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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Maya's father was a perfectly respectable British doctor in Victoria's Army, which was stationed in India. While the British were despised by most of the people of India, her father was liked and even admired by those he cared for. But then he fell in love with Surya, a beautiful, compelling, and magical native. They ignored the taboos of both their cultures, married, and produced a child. Her name was Maya, and she was instantly an outcast in both cultures.
Although Maya's parents tried to raise her awareness of the realities of being a Eurasian child, even they were unprepared for the hatred of Shivani, Surya's twin sister. Shivani hated all things British -- and half-British. She first caused the death of Maya's mother, and then her father. Maya knew she was next.
Escaping to London seemed the only real choice for her -- after all, she was half-British. To complicate matters, her aunt was a powerful Indian sorceress with far-reaching powers. Although Maya was positive that she had her mother's gifts as well, she felt out-gunned, having never received any serious training in the "arts" from her mother. Before her death, however, Surya often told Maya that her gifts ran through her father's line, and that she would have to study among his people.
Having inherited both the skills of her father as a doctor and the magical abilities of her mother, albeit without the proper training, she felt she had no choice but to move to England. There, she felt she would be safe from her aunt and able to practice the medicine that she loved.
Once in England, Maya's drive to learn more about magic and medicine propels her forward into some unlikely situations and revelations. She discovers that her mother was right about one thing: Maya is, in fact, the prophesied Earth Master. The story line that leads up to Maya's eventual confrontation with her evil aunt Shivani is both exciting and surprising, especially the scenes taking place in London. Lackey really outdoes herself when describing life in a London that none of us will ever know; the sights, sounds, and smells are rich and intense.
The surprises have more to do with character development than heart-pounding action. And, as usual with a Mercedes Lackey story, there is romance. But please don't judge this as a romance; there are also aspects of mystery, suspense, and historical fiction. And in the end, you get a great fantasy.
One of the most interesting characters in the story was Peter Scott, water mage and member of the society of magicians known as the Council of Elemental Masters, who is put on the scent of "...new magic in town. Earth Magic, but not our Earth Magic." He is put on the trail of locating the untrained mage who will become his soul mate, an equal in magical power and stature among Britain's greatest magic wielders.
The Serpent's Shadow has terrific pacing -- it's one of those books that you just can't seem to put down. This fantasy is well worth your time, especially if you're already a Mercedes Lackey fan. (Stephen Patterson)