Mercedes Lackey’s “Elemental Masters” series: The Serpent’s Shadow

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The Serpent’s Shadow (2001)

[Based on “Snow White”.]

Maya Witherspoon was born in India of an English father and an Indian mother.  [Maya is the “Snow White” character, although not because of her skin colour.]  She had become a doctor, like her father.  She discovered she had magical abilities, but her mother, a Hindu priestess, wouldn’t teach her.  Maya learnt magic by surreptitiously observing her mother and other magic users.

Her parents died – her mother in a cholera epidemic, her father of snakebite.

Feeling there is some enemy, Maya flees to England, and gets recognition as a doctor, living in a working class suburb of London.  She has a private practice at home, and also works at the Fleet Charity Clinic and St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington. Most of her patients are working class people.

The members of Maya’s household include: Gupta, who had been the family servant in India, Gupta’s son and the son’s wife and children.  Maya also has 7 animals: 2 mongooses, a parrot, a peacock, a falcon, a monkey and an owl [paralleling the 7 dwarves of the “Snow White” story].  These are actually mystical creatures representing some of the Hindu gods, but Maya doesn’t realise this.

Maya experiences a lot of prejudice: she is a half-breed, and a woman working as a doctor, during a time when female doctors are rare.

There is a Masters Circle, or White Lodge, a society of Elemental Masters, based in the Exeter Club in London.  It is headed by Lord Alderscroft (“the Old Lion”).  The White Lodge has detected the presence of a previously unknown Earth Master, and Alderscroft sends Peter Scott (a Water Master) to investigate.

Peter discovers Maya, realises she is the Earth Master, but that she is untrained.  He agrees to train her.  Peter and Maya become close.

Maya didn’t realise, but her mother had had a sister, Shivani, who is a priestess of Kali, the Hindu goddess of Death. [Shivani corresponds to the Evil Queen from “Snow White”.] She has moved to London, and set up a temple, hidden in a warehouse.  Her followers go round killing people – initially drunks and members of the underclass who would not be missed.  But Shivani’s goal is to take revenge on English servicemen who have served in India.  She also had been indignant that her sister had married an Englishman, and had been responsible for Maya’s parents’ deaths.  Now she wants to kill her sister’s daughter – but doesn’t know where she is, as Maya has created magical shields around her house.

Some Englishmen also become Shivani’s followers, not knowing what she potentially has in store for them.  She kills one and imprisons his spirit in a mirror.  [This parallels the magic mirror from “Snow White”.]  Shivani forces the mirror servant to search magically for Maya’s location.

Shivani conjures up the Shadow Serpent; it kills those of Shivani’s targets who are not easily accessible by her followers.

The White Lodge learn of the killings, which are obviously magical, and of Indian origin.  Alderscroft mistakenly thinks the magic is being cast from the country of India, and the White Lodge establish a shield to prevent magical attacks from abroad.  But Peter Scott believes it is closer to home – possibly the enemy Maya had fled from. He learns from Gupta about Maya’s aunt.

Peter Scott has an ally, a fellow Water Master called Lord Peter Almsley. They call themselves the “twins” because of their common first name and Elemental Power.

Shivani finally locates Maya, disguises herself as an apple seller and poisons her, and leaves her unconscious.  [Another parallel with “Snow White”.]  Peter discovers her and attempts to save her.  Norrey, a female patient of Maya’s, uses her underclass connections to locate the temple warehouse.

To save Maya, the two Peters, Gupta, the 7 animals, and Norrey and her friends attack Shivani and her followers in the warehouse.

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