt arbitrary, and not in a fey sense.

I took a couple others that appeared to be related out of the library at the same time, but I seemed to have reached my maximum Lackey exposure after Wizard: I could barely open one before putting it back down. They went back to the library unread. I don’t imagine I’ll give them another try.

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  1. My library claims that The Wizard of London is the fourth book in the “Elemental Masters” series. Had you read the earlier books in the series, and if not did you notice that the book was a sequel?
    I’m mostly allergic to Lackey, but this set sounds like something I might enjoy as undemanding fluff for stressful times. It also sounds like something my wife might like.
    Aside: if you were asked to recommend the best of Lackey, for someone who has a low tolerance for magic telepathic ponies and interminable political fantasy, what would you recommend?

  2. I didn’t read the others, but they seemed to be set circa WWI, and I didn’t feel the lack.
    Honestly, I don’t know why a person with low tolerance for magic horsies and politics would want to read Lackey. But this person might look at _The Oathbound_, _Oathbreakers_, and _By the Sword_, which are respectively a fixup, a sequel, and a later novel about one of the duology’s grandchildren. The two characters in the duology started from Lackey wanting to bust some sorceress-and-swordswoman cliches, and the pair team up, get revenge, and join a mercenary company. The second book does have some politics, but mostly offscreen. The third book is a single-volume fish-out-of-water story also involving a mercenary company. The characters are basically adults and so they’re somewhat less angsty-twee than her others.
    (She has some urban fantasy works that I haven’t read.)

  3. Let me hasten to add that I’m not hopelessly averse to either politics or magic telepathic ponies in fiction. I like Cherryh’s Foreigner series quite a bit, as well as Kristine Smith’s “Jani Killian” novels, and those are both very political series. I hate treecats far less than most r.a.sf.w readers, and wish that Weber had taught them sign language before the Brain Eater got him, rather than after.
    …but I don’t want a steady diet of either, and a work has to have compensating strengths, and the politics has to have a point and a finite end in sight. Does that make sense?
    Thanks for the recommendations. Following up with a question I should have asked the first time around: is there any one Lackey work that is considered her masterpiece? Even if it’s not my usual cup of tea, I might want to track it down.

  4. No, I wouldn’t say that she’s got a masterpiece that you should read no matter what.

  5. David, if it’s helpful (probably not if you don’t know my tastes), Kate recommended _By The Sword_ to me lo these many years ago when I asked essentially the same question you did, and I ended up not particularly caring for it. It wasn’t bad, per se, but it was enough to convince me that Lackey just wasn’t my cup of tea, and probably never would be. (I have very little tolerance for magic horsies, but as I recall, they only show up tangentially and near the end of _By The Sword_)

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