Review: A Study in Sable by Mercedes Lackey
This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Mercedes Lackey returns to the world of the Elemental Masters with a novel featuring literature’s greatest detective: Sherlock Holmes.
When Elemental mages Nan and Sarah begin working with John Watson at solving some cases that the great Mr. Holmes considers to be unworthy of his time, they end up embroiled in a very unusual mystery. A dead girl, an opera singer plagued by ghosts, and an undeniable connection between the two sets the stage for a tale that will test the limits of Nan and Sarah’s friendship to the breaking point.
You have no idea how happy it makes me to say this, but I am incredibly pleased to report that this newest Elemental Masters novel does not suffer from the pacing issues that have plagued many of her recent books. Instead, the clues present themselves at a reasonable rate, the action unfolds over the course of the novel instead of being rushed in at the end, and the story itself is unique and bears no hallmarks of earlier entries in the series. I also liked that although the author gives readers clues as to some parts of the mystery, there are others that remain hidden until the climax.
The novel is billed as featuring Sherlock Holmes, but that’s a bit of a stretch–while he does make appearances, much more page time is given to John Watson. In this story, he has decided to hone his detecting skills by taking on cases that Holmes feels are beneath his notice. I kind of wish Holmes had been there more, because I enjoyed the parts of the book where he was forced to confront the reality of magic and to try to fit it into his orderly worldview. I think more could have been done with that, especially with the idea of magic and science clashing.
What I actually liked most about the novel was the interactions between Nan and Sarah. The situation with the opera singer puts immense strain on their friendship, and readers see the results of this from both women’s points of view. You have to sympathize with both of them, and that’s what I like: neither of them are painted as “bad” or “wrong”, but the mistakes that they make within their friendship are clearly illustrated. I never really thought a permanent break was going to happen, but from a psychological standpoint, it was a fascinating bit of character analysis.
I enjoyed this novel much more than any other Lackey novel in recent years, and I can only hope that this trend towards more measured pacing continues. The Elemental Masters books are still lighter fare than others on the shelves, but I still find them diverting, with this one renewing my interest in the series.