Literature / Elemental Masters

The novels in the Elemental Masters series, by Mercedes Lackey, are a mix of historical fiction and fantasy, with a big scoop of fairy tales stirred in. Most of them are set in the late 1800s-early 1900s.

The books “officially” in this series are:

The Fire Rose (Beauty and the Beast) uses the same pattern and tropes as the official books (though with minor differences, including a slightly different magic system and being set in America instead of Britain/Europenote ), but was published by a different company so isn’t normally included in a list of the series. However, it will be included on this page.


This series provides examples of:

  • A Boy and His X:
    • Nan and Sarah from The Wizard of London,Home from the Sea,Study in Sable and Scandal in Battersea have familiars, Neville the raven and Grey the parrot, respectively.
    • Reserved For The Cat's Ninette has Thomas, though that's a bit more complex since he's not an elemental creature but her own father under Baleful Polymorph.
  • Accidental Murder: All Giselle and her Air Elementals planned to do was cut off the breath of the officer accusing her of Draft Dodging (or raping her once he determined that she really was pulling a Sweet Polly Oliver in order to win sharpshooting contests) until he passed out. Despite the local Earth Mage confirming that the officer had been teetering on the edge of a stroke for years and wasn't liked by those that knew him, Giselle is still plagued by guilt throughout the book.
  • Acquired Poison Immunity: Reggie has developed a resistance to opiates, thanks to the large doses he's been taking in order to get any sleep. When Alison tries sedating him near the end of the novel, it wears off much sooner than she'd expected.
  • Action Girl: In their "Warriors of the Light" aspects, both Isabelle Harton and Nan can pull this off. Ninette Dupond manages this as well, and then immediately lies about it because No Guy Wants an Amazon. Rosamund von Schwarzwald is the real champion of this though. She goes out and kills blood mages for a living.
  • Alchemic Elementals: Sylphs, Gnomes, Undines, and Salamanders all show up. They will serve those who have a talent for their respective elements, and cooperate with mages with a complementary element, but dislike and avoid those with opposing elemental affinity.
  • Alcoholic Parent:
    • Nan's mother spends what money she manages to earn as a street walker or Nan can get by begging on gin (and sometimes other drugs).
    • In The Fire Rose, Jason Cameron's father became an alcoholic as a result of losing his wife and home to the Great Chicago Fire. He eventually abandons his son when Jason falls ill with typhoid, tying him to a house gate to keep him from following.
  • All Trolls Are Different:
    • Alison drains the life energy from her daughters and solicitor to summon one to kill her stepdaughter Eleanor and Reggie Fenyx in Phoenix and Ashes.
    • The troll in Reserved for the Cat is an evil earth elemental with the ability to shapeshift into many different forms, including humans.
    • Trolls also show up briefly in Unnatural Issue, serving under necromancer Richard Whitestone.
    • The standard fairy tale type of troll (made of rock, turns to stone when exposed to sunlight, guards bridges, and eats goats) appear in From a High Tower. One, named Pieter, was apparently taught to be good, as he helps out the Bruderschaft.
  • Ambiguously Evil: We don't know what is up with Kali Durga. She does eventually kill Shivani for the crimes the priestess commits in her name, but it's not clear whether She approves of the thugees and Human Sacrifice in the normal course of business; Shivani's death may be a case of Even Evil Has Standards or Good All Along.
  • Animal Jingoism: Thomas may have been human-born, but he takes pride in being a cat and, at one point, is disgusted when the media portrays his saving Ninette as a Timmy in a Well situation.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: After having the existence of Psychic Powers proven to him, Sherlock Holmes very deliberately avoids finding evidence of Elemental Magic, and wants nothing to do with it. This is doubly funny because, while both kinds of magic run on Magic A Is Magic A and can be scientifically verified and studied, Holmes still sees one as scientific and the other...not so much.
  • Arranged Marriage:
    • Arranged marriages are common in the series among upper-class mages. The reasoning is that it's best to marry someone you won't have to hide your Elemental magic from, and if you get along well with him/her that's a bonus.
