PHOENIX AND ASHES

Author(s): 
This innovative retelling of Cinderella is Lackey's latest entry in her loosely connected Elemental Masters series. Eleanor Robinson dreams of attending Oxford, but her father's death puts an end to her plans. Instead she's stuck with her off-putting stepmother and spoiled stepsisters.

Then her stepmother reveals that she's an Elemental Master of Earth and forces Eleanor into a bizarre ritual that binds her to her home, making her a slave to her stepfamily and causing her to fade from other people's memories. As time passes, Eleanor begins to fear for her sanity until she finds a legacy from her mother that ushers her into her own Elemental powers.

While the Cinderella elements—hearth, wicked stepmother, Prince Charming—are obvious, they are charmingly reinterpreted in a World War I setting. Lackey admirably brings the time period to life, capturing the desperate gaiety of the era and the atmosphere of an English village, immersing the reader in a believable historical fantasy. The villains are frighteningly plausible and Eleanor is a feisty heroine to root for—no fainting young miss here. There is also a lovely homage to Golden Age mysteries, notably those by Dorothy L. Sayers, which fans of that era will enjoy. (Oct. '04, 405 pp., $24.95)
Reviewed by: 
Jen Talley Exum