Book Review: The Silver Bullets of Annie Oakley by Mercedes Lackey

Posted March 30, 2022 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: The Silver Bullets of Annie Oakley by Mercedes Lackey

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

The Silver Bullets of Annie Oakley by Mercedes Lackey
Genres: Fantasy, Historical
Published by DAW on January 11, 2022
Pages: 288
Format: eBook
Source: my own shelves

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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, Jolene, Passages, Magic's Pawn, Magic's Promise, The Serpent's Shadow, The Oathbound, The White Gryphon, The Silver Gryphon, Beyond, Spy, Spy Again, Oathbreakers, The Lark and the Wren, The Gates of Sleep, Phoenix and Ashes, The Wizard of London, The Robin and the Kestrel, Oathblood, Exile's Honor, Owlflight, Exile’s Valor

Seventeenth in the Elemental Masters historical fantasy series set in an alternate history and revolving around the sharpshootin’ Annie Oakley on tour in Germany

My Take

I think Lackey cranked this out without paying much attention . . . She is using a third person global subjective point-of-view which allows a number of perspectives from various characters. Naturally, Annie’s is the prime perspective.

This story reminded me very much of From a High Tower, 11, and I have to wonder why Lackey never referenced Giselle, considering how much Annie and Giselle had in common with the two Wild West shows — in Germany, no less. Then there are the German audience expectations Lackey had laid out in From a High Tower. Why wouldn’t Frida have told Buffalo Bill, Annie, and Frank?

I gave The Silver Bullets of Annie Oakley a 3 mostly because there wasn’t any real conflict in this. Oh, sure there were minor battles as Annie and Frank helped in a few hunts, but it was primarily a story of Annie and Frank learning how to use their magic. It didn’t help that I kept expecting to read of Giselle.

I am confused about the 14,000 people that can be seated. I’m thinking it must be the number of people the show can accommodate . . . or it’s the number of people in the show, which would be a ridiculous number. Except it’s in context with the cost to move the show. And then there’s Lackey mentioning that “all eight thousand seats were sold out for both shows”, so, wow. Fourteen thousand people!

The “Wolf” couple are so nasty, and stupid. What would it harm them to treat Annie well and pull them into their trap? They’re the cause of Annie’s internal issues about her childhood encounters.

That whine over, it is a fun story with all of Lackey’s skill in showing the comforts and chills of the show wintering over in Strasburg and other cities. I did have to laugh at Annie’s “description” of how much the English like their cold, lol. Annie also makes a point about how wrong people are in thinking the poor are poor because they are lazy.

There’s an interesting story on how a cowboy like Jack came to Germany. It also underscores how supportive the good guys are of each other. Annie also learns the benefits of allowing a maid to help her and why masters and magicians prefer a happy household of family AND staff. A practical consideration from ALL angles.

Most of the “conflicts” are about the learning process, what being a master or magician entails in responsibilities which makes Annie consider whether it’s worth it

It’s fun to read of all the behind-the-scenes work that goes on as well as their efficiency in packing up and traveling and the marketing tricks. That efficiency allows Lackey to bring in some politicking about the kaiser with his spies.

As I said, it’s a fun read, and you might want to keep a pot of coffee nearby . . .

The Story

Desperate to survive, Annie’s mother needs her to earn money for the family, despite Annie hunting for all their meat. Her travails, and practice, lead to her starring in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

It’s a fortuitous run when Annie and Frank encounter Frida, an Air Master, who has been tracking the couple for her own purpose, and Annie discovers that she and her husband, Frank, are not simply master marksman, but also Masters of rare ability.

As they travel and perform, Annie must use her newfound knowledge and rare skill to combat creatures of the night scattered across the countryside, who threaten both the performers and the locals.

The Characters

Ten-year-old Phoebe “Annie” Moss, a.k.a. Annie Oakley, Annie Butler, “Little Sure Shot” who was adopted by Sitting Bull, was bonded out to a couple in order to earn money for her family. Brownie is Annie’s horse in the show. Baby Hulda is Annie’s little sister, who is now a talented seamstress, and John is their jealous brother. Their father had died; their mother is a Quaker. Frank Butler is Annie’s husband. Frank is also a representative for the Union Metallic Cartridge Company, the Remington Arms Company, and endorses others along with Annie. George, a poodle, had been part of Frank’s original act.