    • The generations-long pact between the Protheros and the Selch in Home from the Sea makes each Prothero part of an arranged marriage.
    • Played with after Mari chooses her Selch husband. Since she has to have a marriage license if she's not going to be treated like a whore by the village, Dafydd Prothero pretends he's forcing Mari into an arranged marriage with a cousin (the Selch fiance) to ensure that she'll be able to keep their cottage after Dafydd eventually dies. The villagers think that it's a forced marriage, which is why they absolutely have to close ranks behind Dafydd. They may not want to arrange their children's marriages, but the principle that an arrangement is a direct command from God has to be protected.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: Dr. Maya Witherspoon fits the "highly trained and well-equipped criminal" version. She’s a fully-qualified doctor and surgeon, with a perfectly respectable clinic. She also volunteers at a clinic in one of the rougher neighborhoods of London, holds late office hours for the convenience of several courtesans/mistresses among her patients, and is willing to provide any female patient with contraception (illegal at the time).
  • Baleful Polymorph:
    • Jason Cameron (though he did it to himself)
    • In Reserved For The Cat it turns out that the titular cat, Thomas, is actually Ninette's cursed Earth Master father. He only tells Jonathon as a matter of trust and necessity and does not wish Ninette to know the truth.
    • Wolfgang would probably count himself here as well, though he’s more of a changed-species Reincarnation.
  • Beast and Beauty: The Fire Rose is based on "Beauty and the Beast", and features a pretty female scholar hired by a magician who has been shifted into a half-wolf form.
  • Bedlam House:
    • In Phoenix and Ashes, Allison intends to have her orphaned step-daughter Eleanor locked up in an asylum like this in order to get control of her fortune.
    • Defied and Invoked in The Gates of Sleep. Physician and Earth Master Andrew Pike tries to help the both the charity cases and the upper-class paying patientsnote  he milks for operating funds to the best of his knowledge and power at the sanitarium he set up, but when summoned to the bedside of half-trained Water Mage Marina Rosewood in a magical coma by her suspiciously unconcerned aunt he pretends he never met hernote  and plays a vaguely sociopathic experimenter stereotype to the hilt in order to get her out of there without arousing suspicion.
  • Behind Every Great Man: At one point, Rose thinks back to a fellow student who stole her research while courting her. She had wondered at the time if it would really be so bad to have her work published under her husband's name. In the event, he was only courting her for her family's money; when a scammer drove her father to bankruptcy, the student dumped Rose.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Transylvanian shifter clan in Blood Red. All of them are the children of a sorcerer/shifter and his daughters. The resulting genetic damage is more obvious than you would normally see with one or two inbred generations; Rosamund suspects the alpha's use of Blood Magic to ensure fertility is speeding up matters.
  • Bitch Alert: Alison, Carolyn, and Lauralee throw enough bitchiness to fill a kennel in the very first chapter of Phoenix and Ashes.
  • Black Magic: The majority of villains are using some form of this. We don't see a systematic treatment of the subject, as (obviously) no protagonists practice the black arts, but we get some hints. It can be used by those without magical power of their own through Blood Magic (though full magicians can use that more easily), it can allow any mage to compel spirits regardless of their element, and also allows dealing with elementals of the Dark, such as ice elementals and trolls. Most (but not all) Necromancy is done through Black Magic, with Richard Whitestone (a fallen Earth Master) being the standout example, able to raise the dead on an industrial scale.
  • Black Widow: Alison – Eleanor's father and the father of the stepsisters were merely the bookends of a long career of using and killing men.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Rosalind Hawkins from The Fire Rose has to wear glasses. She isn't shown as ever losing them. However, she is required to take them off for a ritual to Summon (or rather cajole) a Unicorn (an Elemental of Spirit), and is annoyed that she can't see much of anything. (The Unicorn looks like a white, blurry shape when it appears.)
  • Blow You Away: Air Masters/mages such as Nigel Barrett (Reserved for the Cat), Reginald Fenyx (Phoenix and Ashes), Rosalind Hawkins (The Fire Rose), Lionel Hawkins (Steadfast), and Giselle Schnittel (From a High Tower). Wind mages, unless they are very powerful, aren't much good in combat, but they can feed energy to fire mages, who are excellent at it. They are, however, excellent for spying and surveillance.
