A Study in Sable
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Series: Elemental Masters #12
It’s been forever since I read a book from Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series. So, I’m pretty behind. However, I couldn’t resist jumping ahead a little once I saw that this one was promising a Sherlock Holmes inspired story.
“A Study in Sable” centers on the friendship of two women with special abilities. Nan can read people’s thoughts and summon a Celtic warrior when threatened. Her counterpart, Sarah, sees dead people and can help them cross over to the other side. The two have been working together for years to keep various magical entities in check. After taking a job to banish a horde of ghosts that have been plaguing an opera singer, Sarah becomes enraptured with the prima donna. As Sarah changes and starts to distance herself from her friends, Nan begins to suspect that there is something insidious going on. Unsure if her guess is correct or if it’s just jealousy, Nan enlists the help of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.
Nan and Sarah’s friendship was the highlight of the book. It’s always exciting to see a friendship between female characters done well in a fantasy. The fact that this story placed that relationship at the forefront was incredibly refreshing to see. I also appreciated that the threat to Nan and Sarah’s bond and its resolution was handled well.
My only real quibble with the book is, ironically, the thing that attracted me the most to the story. Normally, I love re-imaginings of Sherlock Holmes (for example, the Mary Russell series), but it did not work here. The insertion of Holmes into Lackey’s world felt really awkward and it didn’t help that he wasn’t really integral to the plot. He was sort of just there. Making John Watson into an water elemental didn’t help matters either. In the end, their sections of the story tended to feel a little… fanfiction-y. It would have been better if Lackey had created two original characters based on Holmes and Watson, rather than attempting to drop the “real” characters into the story.
Fans of these books may be surprised to discover that there’s not a romantic subplot in this one, since that seems fairly standard in the previous books. However, for this story, I’m relieved that Lackey didn’t include a romance.
All in all, this was a fun and quick read. Whether you’re a long standing fan of the series or a newbie, you’ll find something to like here.
ARC provided by Netgalley and Berkley Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.