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The novels in the Elemental Masters series, by Mercedes Lackey, are a mix of historical fiction and fantasy, with a big scoop of fairy tales stirred in. Most of them are set in the late 1800s-early 1900s.

The books “officially” in this series are:

  • The Serpent’s Shadow
  • The Gates Of Sleep
  • Phoenix And Ashes
  • The Wizard Of London
  • Reserved For The Cat
  • Unnatural Issue
  • Home from the Sea (forthcoming June 2012)

The Fire Rose uses the same pattern and tropes as the official six books, but was published by a different company so isn’t normally included in a list of the series. However, it will be included on this page.


This series provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: In their "Warriors of the Light" aspects, both Isabelle Harton and Nan can pull this off. Ninette Dupond manages this as well, and then immediately lies about it because No Guy Wants an Amazon.
    • The majority of the women in the series are this.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: Subverted with Dr Maya Witherspoon. She’s a fully-qualified doctor and surgeon, with a perfectly respectable clinic. She also volunteers at a clinic in one of the rougher neighborhoods of London, holds late office hours for the convenience of several courtesans/mistresses among her patients, and is willing to provide any female patient with contraception (illegal at the time).
  • Baleful Polymorph:
    • Jason Cameron (though he did it to himself)
    • Thomas the cat
    • Wolfgang would probably count himself here as well, though he’s more of a changed-species Reincarnation.
  • Black Magic: Arachne and Reginald Chamberten. Reginald has gone all the way to Deal with the Devil, not that it helps him at the end.
  • Black Widow: Alison – Eleanor's father and the father of the stepsisters were merely the bookends of a long career of using and killing men.
  • Blind Without'Em: Rosalind.
  • Cats Are Snarkers: Thomas.
  • Charm Person: Ninette has a touch of this ability.
  • Cinderella Circumstances: Eleanor in Phoenix and Ashes.
  • Cold Flames: Part of Jonathon's magic act. Sometimes he doesn't bother to tell his assistants the flames aren't real. Ninette was not amused.
  • Color-Coded Elements: Fire is red, Air is blue, Earth is yellow, and Water is green.
  • Crazy Prepared: Ninette's maid Ailse. Originally hired as someone who wouldn't freak out at elementals running around, it turns out she carries a revolver loaded with Cold Iron, Silver, and Blessed Lead bullets. At all times.
  • Death by Childbirth: Unnatural Issue begins with Richard Whitestone returning home mere hours after his wife Rebecca succumbs to this. He does not take it well.
  • Depleted Phlebotinum Shells: Ailse's aforementioned special bullets.
  • Devour the Dragon: In the climax to Phoenix And Ashes. Karmic Death? Oh yeah.
  • The Edwardian Era: Time period for most of the novels.
  • Elemental Embodiment: Several. Those with a touch of magic can see them; masters of the corresponding element can command them.
  • Elemental Powers: Almost all magic in this series is based on the four Western elements.
    • Fridge Logic: ...including the Chinese magic seen in The Fire Rose.
  • Fairy Tale: The plots of all the novels are based off different fairy tales:
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Jonathon Hightower warns Ninette that she may be facing this, "and I do not mean mere rape".
  • Gentleman Wizard: Pretty much everyone.
  • The Glasses Gotta Go: Averted in The Fire Rose -- when one of Jason's Salamanders comments that Rosalind is nice-looking despite her glasses, Jason immediately declares that glasses are just another accessory.
  • Hermetic Magic: Several Masters, most notably Fire-aligned Jonathon and Eleanore, use drawn circles and runes, either to actively work magic or as a means of mental focus.
  • Historical In-Joke: Constantly. One of the funniest is an offhand remark about "that incident at Loch Ness" which may give the lake a certain notoriety.
  • Hopeless Suitor: Susanne spends most of Unnatural Issue carrying an intense torch for Charles Kerridge, until she finally has to acknowledge that a) he's in love with someone else and b) he has absolutely no interest in her.
  • Horror Hunger: The Troll in Reserved for the Cat.
  • Hurting Hero: Reggie Fenyx starts Phoenix And Ashes with a combination of broken bones, shell shock, and psychic trauma from extended magical Cold-Blooded Torture.
  • Magic Music: One method of summoning.
  • Master of Illusion: Jonathon.
  • The Mourning After: Richard Whitestone is this in the worst way.
  • Muggle Foster Parents: Inverted with Marina Roeswood – the three godparents who raise her (and the fourth who is brought in to help teach her) are all Elemental Masters.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: After a close call involving her psychotic necromancer father, Susanne Whitestone was bundled off to safety by the White Lodge. To be precise, she was evacuated to a country estate in the Ardennes department of France... in late June 1914.
  • Ninja Maid: No kung-fu, but Ailse McKensie takes on a magical assassin with an iron cookpot.
  • Noble Bigot: Lord David Alderscroft can never quite override his biases against those of lower social classes. He gets manipulated like a puppet by a commoner (and Dark Magician) who did the Henry Higgins thing and took elocution lessons to speak like an upper-class lady.
  • Only in It For the Money: Ninette's entire motivation, at least at first. Played sympathetically as a matter of survival, not greed.
  • Oop North: Most of Unnatural Issue is set in Yorkshire.
  • Parental Abandonment: All over the place. But then, it's also common in the source material.
    • Subverted with Thomas, who is actually Ninette’s missing father.
  • Public Domain Character: Susanne Whitestone gets magic lessons from no less than Robin Goodfellow.
  • San Francisco: Primary setting of The Fire Rose.
  • Shapeshifter Showdown:
    • Marina and Arachne throw down in the climax of The Gates Of Sleep.
    • Alluded to in Reserved for the Cat. Thomas lost.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Eleanor Robinson, not surprising considering that Phoenix And Ashes is a "Cinderella" reworking.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Reggie Fenyx and his fellows in Phoenix and Ashes.
  • Shout-Out: Lord Peter Almsley is what Lord Peter Wimsey would be like if Dorothy Sayers had given him magical powers.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Susanne Whitestone looks almost exactly like her mother...which unfortunately attracts the wrong kind of attention from her father.
  • Tall, Dark and Snarky: Jonathon Hightower in Reserved for the Cat. He loses some of the arrogance but keeps the snark.
  • Talking Animal: Wolfgang, Maya’s seven "pets" when possessed by the Hindu gods they’re associated with. Thomas doesn’t qualify, as he can only speak mind-to-mind, and only to those with some degree of magical ability.
  • Tarot Motifs: Eleanor's magical instruction in Phoenix And Ashes.
  • Technician Versus Performer: In Reserved for the Cat Ninette is explicitly the Performer, though no character is an exact match for a Technician rival.
  • Tragic Mulatto: Maya Witherspoon's mother ran away from her wealthy Brahmin family to wed an English doctor and army officer, so she gets it from both sides.
  • Victorian London: The setting/period for The Wizard Of London, chronologically (though not in publication order) the earliest of the novels.
  • Waif Fu: Ninette. She's a ballerina, but, as she herself points out, ballet builds muscle.
  • War Is Hell: This is a major theme in Phoenix and Ashes and Unnatural Issue. WWI has severe negative effects on the characters who are soldiers, as well as those on the home front.
  • World War One: Setting/period for Phoenix And Ashes and Unnatural Issue.
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