Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Review: The Elvenbane by Mercedes Lackey

Since we are on a Mercedes Lackey kick let me introduce another fine series: The Halfblood Chronicles, with the first book titled The Elvenbane.

The series was written between Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey and sadly, before the last book was done Andre Norton passed away (another extraordinary lady fantasy author who had a prolific and amazing career. If you don't know her name you've been living under a rock) so I think the series remains unfinished, which hurts me deep.

What I love about this series is that it takes all the classic hallmarks of fantasy - elves, magic, swords, sorcery, dragons and intrigue, and manages to make it an amazing, involved and enjoyable read. These are staples of fantasy, and they have been used to the point of ad nauseam BUT put into the hands of two masters they rearrange overused tropes (vampires*cough*vampires*for example) to make an amazing story.

So! The story.

The human world, long ago, was invaded by elves. Not your sweet, nature loving, flower arranging elves but the ones with power, lust and subjugation. Humans didn't stand a chance and here we are hundreds if not thousands of years later with the humans firmly under their thumb, a well established hierarchy according to magic power, assassination and intrigue a plenty and a rebellion brewing in the wings. See, the elves didn't realize that this world ALSO had dragons, who are like caretakers of the earth and never really involved themselves in the struggle. They felt pity for the humans and helped in little ways, but mostly stayed in the harsh deserts, far away from the greedy elves and their political murderous plots for power.

Now things are changing. The elves are a little TOO powerful. And the humans (the free ones who managed to escape) are getting a little tired of being hounded. Humans have magic of their own, different from elves. Breed an elf and a human together and DAMN you have a halfbreed - best of both magic worlds and crazy powerful.

One such creature is born to Serina Daeth, a former favored concubine of one of the most powerful elven lords in the kingdom. Serina doesn't survive the birth but the tiny squalling child is taken in by a dragon, who realizes the potential of the babe. She may be able to fulfill a prophecy the dragon's have been spreading for hundreds of years: The ElvenBane. A halfbreed with the power to topple the elves.

NOW it gets fun.

Shana is the Elvenbane (actually, she reminds me a whole lot of Korra from the Legend of Korra), raised by dragons, thrown into the world of slavery and elves, and the key in the uprising against the Elven Lords.

And that's just book one.

What I really love about the series is how different each book is. The first is an introduction to the Elves and the misery of their human slaves. Its pretty black and white - humans are suffering horribly and they need a champion. But then you get into the second and third books where the narrative isn't just Shana's anymore.

You have a homely wall flower elven maiden and her secret halfblood brother who have to run from their lordly father to survive. The humans aren't the only ones subjugated; most of the elven women are held pretty firmly in a cage of tradition that mostly limits them.

You have the strong tribal wanderers who will become a powerful ally to Shana and her growing diverse following.

You have elven families who sympathize with humans and take them in to care for them, under a very real threat of annihilation.

You also have the extreme friction between the halfblood humans and the regular ol' humans.

Aaaand by the third book we are thiiis close to toppling the elves when...sigh. No more books. There's really too much to get into and all I can say is read the damn things.

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