  • Bookcase Passage: Richard Whitestone's secret library and Work Room are concealed this way.
  • Book on the Head: In The Gates of Sleep, Arachne's maid was told to make Marina walk with a book on her head. She doesn't, because Marina already has excellent posture.
  • Candlelit Ritual: In Phoenix and Ashes, Alison uses modern (for 1918) flashlights to set up a ritual and to clean up afterwards, but during the ritual itself the only light comes from candles.
  • Cannibalism Super Power: The Troll in Reserved for the Cat can and has eaten many people, which then allows her to take on the form of the person and access their knowledge. She can also take on the forms of animals, though it isn't stated if she had to eat them as well.
  • Canon Welding: Mercedes Lackey wrote several stories about Sarah, Grey, Nan and Neville before she came up with the Elemental Masters series; at least two of these stories make up a large portion of The Wizard of London.
  • Cats Are Snarkers: Thomas the cat in Reserved for the Cat. He's a victim of an Involuntary Transformation, not a native feline, but there seems to be a certain psychological Morphic Resonance.
  • Charm Person: Ninette has a touch of this ability.
  • Chessmaster Sidekick: Thomas the cat in the "Puss in Boots" retelling Reserved for the Cat.
  • Child Prodigy: A minor character in The Gates of Sleep is a child chess prodigy who was driven into a mental breakdown by his father (who was living off the fees he charged for the kid's exhibition games).
  • Cinderella Circumstances: Eleanor in Phoenix and Ashes is magically bound to the house so her stepmother can treat her as a slave and use her family fortune.
  • Color-Coded Elements: In the Western (Greco-Roman) tradition, Fire is red, Air is blue, Earth is yellow, and Water is green.
  • Combat Parkour: Nina from Reserved for the Cat; she's a trained ballerina, and knows that jumps, spins, and kicks can be useful both in dancing and fighting.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Rosamund von Schwarzwald in spades. When helping a Water Mage fleeing an Air Master who went to the bad, she gets them out of the way of innocents to lure the Air Master out. While the Air Master sneers at the Water Mage for having to hide behind a woman's skirts, Rosamund kills the Air Master with a well-aimed throwing knife and calmly lectures the gawking Water Mage about the efficacy of physical, mundane attacks on magic-users.
  • Convenient Slow Dance: In Phoenix and Ashes, when Reggie and Eleanor step onto the dance floor, the band not only switches to a slow waltz, but wraps up the music as soon as Reggie needs to take a break from dancing. Probably justified; Reggie is still recovering from a leg injury, and can't dance fast dances or for very long. If he didn't warn the band ahead of time, his godmother (who hired them) most likely would have.
  • Country Mouse: Rosamund comes across as this early in Blood Red, being a forester from the Schwarzvald. Her patron the Graf enjoys this about her, but makes sure to give her a bit of an education in being a classy lady too, because her skills have earned her a continent-spanning reputation and she needs to be able to deal with White Lodges from Paris to Belgrade.
  • Crazy-Prepared:
    • Ninette's maid Ailse. Originally hired as someone who wouldn't freak out at elementals running around, it turns out she carries a revolver loaded with Cold Iron, Silver, and Blessed Lead bullets. At all times.
    • Whenever Rosamund goes on an extended journey, she takes along a large trunk for her silver-lined armor, swords, knives, axes, mace, crossbows, morning-star, pistols, shotgun, ammo....
  • Creepy Good: Spirit Mages and mediums, whose powers specialize in dealing with ghosts, but who focus on constructive activities like dealing with haunts and helping restless spirits find closure.
  • Crop Circles: In one of the books in the series, it's mentioned that while a non-mage can't see any of the Elementals, they can see the effects, among which are crop circles.
  • Crossover Cosmology: All religions have some truth to them; both the Christian afterlife and the Druidic Summer Country are shown to exist, for example, though the Christian version isn't as all-encompassing as it claims to be. Also, the divine magic of the Hindu pantheon plays a significant part in The Serpent's Shadow.
