Book Review: Jolene by Mercedes Lackey

Posted December 21, 2020 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Jolene  by Mercedes Lackey

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Jolene by Mercedes Lackey
Series: Elemental Masters #16
Genres: Paranormal Fantasy, Horror
Published by DAW Books on December 1, 2020
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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Also in this series: Elementary: All-New Tales of the Elemental Masters, The Case of the Spellbound Child, The Serpent's Shadow

Also by this author: Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill, Victories, Blood Red, The House of the Four Winds, Closer to Home, Changing the World: All-New Tales of Valdemar, Under the Vale and Other Tales of Valdemar, Winter Moon, Moving Targets and Other Tales of Valdemar, Elementary: All-New Tales of the Elemental Masters, No True Way: All-New Tales of Valdemar, From a High Tower, Hunter, Closer to the Heart, Silence, A Study in Sable, Elite, Closer to the Chest, Tempest: All-New Tales of Valdemar, A Scandal in Battersea, The Hills Have Spies, The Bartered Brides, Dragon's Teeth, Eye Spy, Breaking Silence, Pathways, The Case of the Spellbound Child, Passages, Magic's Pawn, Magic's Promise, The Serpent's Shadow, The Oathbound, The White Gryphon, The Silver Gryphon, Beyond

Sixteenth in the Elemental Masters paranormal fantasy series and revolving around magic-users. The focus is on the young Anna May Jones, and is the first story to take place in America.

My Take

I had to concentrate on this being part of the Elemental Masters series, as I’m so used to it being set in Victorian England. Lackey does keep true to her working class roots for her teen protagonist, using a mountain dialect for the principal characters. Thankfully, it’s very easy to follow her spellings.

That beginning is certainly an excellent example of how the wrong setting can affect a magic-user. Poor Anna May. Thankfully, her aunt knows what she’s doing, even if Lackey uses third person protagonist point-of-view from Anna May’s perspective.

In describing the Jones family’s life in a mining town, Lackey touches on all those negatives of being a miner and the effects the pollution and lack of safety equipment has on miners and their families. The debt the Company forces their employees and families into. Yep, pollution. Lackey worked her views in very nicely.

Those were some handy bears a’helpin’ to keep Union and Rebel soldiers from wiping out the holler.

As usual, you can warn the young, but they have to experience it for themselves. At least Anna May is a fast learner. She does have a lot to deal with. Learning about her genetic heritage. Reconciling it with what the preacher said was in the Bible as well as her pa’s declarations. Uncovering her bigotries. Anna May’s dreams about being viewed as her true age are sweet.

Josh has his own dreams. So does his Ma with her love of Blue Willow. A love I can understand *grin*. It’s a cute story Josh relates to Anna May about So Ling, Kong-see, and Chang.

I gotta say, I do get confused trying to figure out Anna May’s genealogy with all those granpappies and grannies and whether they’re greats or great-greats. Take it with a grain of salt.

That Aunt Jinny. She is a caution and too smart for them. All in all, it was a fun read even if it was rather tame with that unexpected ending.

The Story

Anna May Jones continues to weaken, and in desperation, Anna May’s mother sends her to live with her Aunt Jinny, a witchy-woman and an Elemental Master, in a holler outside of Ducktown.

As she settles into her new life, Anna May finds herself falling for a stonemason with a talent for stonecarving. But he’s passionate to carve more than just the work for which he’s commissioned.

When the stonemason disappears on a quest to fulfill his ambition, it is up to Anna May to follow and find him, armed with the new abilities Aunt Jinny has taught her. To save the man she loves, Anna May must journey into the mountain — and confront the horrors that lurk in the darkness of the mine.

The Characters

Anna May Jones has been sickening since puberty. Ma, May, isn’t the most motherly woman; she loves her husband too much. Pa, Lew Jones, is a miner in Soddy.

