Home From The Sea is the seventh Elemental Masters book by Mercedes Lackey. The series is very similar to the Five Hundred Kingdoms series, meaning it’s pretty much all fluffy romance novels. (Thankfully, romance, not erotica. And they tend to be… cloyingly traditional under their veneer of PC.) And as Vox Day is wont to mock, this novel does in fact include wereseals as the love interests! /hilarity ensues
Hopefully, that first paragraph is enough to warn anyone possessing a Y chromosome that the entire series is to be avoided as excessively female. If the cover color palette didn’t give the game away! All the books are positively drowning in estrogen. Although I’m sure if a man were feeling sufficiently bored and wanted something to mock, it would be eminently mock-worthy. There are quite a few instances of modern political correctness – basically, this magical England is set at the same time period as Downton Abbey. The “magical” bit serves as an excuse to have main characters espouse entirely anachronistic opinions criticizing the culture of the time period in question. Because Elemental Masters and such are just naturally more enlightened. Magic, don’tcha know. Except for all those old, stuffy white men who’ve formed a Boy’s Club of Elemental Masters so that the spunky female leads have some patriarchal oppression that can’t simply be dealt with via magic. Actually, given the audience, I suspect if this series did not include main characters anachronistically criticizing the culture of early 1900s English gentry, Lackey would end up the victim of a rabbit-warren witch-hunt herself.
And that was one of the most interesting things about this novel – every once in a while, Lackey writes something that actually bears a passing resemblance to reality, rather than obsessive-compulsive spouting of PC mores. In fact, there were three distinct places I highlighted the text! First, one of our intrepid young women (rescued from London’s gutters in a previous novel), reflects that dressing like the upper-class will do her no good if she speaks Cockney rather than educated English. (Straight out of My Fair Lady, that one.) And no snide commentary about not being “authentic” or “true to yourself” worked in around it, either. The second, I was absolutely stunned to see: “logic didn’t care about fairness.” Whereafter followed an analogy relating the unfairness of reality to the unfairness of a storm, where whining about it rather than dealing with it is useless. Wow. No wonder Lackey feels the need to preach PC in her romance novels, writing things like that! And then, what was the crowning moment of “did she really just write that??” – one of our intrepid young women actually swallows her own discomfort with the prospect of an arranged marriage bargain, and chooses not to do anything to make the girl in question (more) unhappy about going through with the bargain. Conservatives, take note – we’re probably going to need to rally ’round Lackey and show her that some people are decent souls and won’t shun others and attempt to destroy their reputations for failure to be ideologically pure. The hunky wereseals are probably not going to distract the legions of liberal witch-hunters forever, especially since there wasn’t any wereseal erotica included. Like Heinlein before her, future liberal generations are going to be castigating Lackey for being a hidebound heteronormative misogynist racist bigot, despite any evidence to the contrary. (All those Wikipedia entries noting her for her “tolerance” will have to be scrubbed down the memory hole first, of course.) She might be able to eke out some more time by writing a gay wereseal erotica spinoff, though.
One of the other interesting things about this book is that, being written from the points of view of three different 18-year-olds (or thereabouts) – that it reflects that the “women’s rights” movement was a consequence of middle-class girls getting bored. The fisherman’s daughter outwits the wereseal chieftain and chooses the wereseal shaman as her arranged-marriage husband instead of one of the wereseal boys offered to her; the two middle-class girls, not having any upper-crust social duties to manage, and finding themselves not required to do manual labor (while marrying and bearing children!) to survive like the lower-class fisherman’s daughter, find themselves at something of a loss. No marriage prospects for them (enlightened Magical English guardians, remember), but no particularly amazing magical skills like the Elemental Masters – and the girls find themselves unsuited to teaching, nursing, retail sales (“shopgirl”), becoming actresses (scandalous!), or getting locked up in jail as suffragettes. In fact, despite living at a school, they seem particularly unprepared for making their way in life! Until, of course, the Wizard of London hires them as Magical Special Operatives. *snort*
So: pure fluff, and mildly entertaining as a romance novel, given the mythological threads woven into the Elemental Masters series storylines; intellectually interesting only as an analysis of themes in a massively popular author’s work.
I’m just happy to know that Sarah Hoyt is cutting down on her non-novel writing even if that means less blogging from her – maybe she’ll get around to continuing her own urban fantasy shifter series, which is much better! And hey, look, Draw One In The Dark is free for Kindle right now!