  • Cultured Badass:
    • Lord Peter Almsley, a young gentleman and scholar, proves that he's this when he comes up against the (much larger) town bully in Unnatural Issue. The bully gets pulped, Peter's only injury is sore knuckles from hitting the bully so many times.
    • Nan likes Kipling's work and is a voracious reader. She's also an ex Street Urchin who is, despite her age, capable of (temporarily) assuming her Warrior of Light aspect. And that's when she's a kid. Heaven help you if you anger her when she's an adult...
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Jason Cameron from The Fire Rose is contemptuous of his apprentice's use of magic to cheat at gambling games (in the specific mentioned incident, a cockfight). A genuine Fire Master (which Paul theoretically could become if he actually put some work in) could make a fortune in a few years through completely legal means like Jason did.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: In Reserved for the Cat, other than the review from La Figaro, the matinee reports focus on the star ballerina's injury and Ninette's performance rated only, "Sujet Ninette Dupond was called upon to replace the etoile and managed a creditable, if sometimes naïve, interpretation." One of the other sujets (soloists) laughs at this and says, "You are damned with faint praise, Ninette."
  • Dance Battler: In Reserved for the Cat, the heroine, a trained ballerina, is being given some lessons in basic self-defense. Her strength and flexibility make her better than her teachers think she'd be, and in addition she is able to all on her own develop a self-defense application to at least one of her dance moves.
  • Deal with the Devil: In The Gates of Sleep, Reginald Chamberten made a formal pact with His Infernal Majesty sometime in his backstory.
  • Death by Childbirth: Unnatural Issue begins with Richard Whitestone returning home mere hours after his wife Rebecca succumbs to this. He does not take it well.
  • Depleted Phlebotinum Shells:
    • Ailse's aforementioned special bullets.
    • In Reserved for the Cat, the heroine carries a revolver loaded with two Cold Iron bullets, two Silver Bullets, and two Blessed Lead bullets, plus extra ammo of all three types. It's anyone's guess which type offed the mystical Big Bad at the end of the novel.
    • In Unnatural Issue, the Kerridge family have similar bullets for their shotguns, and they along with their friend Peter and his valet Garrick also have shotgun shells filled with blessed salt to take down the undead.
  • Devour the Dragon: In the climax to Phoenix and Ashes, the wicked stepmother drains her lawyer/sidekick/future son-in-law completely of life, and drains her two daughters until they are aged, withered, senile husks of their former selves.
  • Did the Earth Move for You, Too?: The back-cover blurb for The Fire Rose ends with the statement that the female lead comes to love the male lead, "And — the earth moves..." Of course, this is 1906 in California, so along with any pleasure the two may take in one another, the earth is moving because of the big San Francisco quake.
  • Dishing Out Dirt: Earth Masters, though a few use their powers more for healing than for combat.
  • Domestic Abuse: In Steadfast, Katie Langford runs away from the circus she works at to escape her abusive and brutish husband Dick, the circus strongman.
  • Draft Dodging: Warrick Locke's servant/bodyguard Robbie (Phoenix and Ashes) uses his ability to dislocate his shoulders at will to avoid the draft.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: In The Serpent's Shadow, Maya has to deal with catcalling Upper-Class Twit observers when trying to remove an inflamed appendix on a pregnant Irishwoman without excising the uterus, respecting her beliefs on the matter. However, when Simon Parkening says that "one less Irish bitch pumping out litters of whelps" won't matter anyway, the catcalls and mockery die down and one of his fellows calls him out of order.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The Fire Rose is the only book set in America, includes a Unicorn as a spirit elemental (and includes spirit as an element, for that matter, instead of having psychics), mentions only satyrs, undines, salamanders, and sylphs instead of the multiple kinds of elementals for all four elements, and doesn't distinguish between Light and Dark elementals. The magic system is slightly different—the main character must pass a "test" by summoning and making a pact with an elemental to begin her magical training, and during this the sylph she summons tries to trick her into madness, when in later books no one begins by calling an elemental and sylphs are wholly benevolent unless provoked. It also spells magic as magick, which never happens again. Which brings into question whether it truly counts as part of the series, or is more like a prototype.