Aunt Virginia “Jinny” Alscot, Ma’s sister, has a fearsome reputation as a healer, a Root Woman, thanks to her Earth magic. She lives in Lonesome Holler, in the mountains outside Ducktown. In her childhood, the Alscot family had lived in Shady Holler, near Soddy. Anna’s maternal grandmother, was supposed to have married Parnel Parry, Granpappy’s best friend; she died after birthing Maybelle, who was then spoiled beyond belief.

Pavel Ivanov Lebedev (could be Pavel Lebedev Ivanov??), was Jinny’s Great-granpappy. Coby is a hob who tends the yard. Pavel has a fascinating journey. Sally Lacey, known for her healing ways, was his wife, Jinny’s Great-granny, whom Pavel met on Squire Thomson‘s farm in Devon, England.

Jinny’s neighbors, Maddie and Matt Holcroft, bought the farm from Jinny’s Pa. They have a lot of children, starting with Joshua, Sue, Jacob, Gertie, Seth, Becky, and Ned. Susie is their mule. Hope Sue is okay with that!

The Earth Elementals are…
…Jinny’s friends. The Domovoy came from Russia with Jinny’s Great-granpappy. Grandmother Spider will help teach Anna May. Other Great Elementals include Bear, Deer, Badger, Wolf, Fox, and Panther. Medicine Bear is the Chief of all Bears.

The Cherokees are…
…not supposed to exist in the holler, but they hide behind a magical barrier on land bought by Jinny’s Russian Granpappy, specifically for the Cherokee. It kept them safe from the Removal. Granny learned to be a Root Woman from Elder Raven’s grandpappy and granny. Elder Raven is the father? of Young Raven. It could be that Old Raven is the father with Elder Raven the grandfather… Or they’re the same person?? Dawn Greeter may be Old Raven’s wife. Moon Daughter is Young Raven’s wife. Eagle Sight, a chief, was the Cherokee whom Pavel first met.

Ducktown, Tennessee, is…
…where the Burra Burra mine is located. Caleb Strong has a cartage business with his son between Cleveland and Burra Burra. Mary is his wife. Cavenel runs the Company store and is the undertaker who commissions tombstones and such from Josh Holcroft. I’m not sure how to reconcile Thomas Cooper running the Burra Burra Company Store with Cavenel’s. Mrs Hopper lost a baby. Clay’s Main Mercantile is where Jim and Abby work. Billie McDaran, the mine foreman, is a bad man, a powerful Earth master. Sheriff Tailor comes with the bailiffs.

Jeb Sawyer is a teamster who makes the run between Cleveland and Soddy with goods for people and the mine. Daisy is his mule. His kids include Hal, Sue, and Bobby. Cap’n Clem runs a ferry.

Soddy is…
…the mining community where the Joneses live. And suffer. Daisy. Anna May’s contemporaries include Sally Macray.

The Malachite Maid is…
…also known as Jolene and Hozjajka Mednof Gory, a.k.a. The Queen of Copper Mountain, with Earth magic. Pavel first knew of her in Russia, but she can travel anywhere. She likes to collect craftsmen.

The Three Sisters are corn, beans, and squash. The Ani’-Tsa’guhi was a clan that took up an immortal deal. Aunt Jinny has a powerful hate on for President Andrew Jackson. The Glory is how Aunt Jinny refers to their magic, the Elements of Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit. A Lodge is like a union of local Elemental Masters. Rufous Taylor is a master over in Asheville.

The Cover and Title

The cover is is both soft and bright. The background is a grayed-out graphic of the blond Josh in black knotted neckerchief, white shirt, and brown leather full apron, concentrating on a long-stemmed cup? against which he’s handling a black tubular object. He’s standing in his barn studio surrounded by carved statues, plinths, and tombstones. The author’s name is in white at the very top. Immediately below it is the bright with a black-and-clay framed rectangular inset framing the orange tones of Jolene from bust to her long red hair studded with colorful jewels, scarabs, lizards, and an entwined snake as a crown. She’s staring out at us with those emerald green eyes above a brown silhouette of the dying town of Ducktown. In the bottom left of the inset is the series information in black. At the very bottom is the title in a gradation of clay to dark brown in the same gothic font as the author’s name.

The title is all about the questionable Jolene.

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