I was thrilled that Lackey once again broke the mold with this installment of the Elemental Masters series. Some things were the familiar, such as a modern (well, Victorian-era) retelling of a traditional fairy tale featuring a strong heroine with elemental magic powers. However, like in Blood Red before it, this novel also transported us outside of England and only hinted at a burgeoning romance at the end rather than making it a centerpiece of the plot. Both of these differences have made for stronger books, in my opinion, rather than having the novel be “yet another romantic fantasy.”
In many ways, From a High Tower was all about flipping expectations. A woman disguised as a man to make her way in the world in a traditionally masculine profession has been done many times before, so that wasn’t a shock. On the other hand, the American West traveling show encountering little enthusiasm in Germany because they presented a “reality” unfamiliar to viewers was a great surprise. Ironically, this allowed Lackey to avoid having to write harmful racial stereotypes in a way that would have been entirely historically accurate. Without giving away spoilers, all I can say is that the book’s foreword is useful, appropriate, and well worth reading.
Some sections of the book did not feel as necessary to me as a reader. For example, I never figured out at the beginning why the tale of Giselle’s birth and subsequent adoption were necessary. The narrative of the “evil witch” did not need to be enforced before Lackey negated it with her original take because most readers should already have been familiar with the fairy tale. In addition, while I was pleased to see Blood Red‘s protagonist Rosamund make an appearance, I felt like it was more fan service than plot. She had her usefulness once she was around, and I enjoy the reminder that all of these novels take place in the same universe, but Rosamund’s power and strength came close to diminishing what Giselle brought to her own story.
Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.
Currently reading: Cloak of War (Empress Game #2) by Rhonda Mason and Home Birth (Kaiju Revisited #2) by Jessica McHugh
NaNoWriMo progress: 12,920/30k words
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