Phoenix and Ashes : Elemental Masters

  • by Mercedes Lackey
  • Narrated by Michelle Ford
  • Series: Elemental Masters
  • 15 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In this dark and atmospheric rendition of the Cinderella fairy tale, an intelligent young Englishwoman is made into a virtual slave by her evil stepmother. Her only hope of rescue comes in the shape of a scarred World War I pilot of noble blood, whose own powers over the elements are about to be needed more than ever.


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Customer Reviews

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A Cinderella story about PTSD

Originally posted at Fantasy Literature. Life's too short to read bad books!

Each of Mercedes Lackey’s ELEMENTAL MASTERS novels is a stand-alone fairytale retelling. Some of the novels have overlapping characters, but you can read these books in any order. The fourth book, Phoenix and Ashes, is a mostly pleasant Cinderella story set in England during The Great War. Maya, the Indian doctor from The Serpent’s Shadow, is a minor character. I listened to Michelle Ford narrate the audio version of Phoenix and Ashes (Audible Studios). She is perfect for this tale.

Unlike some of the other ELEMENTAL MASTERS stories, Phoenix and Ashes stays pretty close to the source material; you can tell this is a Cinderella story. Eleanor Robinson’s father is killed during WW1 and Eleanor is left living in the house she grew up in with her socially-climbing evil stepmother and two stepsisters. They cast a spell on Eleanor and make her their slave while they attend teas and balls. Eleanor’s “fairy godmother” is a local witch who helps Eleanor develop her own magical skills. Her helpful woodland creatures are the salamanders that usually accompany fire mages in Lackey’s ELEMENTAL MASTERS books. Most interesting is Prince Charming — a young soldier who was sent home with “shellshock.”

Lackey does a nice job of portraying the horrors, the deprivations, and the massive amount of death that The Great War caused. We see an England that is nearly devoid of healthy adult men within a certain age range. Women were running the farms and businesses. German submarine blockades of merchant ships meant that people were hungry. So many of the English soldiers never came home, and those who did were maimed and/or afflicted with PTSD, a brain disorder that people didn’t believe in until recently. Lackey shows us the scorn that the military held for those who suffered from “shellshock” and also the way they were slow to adapt to the Germans’ technological advances. A few times Lackey attempts to bring in some socialist opposition to the war, which could have been really interesting and informative, but this is dealt with so quickly and superficially that it was of no value.

As in the other ELEMENTAL MASTERS books, the evil villains are totally over-the-top sadists, making them seem like caricatures rather than real people. Eleanor’s stepmother is so hilariously bad that it’s hard to take her seriously. In contrast, the protagonists always display surprisingly modern ideas for their time. They’re always progressive feminists who despise the class structure they were born into. A little more diversity and nuance to Lackey’s characters would be nice.

Still, for a fluffy fantasy read, Phoenix and Ashes is mostly entertaining. It’s easy to sympathize with Eleanor’s plight, cheer when she manages to win little victories over her evil stepmother, and feel excited knowing that she’ll triumph in the end. Unfortunately there is a long odd section in which Eleanor learns about passion, balance and responsibility from the creatures on Tarot cards in some sort of dreamland. This was bizarre and boring and didn’t feel like it fit in an ELEMENTAL MASTERS novel since, I think, Tarot has not been mentioned as related to this magic system before. The ending of the story, when Eleanor gets revenge, was also abrupt and not especially satisfying. Sort of like my ending to this review.
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- Katherine "I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!"

One of the Best books offered on Audible

If you could sum up Phoenix and Ashes in three words, what would they be?

interesting, thought-provoking, brilliant

What did you like best about this story?

I loved the feel of it, the overall sense of realness WW1 brings to the story.

What does Michelle Ford bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

the accents, if you are not a British citizen than the rhythm of the dialog wouldn't be present as vividly.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

to avoid any spoilers, I would just say that the entire journey of hard won Freedom was very moving and a very dear concept.

Any additional comments?

This story is a great retelling of Cinderella, with WW1 as a back drop. That said it is very difficult to say you can't see the ending coming... but this is definitely a book that proves, it's not the destination but the journey that matters. You will enjoy a new landscape as you travel down a fresh path into an old tale. It may even open your eyes to the thought that Fairy Tales may come in, at first glance, ordinary packages.

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- R. Jones "Indianajones"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-20-2009
  • Publisher: Audible Studios