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Friday, November 27, 2009

The Gates of Sleep - Mercedes Lackey

This book is one of the Elemental Masters series, where the author has reinterpreted fairy tales in slightly more modern times, and where the main characters are in some way involved with the elemental magic of Fire, Water, Air and Earth.

The Gates of Sleep is Sleeping Beauty, set in late Victorian England. (I’m actually rereading this book, as I originally read a library copy some time ago, and only recently got my hands on a used copy of my own.)

Marina Roeswood was cursed at her christening by her father’s older sister, Arachne. Despite the combined efforts of her parents, both Earth masters, and their friends, who represent the other elements, they are unable to stop the curse, but are at least able to change it so that if the curse does not come to pass by Marina’s eighteenth birthday, it will backfire and hit Arachne instead. At that point, the only sensible thing to do is to hide Marina. So she’s sent to live with her parents’ dear friends the Tarrants, artists who live in a cottage in a small village in Devon.

Since she doesn’t grow up as a gentleman’s daughter, Marina has a rather unconventional upbringing, but she’s happy there. She also begins to have lessons from her parent’s friend Lady Elizabeth, as Marina is a potential Water mage, and Lady Elizabeth is a Water Master. They’ve just begun their studies when terrible word reaches them. Marina’s parents are dead.

Arachne has managed to destroy the Roeswood’s will, and is able to immediately summon Marina back to the family manor of Oakhurst. Marina is heartbroken, and wary of her aunt and her son, the too perfect Reggie. Arachne immediately thrusts Marina into studies of the unfamiliar world of the gentry, and while Marina is at first miserable, she learns to appreciate this new world, and even cautiously makes some friends through the local church.

But the curse is waiting, and Marina must find a way to break it. The ending is standard Sleeping Beauty, with a twist. There is a love story, which seems a bit rushed, but all princesses seem to fall in love quickly in fairy tales, so I can forgive the hurry. This is overall an enjoyable read, with a good take on the Sleeping Beauty tale.

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