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A Scandal in Battersea:
An Elemental Masters Novel
by Mercedes Lackey
DAW, $27.00, 310 pp.
Published: October 2017

Just in time for winter reading, Lackey brings us another Elemental Masters novel set in Victorian London during the last weeks of a cold, snowy December and early January.

As the center of the story, Nan and Sarah, with their familiars Neville the Raven and Grey the grey parrot, along with Memsa’b and Sahib, Agansing, Karmjit and Selim return here.  The talented students of the Harton School for special children who have untrained magical skills and abilities also assist.  And best of all, Sherlock Holmes, and John and Mary Watson are pulled into the thick of things as well.

They must take on a very eldritch horror from another dimension which wants to consume our world and overrun it with slavering monstrous creatures. This ancient nightmare is being called forth by a self-centered toad named Alexandre Harcourt who has a little innate magical skill and decides his world and life need improving, especially in the wish fulfillment department. So, he chooses to call on some very olde occult magic and bring forth a demon who will make Alexandre’s world all better…. NOT! (I mean, we all know how THIS will end!)

Of course, this Stygian evil demands human sacrifice---seven special virginal maidens. Some homeless boys and one baby. This Queen of her Endless Night demands fourteen souls—thirteen to eat and one to be a vessel to chant the queen into this dimension.

So, women in London begin to disappear, and then, surprisingly, REappear—as mindless automatons. They are found blindly walking the streets in the snow, able to only respond to commands. The women can take orders but otherwise remain motionless.

And worst of all; they are completely soulless.

John Watson is called in to take a look at these poor abused victims, along with Mary and Sherlock. Nan, Sarah and the rest of their magical stalwarts come together to uncover just what’s going on.

And meanwhile, Alexandre and his wonderful Victorian jack-of-all-trades, Alf, scour London for the right sort of girls for the dark pillar of horror that Alexandre has called forth in the bowels of his basement in Battersea, a suburb of London near the Thames. Every few days he must feed it a virgin woman, and a virginal boy, easily culled from the hundreds of homeless street urchins.

As the number of missing women begins to rise, Nan, Sarah and friends are getting more and more frustrated as they try to discover why the women are disappearing and more importantly, for what purpose are they coming back soulless husks?

Luckily, we also get to meet up once again with the Oldest Olde Thing of England, Robin Goodfellow, otherwise known as Puck. He’s such a delight! But even he is stumped by the nature of the dark dreadful magic threatening England.  This wonderful cadre of characters put together their intelligence and skills to great purpose and realize that magic, working best on odd numbers, will require in this instance seven women. And the seventh has just gone missing.

Nan, Sarah, Neville, Grey, John and Mary Watson and the redoubtable Sherlock Homes (with some behind the scenes assist from Mycroft) pull their resources together in this huge hall of the suburban hospital where the previous six afflicted victims have been sequestered and tended to.

Puck even requests the assistance of the dreaded and awesome Wild Hunt. Nan gets to ride with them for a brief time in the horrendous confrontation when the eldritch Queen is being called forth from her dimension and is letting loose her hounds of war - spider-dog-crab - things that come forth to eat and consume. However, they find themselves held off by the doughty strength of Victorian magic wielders and the ancient strength of Old English magic called forth by Puck.

It’s a helluva a battle.

This is a terrific addition, volume twelve, mind you, to the Elemental Masters series. It is the perfect read for a long winter weekend when the weather outside is frightful and the fire inside delightful…. get a cup of your favorite hot beverage, hunker down someplace warm and comfy—and indulge!

This would make a perfect holiday gift for anyone you know who loves historical fantasy! ~~ Sue Martin

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