  • The Edwardian Era: Time period for most of the novels.
  • Elemental Embodiment: Several. Those with a touch of magic can see them; masters of the corresponding element can command them.
  • Element Number Five: The element of "Spirit" is mentioned in The Fire Rose and later in Blood Red (and briefly in The Serpent's Shadow, albeit from the perspective of a non-Elemental Indian mage). There aren't specifically any Spirit Mages, though there are psychics that seem to be related to the element, and the Unicorn (a Spirit Elemental) is implied to be an angel. There are heavy implications that the element is linked to the Abrahamic God and to Heaven.
    • A Spirit Master finally appears in A Study In Sable and they seem to be necromancers in the more traditional fashion - that is, those who speak and communicate with ghosts, as well as empower them and do limited magic to do with ghosts. The exact abilities - and what makes them different from mediums, aside from not being able to open "gates" to the after life - are not explained.
  • Elemental Powers: Most magic in this series is based on the four Western elements.
  • Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors: It's more complicated than a simple rock-paper-scissors arrangement, but present. In particular, Earth and Air, and Fire and Water, are opposed - normally, a magician of one Element can't do anything with the opposing Element, but can work with the ones to the side to a limited degree. Rosamund von Schwarzvald is an exceptional case; she's an Earth Master, but Air elementals (even greater elementals) talk to her and work with her freely, and she can and does teach a fledgling Air Master.
  • Elemental Tiers: This is alluded to in The Wizard of London when Lady Cordelia is working on her plan to Grand Theft Me David; she thinks that after stealing David's body and powers, "instead of the weak Power of Air [Cordelia's element] behind the Power of Ice, she would have the immense strength of Fire [David's element]."
  • The Empath: Ninette (Reserved For The Cat) turns out to have this power. A very useful power for a ballet dancer; she can "feed" the audience and they "feed" her back. It also means, that if anyone has ill intent on her, she knows. And the events that lead up to the climax suggest that if she knows someone enough her power can warn her when they are in danger.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: In From a High Tower, Rosamund mentions that she had to deal with another girl who'd "gotten a pash" on her.
  • Evil Uncle:
    • Maya's aunt Shivani.
    • Marina's aunt Arachne in The Gates of Sleep.
  • Evil Diva: Magdelena in A Study In Sable.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: The ice elementals in The Wizard of London. From a High Tower establishes that all forms of cold elemental are Always Chaotic Evil in a way that even trolls aren't.
  • Evil Is Easy: Paul duMond in The Fire Rose is convinced there's a shortcut to magical power, and turns to the novel's villain when Jason refuses to teach him that "shortcut".
  • Evil Twin: Shivani was Surya's evil twin. She may have killed Surya, definitely killed her husband, and spends the whole book trying to track down and kill Maya as well.
  • Expy: Lord Peter Almsley for Lord Peter Wimsey. Early fan speculation was swiftly confirmed by Word of God.
  • Fairy Tale: The plots of all the novels are based off different fairy tales:
  • The Fair Folk: Robin Goodfellow is a very benevolent example, but he's still a mercurial being who operates on Blue and Orange Morality.
  • Fair-Weather Mentor: Jason Cameron is a downplayed example to Paul du Mond. He knows that this is because Paul simply isn't willing to put in the effort to actually master Fire, but he is meanwhile just taking advantage of Paul's services as a secretary while withholding lessons that Paul wouldn't be able to master anyway; he's completely honest with Paul about this, but he also knows that Paul won't believe the truth. Paul sees him as a full-blown case of this, of course, and turns to another master for lessons; one who is far less scrupulous than Jason.
  • Fallen Hero: Richard Whitestone, the White Lodge's foremost necromancer-hunter, lost his mind after his wife's Death by Childbirth and turned his interests to Black Magic.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Jonathon Hightower warns Ninette that she may be facing this, "and I do not mean mere rape".
  • Faux Flame: Part of Jonathon's magic act. Sometimes he doesn't bother to tell his assistants the flames aren't real. Ninette was not amused.
