This book is in Lackey’s Elemental Magic series, where fairy tales are told against the Edwardian era, with elemental magic (Air, Water, Earth and Fire) thrown into the mix.
This book is Cinderella, but set in the time of World War I. Eleanor Robinson has been chained to the hearth of her home by her stepmother, Alison. Alison is an Earth Master who uses the evil side of the Earth powers, and bewitched Eleanor’s father into marrying her, and then convinced him to enlist, where he was promptly killed. Unfortunately, she was not able to get him to change his will in time, so she needs to keep Eleanor around to control her fortune.
Reggie Fenyx is the son and heir to the local baron. He’s a pilot, and Eleanor, a bit of a tomboy, had been among the boys that went to the airfield to admire Reggie’s plane. Reggie naturally enlisted in the army, and was shot down over France. He ended up buried alive in a bunker for several days, which is bad enough for a normal man, but Reggie is an Air Master, and Earth is the opposite to his element, so he was plagued by the bad earth elementals that were drawn to the battlefield until his rescue. He’s badly afflicted with shell shock, and has been sent home to recuperate.
At the same time, Ellie discovers that her mother was a Fire Master, and Ellie may have inherited that full power. Helped by her godmother (her mother’s friend, the local witch), if she can learn to harness that power, she may be able to escape from her step mother’s spell. Things become more urgent when it becomes clear that Alison will stop at nothing to get Reggie to marry one of her two daughters.
You absolutely know where this story is going – it’s is Cinderella, after all, but it’s done so skillfully in this setting that there is still an element of suspense. It’s nice to put a real face to the Prince – Reggie has his own journey to go through in this story, and while Eleanor has people giving her guidance, she’s really the one that seizes her own destiny, and wins her way free of her step mother. It’s a great book.