Home from the Sea
By Mercedes Lackey
For the thousandth time, she wondered, was it a touch of the Sight that made her see such things or a touch of madness? Mari had seen her before, many times, and others like her, and heard her too. Always, always around or about water. She had seen such little creatures all her life.
Since ancient times, the Prothero family has had a bargain with magical half-seal, half-human creatures known as the Selch. In exchange for protection on the water, every generation a member of the Prothero family must marry a Selch, and then give up that spouse and one of their children to the sea.
Mari Prothero is a fisherman’s daughter from a small Welsh village. She was raised by her father after the deaths of her mother and brother. Mari has always been able to see things that others couldn’t, like the tiny, human–like creatures who dress in seaweed and make trouble. But now, as she reaches adulthood (her eighteenth birthday), Mari discovers the truth — her mother and brother aren’t dead. Neither are they entirely human. They — and therefore Mari — are Selch. And Mari must fulfill her role in the ancient bargain or face severe consequences.
Sarah and Nan are special. Sarah is a skilled and fearless medium, able to see the dead and help them. Nan is something of a cross between a psychic and a magician, able to channel a psychical warrior and interact with Elemental Spirits. Because of their gifts, Lord Alderscroft, head of the Elemental Masters, sends them to the far coast of Wales to help a powerful but untrained Water Master being threatened by some of the Elemental Elder Spirits.
Home from the Sea is the eighth installment of Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series, and I’m kicking myself for never having read these books beforehand because I can only imagine the first seven are as good as this. Lackey is a character-driven storyteller, as opposed to a world-driven one, which means the reader is not bogged down with more details than necessary to understand the story. There’s just enough complexity in Lackey’s words and writing style to keep the reader interested, but not enough to make it so dry the reader can’t understand what’s going on. Given that this is eighth in a series, there are some things that aren’t explained fully. But the background information Lackey offers is enough for first-timers to understand what’s going on, even though it’s given in a bit of a roundabout, not-chronological-at-all kind of way. That is a mite frustrating, but not so much that it makes the book any less enjoyable.
Home from the Sea is especially interesting to me for a couple of reasons. One, it’s set in Edwardian England, and Lackey throws in references to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens, and Rudyard Kipling as if they know all about this hidden world of elemental magic, which just “happens” to be shared in their written works. Additionally (and I don’t know if this is a theme in the first seven novels), chunks of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream are used by the main characters to call to Puck, who plays a fairly important role in the unfolding of this story.
Lackey’s way with character description is phenomenal. I greatly enjoy being one of those people who is able to visualize books in such detail that it’s almost as though I’m watching a movie, and Lackey does not disappoint in this regard. Every time I was interrupted whilst trying to read this book, when I came back I momentarily forgot I was reading at all. This book was fantastic, and I can’t wait to start the series at the beginning.
Buy It: I’m kicking myself for never having read this woman’s work before, and have since acquired the first seven books in the series, because I just can’t get enough of this world. Trust me on this, get number eight, and then go back and read the first seven.
Home from the Sea
DAW Books, Inc.
$25.95 (Hard Cover), 311 pages