Blood Red, by Mercedes Lackey

August 7, 2014 Book Reviews 4 ★★★

Blood Red, by Mercedes LackeyBlood Red by Mercedes Lackey
Series: Elemental Masters #10
Published by DAW Books on June 3, 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library
Purchase: Amazon
Goodreads
three-stars
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?

Review

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:

 
The Fire Rose (Technically, this is not part of the series, because it was published by another publisher and takes place in 1906 California rather than Great Britain.  It does, however, use essentially the same system of magic.)
 
The Serpent’s Shadow (reviewed 4/07/2012)
The Gates of Sleep (reviewed 4/11/2012)
Phoenix and Ashes (reviewed 4/12/2012)
The Wizard of London
Reserved for the Cat
Unnatural Issue
Home from the Sea (reviewed 8/03/2013)
Steadfast (reviewed 7/11/2013)

 

three-stars

About Mercedes Lackey

Mercedes Lackey is perhaps best known for her bestselling Valdemar, Elemental Masters, and Tales of the 500 Kingdoms series. Her books now total well over 100, not counting anthologies. She writes (or has written) several other popular series as well as stand-alone novels, both on her own and with collaborators including Larry Dixon (her husband and illustrator), Anne McCaffrey, Andre Norton, Rosemary Edghill, Marion Zimmer Bradley, James Mallory, Roberta Gellis, and others.

Lackey graduated from Purdue University in 1972 and worked as a computer programmer before quitting to write full-time. A strong storyteller and a prolific writer, she turns out four to six books per year. She has also written lyrics and recorded songs (many of them based on her stories) for Firebird Arts and Music. Music is a prevailing theme throughout her work, and a major element in the Bardic Voices and Bedlam’s Bard series.

Mercedes Lackey lives with her husband in Oklahoma. She keeps parrots and has been active in raptor rehabilitation. She has also been active in the Society for Creative Anachronism and the MRPG community.

(sources: Goodreads, author website, and Wikipedia.)

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • 2014 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
  • COYER Summer Vacation 2014

4 Responses to “Blood Red, by Mercedes Lackey”

  1. Bea

    Well that’s disappointing. I was looking forward to reading this but it sounds as if I should skip it. No personal growth at all? No conflict? How did those get left out? I really enjoyed the first few books in this series but maybe it’s time for it to end.

  2. Katherine P

    I’m curious about this author since I know you enjoy her books so much. I’ve enjoyed some of the fantasy I’ve read lately and I’ve thought about trying a book by her but from the sounds of it it may be better to start with an earlier one.

  3. Rita_h

    Lark, do you have a fave, or two, Mercedes Lackey title to share? Do you think her earlier books are the best bet? I want to pick up a really interesting title to get hooked on her, and not be put off by mediocre. Thanks in advance!