The Wild West Show of . . .
. . . Colonel William “Buffalo Bill” Cody is touring Germany. Charlie is Buffalo Bill’s parade horse. The Rough Riders of the World is a new act consisting of Frida, a top shootist for the Brotherhood (and an Air Master), and Cap’n “Jack” Jackson Cate, an American genuine cowboy who is a top roper and trick shootist as well as Frida’s assistant (Fire). They also do a German horse act (Hoch Schule), that sounds amazing with ten-year-old Lippizans: Maestoso Eidelweisse, a.k.a. Dell, and Pluto Astarte, a.k.a. Arte. Johnny “The Cowboy Kid” Baker is a crack shot and trick rider. Jule Keen is the girl Johnny’s been courting; her father is the show treasurer and paymaster. The cowboys include Fred Gibbs. Tony Esquival is a good singer. Black Elk is one of the Indians. Frank Richmond is the show’s announcer. Ricardo, one of the vaqueros, and Esmeralda Sanchez, who helps with costumes, have a small child and Frida and Jake loan them their vardo for the winter. Animals include Jerry the Moose. Lillian “Princess Wenona” Smith had been a jealous sharpshooter.

Graf Theodor von Hirschberg, a Water Master, is the Lodge Leader and Grand Hunt Master. Sofi is his wife with no magic but who comes from a family that produces some. Wolfgang, Ludwig, and Anneliese (Earth) are Theodor and Sofi’s children. Frau Schnee is Sofi’s powerful mother, a Spirit Master. Matilde is one of the graf’s servants.

Karl Mittelsman, a tavernkeeper, is the city host for the Strasburg Hunting Lodge, a magician, not a master. Gaspard is in the china trade. Thor Anzig is a professor of English and American Literature at the university. Pierre Lyon will teach Frank about his magic.

Lydia Martin, Cecilia Lavin, and Frau Schnee have a naughty story about their past.

Mathijs De Witt is good at summoning Greater Elementals.

The Bruderschaft von Jaegermeistern, a.k.a., the Brotherhood of the Foresters . . .
. . . are the arcane guardians, huntsmen who protect the populace from evil (Blood Red, 10). Hunt Masters lead the hunt for monsters.

Lord Whitlesford recognized her aura of power. Lord Kelson provides aid to Frida.

She-Wolf and He-Wolf, a.k.a. Ernst, are the couple who “hired” Annie through the Darke County Infirmary, the county poorhouse in Mr and Mrs Edington‘s charge. Sarah and Meg had been fellow “inmates”. This “Wolf” couple are a lazy and brutal pair you’ll never want to meet.

The Shaws had been neighbors of the Mosses. Oakley is the man who helped Annie escape. Redhorse was a member of the initial show Jake was with. Frida’s parents are a gamekeeper and a craftswoman who specializes in embroidery and laces. King Ludwig had been the ruler of Bavaria until forced from his throne. Kaiser Wilhelm and Chancellor Bismarck are a wicked, greedy pair.

Sylphs are the smallest and most helpful of the Air Elementals. The Greater Elementals are nearly gods in power and include dragons. Nehallenia is a Great Water Power. Telwaz is a Greater Elemental who renders justice. More elementals include pixies, Winds, zephyrs, Storms, and Tempests.

A Krampus is an Earth Elemental and punishes wicked children. Ernst Kauflber had definitely been an attractor. A nachtkrapp is a Raven-creature that preys on children. A buschgrossmutter and a hexe are more rubbish.

The Cover and Title

The cover is dark with its black-on-gray background of monsters. Off-center is a rectangular insert framed in black and cream with a golden sky and the front of a black locomotive emerging through the frame, steam wreathing the bottom with a be-hatted Annie, her long brown hair flowing down her back, a rifle propped over her shoulder, and wearing a belted “buckskin” dress. At the top is the author’s name in white. To the left of the insert is the series info in white. The title begins to the left of the insert and continues below it in a gradated white to yellow.

The title is more a metaphor for what Annie discovers about herself and The Silver Bullets of Annie Oakley.

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