Series: Elemental Masters #10
Published by DAW Books on June 3, 2014
Source: the library
Also in this series: The Serpent's Shadow, The Gates of Sleep, Phoenix and Ashes, Home from the Sea, Steadfast, Elemental Magic:, From a High Tower, A Study in Sable
Also by this author: The Serpent's Shadow, The Gates of Sleep, Phoenix and Ashes, Home from the Sea, Steadfast, Elemental Magic:, House of Four Winds, The Fairy Godmother, The Lark and the Wren, Owlflight, From a High Tower, Owlsight, Owlknight, Closer to Home, Hunter, Closer to the Heart, Take a Thief, A Study in Sable
Rosamund is an Earth Master in the Schwarzwald, the ancient Black Forest of Germany. Since the age of ten, she has lived with her teacher, the Hunt Master and Earth Magician of the Schwarzwald Foresters, a man she calls “Papa.” Her adoptive Papa rescued her after her original Earth Master teacher, an old woman who lived alone in a small cottage in the forest, was brutally murdered by werewolves. Rosa herself barely escaped, and this terrifying incident molded the course of her future.
For like her fellow Earth Masters of the Schwarzwald Lodge, Rosa is not a healer. Instead, her talents lead her on the more violent path of protection and defense— “cleansing” the Earth and protecting its gentle fae creatures from those evil beings who seek to do them harm.
And so Rosa becomes the first woman Hunt Master and the scourge of evil creatures, with a deadly specialty in werewolves and all shapeshifters.
While visiting with a Fire Master—a friend of her mentor from the Schwarzwald Lodge— Rosa meets a pair of Elemental Magicians from Hungary who have come looking for help. They suspect that there is a dark power responsible for a string of murders happening in the remote countryside of Transylvania, but they have no proof. Rosa agrees to help them, but there is a catch: one of the two men asking for aid is a hereditary werewolf.
Rosa has been taught that there are three kinds of werewolves. There are those, like the one that had murdered her teacher, who transform themselves by use of dark magic, and also those who have been infected by the bite of these magical werewolves—these poor victims have no control over their transformative powers. Yet, there is a third kind: those who have been born with the ability to transform at will. Some insist that certain of these hereditary werewolves are benign. But Rosa has never encountered a benign werewolf!
Can she trust this Hungarian werewolf? Or is the Hunter destined to become the Hunted?
I’m always excited for a new Mercedes Lackey book. I’ve been a fan for ages. Recently, though her books, while still fun, seem to lack a little of the tension, immediacy, and spellbinding storytelling of the earlier books. Blood Red isn’t the worst of her books I’ve read, but I can’t rank it among the best, either.
I liked Rosa — there’s nothing not to like — but she doesn’t really grow as a character. She’s a skilled Hunt Master, competent without being over-confident, compassionate toward villagers and victims but able to be ruthless toward the evil things she hunts. . . and she’s like that from the second chapter right through the end of the book. She grows only in very minor ways; for instance, she spends some time learning to comport herself in high society. The only other area in which she shows any growth is in her attitude toward the hereditary shapeshifter, and as she demonstrates only an initial hesitation to trust him (rather than antipathy or true fear), it’s not really growth when she starts to trust – especially when she’s given several very good reasons to.
In fact, when I compare her to some of Lackey’s earlier main characters (Talia, Elspeth, Vanyel, Kerowyn, Alberich, Maya), Rosa is pretty bland. She’s also unusually lucky; she is taken under the wing of not one but two father-figures, both altruistically interested in helping her. She encounters surprisingly little resistance as a woman doing a man’s work, too (although apparently the Schwarzwald Lodge is a little more open to this than, say, the Edwardian-era London Lodge under Lord Alderscroft – see The Serpent’s Shadow.)
In short, there’s almost no personal conflict or challenge in the book, only the threats Rosa and her fellow Earth Masters face as part of their job: werewolves, vampires, and other evil creatures that hide in the forests. Of course, hunting and fighting such creatures can and admittedly does get pretty exciting, even suspenseful. And Lackey has always known how to keep a reader’s interest. I certainly wasn’t bored at any point, and I did enjoy reading the book. It’s just that I felt as if I were eating a sandwich, knowing full well that the chef is capable of a delicious four-course dinner.
Two final notes: it should be obvious that Rosa is based on Red Riding Hood. The traditional elements of the fairy tale are taken care of in the first chapter, though. After that, she’s grown up and it’s a completely new story, even if she’s still beset by (were)wolves. And there is one relatively minor continuity problem that should have been caught by either the editor or the copyeditor — the same question is asked and answered twice in different scenes. It didn’t detract from the story at all, but it’s not the first time I’ve run into similar issues in Lackey novels published by DAW.
The Elemental Masters series in order:
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- 2014 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
- COYER Summer Vacation 2014