Mercedes Lackey’s “Elemental Masters” series: Phoenix and Ashes

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Phoenix and Ashes (2004)

[Based on “Cinderella”.]

Set in 1914 – 1917, during World War 1, in Broom, Warwickshire, and other places in England.  Chapter 1 is set in 1914. The rest of the book is in 1917.

Eleanor Robinson is the Cinderella character. Her father, Charles Robinson, has remarried. His new wife is Alison, who has two daughters:  Lauralee and Carolyn.

Eleanor’s father goes off to war.  Eleanor had expected to go to Oxford University, but her father hadn’t made the arrangements before leaving.  She finds herself a servant in her own home, especially since the other servants gradually leave.

But then the news comes that Charles Robinson has died in the war.  It is then revealed that Alison is an Earth Master, practising the darker and nastier aspect of that magic.  Her accomplice is her solicitor, Warrick Locke, and her two daughters are her apprentices.

Alison had expected to inherit the house and business, including several factories.  But Charles hadn’t changed his will, so Eleanor inherits.  Killing Eleanor would raise suspicions, and in any case, if Eleanor dies, some cousin will inherit.  Alison chops off the little finger of Eleanor’s left hand, and buries it under the hearthstone, casting magic spells to confine Eleanor to the house.  She casts other spells to force Eleanor to obey her commands, and to make the people of the village practically forget that Eleanor exists.

Chapter 2 picks up the story 3 years later in 1917, Eleanor having lived a life of drudgery, wearing rags, and not having much to eat.

Eleanor discovers that she is developing magic powers of her own.  She has inherited the powers of a Fire Master from her deceased mother.  She also discovers that Alison’s magical power over her is weakening.

When Alison and her daughters are away in London, a woman comes to her door, who introduces herself as Sarah Chase, Eleanor’s godmother [corresponding to the fairy godmother of “Cinderella”].  She is the village witch, an Earth Magician (although not a Master), as well as the district nurse and midwife.  She is aware of what has happened to Eleanor, but couldn’t take action while Alison was present, because of Alison’s greater power.  Sarah teaches Eleanor about Elemental Magic, and helps train her in her powers. This includes teaching her the magic spell to enable her to leave the house temporarily.

Reginald (Reggie) Fenyx is the equivalent of the prince in “Cinderella”.  He is an Elemental Air Master, and has been flying as a pilot in the war.  But his plane was shot down, and then he got buried alive, and was tormented by dark Earth Elementals, hostile to a Magician of the opposite Element of Air.  Reginald is returned to a hospital in England suffering from physical injuries, and shell-shock.  Doctor Maya Scott (from “The Serpent’s Shadow”) visits the hospital and realises that Reggie is also suffering mental distress from the Elementals’ attack. He has apparently lost his magic.  Maya arranges with Lord Alderscroft (head of the White Lodge, a society of Elemental Masters) to have Reggie discharged and returned home.

Reggie is lord of the manor at Longacre Park, his father having died two years previously.  He is welcomed home by his mother and the household servants.  Longacre Park is not far from the village of Broom.  Reggie continues to have attacks of depression and shaking fits as he remembers his experiences in the war.

Lord Alderscroft appoints Alison to keep an eye on Reginald, not realising that Alison is a renegade.  Alison is quite happy with this; she hopes to marry one of her daughters to Reginald, and proceeds to insinuate herself into the higher society which the Fenyx family occupies.  She casts various dark spells to accentuate Reggie’s suffering, and to make her daughters seem more attractive to him, intending to make it appear that her daughters have relieved his suffering.

Eleanor discovers that her spell to temporarily leave the house allows her to get as far as the closest field of Longacre Park.  Eleanor had known Reggie previously, as she and the boys of the village had helped Reggie take off in his aeroplane in that field.  She finds Reggie in that field, and they meet there several times in the period that follows.

Reggie has a visit from his godmother, Lady Virginia, who is also an Air Master.  She dispels one of Alison’s magical attacks.

Sarah learns that there is an Air Master at Longacre, and tells Eleanor she must visit her, to escape from Alison’s power, and to prevent Reggie from coming under her power.  There is going to be a fancy dress ball at Longacre, so Eleanor can go in disguise.  Eleanor must cast a stronger spell to escape her house and travel the longer distance to the manor house.

But events do not go smoothly, and Alison has some nasty plans for both Eleanor and Reggie.

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