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Crescent Blues Book ViewsImage:four moon gifDaw Books (Hardcover), ISBN 0-88677-915-4
Take a look at any bookstore's fantasy shelves and you'll see that fairy tales are hot, hot, hot. Mercedes Lackey helped start the trend with The Fire Rose and continues it with The Serpent's Shadow, a variation on "Snow White." But Lackey takes the story of a maiden in peril helped by seven little men and changes it to a maiden in peril helped by -- seven Indian gods?

Book: Mercedes Lackey, the Serpent's Shadow But of course! The maiden in peril hails from India, the half-caste daughter of a British physician and a Brahmin woman named Surya. After her mother's untimely death, Maya Witherspoon flees India to practice as a doctor in England. Accompanied by two faithful servants and her mother's seven pets, Maya settles in London and uneasily begins a new life.

Through her high-caste mother, Maya descends from a family of powerful magicians. Unfortunately, another inherited the family magic -- Surya's twin sister Shivani, who loathed the thought of Surya marrying one of the hated British.

A true priestess of the murderous goddess Kali, Shivani killed her traitorous sister and husband. Now she plans to kill her sister's changeling child. Little does Maya (or Shivani) know, but Maya's magical nature, which comes from her father rather than her mother, may well prove to be stronger than anyone suspects.

Meanwhile, alarmed by several unusual murders, London's magical community puts out an APB on the magic they believe caused the deaths of seven men, all of whom at one time or another served in India. The savage sorcery reeks of India and leads water mage Peter Scott to Maya's door. Peter quickly realizes that Maya's magic speaks of earth power rather than the more murderous Indian magic involved in the murders.

Book: Mercedes Lackey, The Fire RoseTaken by the young doctor's beauty and charm, Peter offers to train Maya as an apprentice -- and to also find an adept to train her more fully in earth magic. As Peter trains and falls in love with his student, he realizes that something evil stalks Maya. Will he (and Maya's faithful servants and pets) be able to protect her from the shadow that haunts Maya's every move?

I found The Serpent's Shadow to be as magical as the original. I loved that instead of seven dwarves, Lackey invested seven animals -- a small Hanuman langur (monkey), a peacock, a Saker falcon, two mongooses, an Indian ringneck parrot and an Eurasian eagle/owl -- with the avatars of seven gods of the Indian pantheon. They make Sneezy and Doc look like also-rans.

Again Lackey shows what a master writer at the top of her form can do. In my opinion, The Serpent's Shadow qualifies as a "must read" for fans of fantasy. And for those who love fairy tales, Lackey makes sure you get a most magical kiss.

Teri Smith

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