Mercedes Lackey’s “Elemental Masters” series: Steadfast

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Steadfast (2013)

[Based on “The Steadfast Tin Soldier”. Most of the main characters of this story are based on characters of the fairy tale. However, the characters in this book are human beings rather than the toys of the fairy tale. The parallels with the fairy tale are in the character roles rather than the plot.

The Tin Soldier character is Jack Prescott. Jack is a retired soldier, and like the Tin Soldier, he has a missing leg, which he had lost in the Boer Wars.

The paper ballerina character is Katie Langford, who is a dancer and acrobat.

The goblin jack-in-the-box character is Katie’s abusive husband, Dick Langford, although he is more actively malevolent than the goblin in the fairy tale.

The other main character is Lionel Hawkins, but he doesn’t have a counterpart in the fairy tale.

As in the fairy tale, a massive fire plays a significant role towards the end of the story.]

Katie had worked in the circus as a dancer and acrobat. When her parents died in a fire, the circus owner had arranged the marriage between Katie and Dick Langford, the strongman. But Dick turned out to be a violent, abusive husband. Finally Katie runs away.

Lionel Hawkins is a stage magician at the Palace Music Hall in Brighton, as well as an Air Magician, and he uses Elemental magic to perform illusions in his act. He needs a new assistant, as his current assistant is leaving to get married. When Katie arrives at the theatre, he gives her the job.

Jack Prescott is the doorman of the theatre. He lost a leg in the Boer Wars, which has been replaced with a wooden leg. He is a Fire Magician.

Lionel and Jack realise that Katie is also a Fire Magician, but she is unaware of this fact. But she gets a shock when she starts to see Elemental Fire creatures. Lionel and Jack decide they must train Katie in magic, especially given how dangerous Fire Elementals can be; they could set fire to a building if a Fire Magician loses control of his or her emotions. Jack is the main teacher, as his Elemental Aspect is the same as hers. Lionel organises for Katie to move out of her boarding house into a rented cottage; this would avoid Fire Elementals appearing in the boarding house. As they work together, Katie and Jack start to fall in love.

Katie is trying to organise a divorce, but this requires money. As well as working as a magician’s assistant, she dances with the chorus dancers. When a supposed “Russian” dancer cancels, Katie takes on this role, performing the kind of dances she had previously been trained in.

But suddenly Dick turns up at Katie’s cottage and moves in, continuing his abusive behaviour, beating her, requiring her to give him his meals, taking her money, drinking, and sleeping with prostitutes. There is not much Katie can do; the law is on his side, as a wife is regarded as the property of her husband. And she must appear to submit, otherwise Dick, being strong and violent, might harm her friends. Lionel and Jack find out, and try to work out what to do.

But when Dick returns, blind drunk, to the cottage one night, he accidentally sets it on fire.

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