Book Review: The Case of the Spellbound Child by Mercedes Lackey

Posted August 19, 2020 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: The Case of the Spellbound Child 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.

The Case of the Spellbound Child by Mercedes Lackey
Series: Elemental Masters #15
Genres: Paranormal Fantasy, Alternative History, Magic, Adventure, Middle Grade
Published by DAW Books on December 4, 2019
Pages: 320
Format: eBook
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also in this series: Elementary: All-New Tales of the Elemental Masters, 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, Jolene, Passages, Magic's Pawn, Magic's Promise, The Serpent's Shadow, The Oathbound, The White Gryphon, The Silver Gryphon, Beyond

Fifteenth in the Elemental Masters alternative history paranormal fantasy series for upper middle-grade readers and revolving around magic users in a richly detailed Victorian England where Sherlock Holmes takes second place to two young ladies who work in a magical partnership with Dr and Mrs Watson and now their young ward.

My Take

I do like the bargain Nan and Sarah come up with at the start in that first “case” they solved, and it won’t be the first time the group comes up with ways to help people out. It’s very inspiring in that respect.

There’s another case Lackey sets up before she dives into the meat of The Case of the Spellbound Child.

It is a dive too…for the reader. Trying to decipher the dialect Lackey throws in here was quite annoying. I don’t see why she had to be quite so colloquial!

Ellie and Simon’s childhood is definitely a contrast with what today’s is. That’s not the only contrast, as Sarah and Nan tend to cogitate on the luxuries she’s gotten used to now that she works for Lord Alderscroft versus what she experienced as a younger child. Certainly makes me appreciate indoor plumbing!

Hmm, seems Dr Watson suffers from being a man, lol.

It does go to show that there are wicked people who prey on children throughout time and the world. It’s what Sarah, Nan, and the Watsons do at the end that is so encouraging. For not all poor people are slumming it to avoid working.

It’s also encouraging — character-wise — as to the reactions that Alderscroft and company have to how other magicians respond to the news of poor children being turned out and Travelers going missing.

It’s third person global subjective point-of-view with most of the perspectives from Ellie’s and Simon’s thoughts and Nan and Sarah. It’s particularly handy for listening to Simon’s thoughts on how all the bad things he’s done is what led them to his current situation. While I can appreciate that Simon’s regrets may lead him to mend his ways, he’s too bright of a child (with too much power!) to be able to hold to it long.

I know it’s sounding rather cerebral, but it is action-packed with a feel of the fairy tale to it. Hansel and Gretel, anyone? And those actions are driven by the morality (or lack of it) by the characters.

The Story

While Sherlock is still officially dead, Dr John and Mary Watson and Nan Killian and Sarah Lyon-White are taking up some of Sherlock’s case-load, including a missing children’s case that combines with the interests of Lord Alderscroft, the Wizard of London.

It seems evil is brewing in Dartmoor with children missing and their tracks abruptly disappearing. They might have said no, but there’s the assignment for Alderscroft. Why not kill two birds with one stone?

But the deadly bogs are not the only mires on Dartmoor.

The Characters

Sarah Lyon-White is a medium and Spirit Master whose parents are missionary doctors. Neville is a raven and Sarah’s companion-partner. Nan Killian is a Spirit Magician and Psychic and former street rat. Grey is an African parrot and Nan’s companion-partner. Suki is Sarah and Nan’s ward. Mrs Horace is their caring landlady.

Dr John Watson and his wife, Mary (an Air Master), are partners with the girls and Sherlock. Peter Hughs is the vessel Caro occupies, enabling her to live; she’s chosen medicine as her/his field of study (The Bartered Brides, 14).

Lord Alderscroft, a.k.a. the Lion, is the Wizard of London. He deeded over land for the Harton School. Brendan is his coachman; Paul Sterling is the second coachman and the permanent driver at Alderscroft’s country home.

They’re all covering up that Sherlock Holmes isn’t dead, enabling him to track Moriarty. Suki trains and runs with Sherlock’s Baker Street Irregulars.

The Harton School is…
…run by Memsa’b and Sahib Harton where Suki is a student along with Suzie Higgins and Jess Masterson. Beatrice Leek is a witch, who has been training Sarah. The Badger Court Twins need to be encouraged to go through the Portal. Sylvia is the daughter of an Air Magician, Sapphire Morrison, who works as a teacher. Her husband is Gerrold. Tom is a young lad who is sometimes used as a messenger.

Case #1

Alf and Reg are mates. Sam Browne and his wife Annabelle run a cookshop. The Bartilinos have a large family. Mrs Hardy runs a clean brothel. Lottie is a Cockney whore (who will join Mrs Hardy’s house).

Case #2

Robert is an unscrupulous soldier boy.

Case #3

Helen “Ellie” and Simon are sister and brother punished for spilling the milk. Mother, Maryanne Byerly, is well educated and unaccepted in Sheepstor. Pa, Roger Byerly, had lost a hand in a mill machine. Sally Byerly had been Roger’s mother with a touch of Earth Magic, turned out by the squire…and luckily, loved by the villagers. Daisy is the goat.

Sheepstor is…
…the village outside Yelverton in Devon, and near where the Byerlys live. The Rock Inn is owned by Harold Linwood, an Elemental Magician. John is the inn’s coachman, and Daisy and Dandy are the coachhorses. Father Donald Shaw is the parish priest. The local squire is a jerk. Gatfer Cole, a former sexton, lives in the village and is a witch. Grim is a black dog and friend to Cole. Maude Rundle is another healer-witch with Earth Magic who lives outside the village.

Sherlock is using the name “Benjamin Hubert“.

The Drake Manor Inn is just outside Yelverton. Ganmer Dolly is another witch. Chief Constable Harris is in charge of the jewelry.

The Dark One uses black magic to hold their fellow prisoners who include Robbie, who was to be thrown on the Parish; Rose, Ben, and Deborah are of the Travelers; Lily, Colin, and Mark had single parents with too many children to track; Stephen, Bill, Sam who’s a healer, and Jess had been turned out when their grandparent died. Liz had been one who didn’t ‘op to it.

Ansel Anglin is a weedy, boastful sort. Robin Goodefellow, the Oldest Old One in England, is a friend.

The Cover and Title

The cover has a watercolor effect with its blue and white silhouette of Sherlock Holmes with his pipe. On top of this, on the right and centered vertically, is a beige- and black-bordered vertical rectangle of a two-story cottage at dusk with a light shining forth from its open door, someone on the path that leads to the cottage. There’s a fence closing the place off from a rock-strewn hillside. On top of this are Grey and Neville flying across Sherlock and across the left edge of the picture with the title, in white, just beneath Grey’s wing at the bottom. The author’s name is in a paler beige at the very top. Within the cottage frame is the series info in white.

The title is a reference to the binding the Dark One uses to keep his servant from running, in The Case of the Spellbound Child.

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