Cross ‘Rapunzel’ with the Wild West, and you get this tale, from Lackey’s Elemental Masters series, which are all set in the turn of the last century, and feature magic of the Elements – Air, Water, Fire and Earth.
Giselle was adopted by an Earth Master, taken from a family that could barely afford to feed the seven children that came before her. They go to live in an abbey in the middle of the German forest, not because Mother wants to keep her to herself, but because Giselle will become an Air Master, and it’s best to raise those with Air magic far from an influences that could turn evil. It’s during this time that Giselle is nearly assaulted, and a few friends of her mother’s, members of the Bruderscaft (last featured in Blood Red), teach her to shoot, and other ways to defend herself.
When Giselle’s mother unexpectedly passes away, she’s at loose ends, and not sure how to support herself. Her friends have the idea of having her tour around and win shooting contests at local fairs, but she has to pretend to be a boy to do this, and that becomes difficult. Near the end of her rope, she stumbled upon a touring Wild West show, and they’re on the lookout for a female sharpshooter. Even better, the head of the show’s Pawnee contingent is the American native equivalent of an Air Master, so Giselle is among people sympathetic to her magic.
The author actually included an intro this book, because there was apparently a German author named Karl May who wrote about the Wild West in the last 19th century, despite having clearly never been there. He’s still incredibly popular even today, and formed the German ideas of the American West. In this book, the show isn’t as well received as it was in other European countries, and it’s because their portrayal of the Indians in their show doesn’t match May’s. Giselle is able to help them modify the show, and they’re a rousing success.
Rosa, the principal from Blood Red, also makes an appearance in this story, when the company goes into her part of the German Woods. Since there are magic workers in the company, she’s there to make sure they don’t run afoul of any deep woods nasties. She and Giselle become quick friends. She also helps clear up the central magical arc in the book, which I won’t detail, because it’s spoilery.
I really enjoyed this book. The Wild West company is so much fun. There’s no romantic angle, which is nice – it’s Giselle learning about her powers, and becoming good friends with some very different, but fundamentally like minded people. Another great entry in this series.