  • Fights Like a Normal: This is Rosamund's favored tactic against evil wizards. As she explains, they're expecting to defend against magic, and a flying tackle followed by a dagger stab is not something they'll have a ward against.
  • Financial Abuse:
    • When Katie's husband Dick finally catches up to her, he lives off of the good salary she gets from her job at the music hall and keeps close track of the money she spends so that she can't hide any away.
    • Alison forgot to make Eleanor's father change his will before she got him killed. She pockets the regular allowance Eleanor gets from the estate, and forces Eleanor to write regular letters to the law firm in charge of the estate asking for additional money for extra expenses.
    • A minor character in The Gates of Sleep was a child chess prodigy whose father forced him to play exhibition games for money until the kid had a nervous breakdown. (After Dr. Pike brings the boy out of it, he teaches the boy how to pretend his breakdown removed his chess skills — meaning the boy won't be abused this way again.)
  • Fire Keeps It Dead: In Unnatural Issue, when a Hunting Party finds that Richard Whitestone has killed and reanimated all his servants, the Fire mages in the group chase everyone else outside and summon salamanders to cremate the bodies.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect:
    • Doctor Pike has enough female patients falling for him during psychotherapy that he routinely uses his magic to make them fall out of love (or infatuation, at least).
    • Classic example with Doctor Amelia and Paul Jenner.
    • Susanne Whitestone hopes to invoke this on her crush, Charles, when she finds him in the London hospital she's volunteering at; unfortunately he turns out to already be engaged. Actually, it's fortunately, because it turns out Charles isn't nearly as compatible with Suzanne as she previously thought, due to her Character Growth from her frontline nursing duties in WWI.
  • Force Feeding: Learning that this was being done to the suffragettes is what prompted Maya to publicly join their cause in The Serpent's Shadow.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Maya, Marina, Mari, and Katie fall in love and are engaged within a few months of meeting their love interests, while Charles falls in love and is engaged to an old childhood friend the day after meeting her again at a party. Justified in that they are all Elemental Masters and Mages, which means that they can tell really quickly if someone is right for them or not. Lionel in Steadfast even thinks to himself that he's heard of Mages/Masters meeting for the first time and then eloping the next week in Gretna Green, not having the patience to get a license and post banns first.
    • To be fair, in Marina's case, her groom-to-be insists that she be introduced to society and have a proper Season in London, where she could have the chance to make another match (given their social differences). She ends up having two Seasons - and comes back to marry him anyways.
  • The Fundamentalist: Shivani and her agents.
  • Gentleman Wizard: Pretty much everyone.
  • Girls with Moustaches: Katie lives at a theatrical boarding house for ladies that is run by a bearded lady named Mrs. Baird, who was a former performer.
  • The Girl Who Fits This Slipper: Eleanor’s pinky finger gets chopped off by her Wicked Stepmother in the first chapter as part of a binding spell, so when she leaves her gloves behind at the masquerade ball, there's no question about who they belong to. Doesn't stop her stepsister Lauralee from trying, though, and coming out to the hero to claim her gloves still loopy from the painkillers.
  • The Glasses Gotta Go: Averted in The Fire Rose — when one of Jason's Salamanders comments that Rosalind is nice-looking despite her glasses, Jason immediately declares that glasses are just another accessory.
    • Inverted as well—without her glasses, Rosalind says that Jason merely looks like a man with a remarkable beard.
  • God Was My Copilot: In The Serpent's Shadow, Maya's Indian pets are all avatars of Hindu gods and goddesses. They manifest powers in the finale; most notably, Charam the monkey turns into Hanuman himself, complete with spear.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: In The Serpent's Shadow, this becomes an issue when Maya has to operate on a pregnant Irishwoman with an inflamed appendix. It's mentioned that most doctors would just remove the uterus and fetus to get them out of the way, but Maya respects her patient's Catholic beliefs enough to work around them, to the disdain of the watching students.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Rosamund is a reasonably friendly woman when she's off the clock, but she's not off the clock very often. She is (at first) prejudiced against werewolves for understandable reasons, and even after that, she takes a fair amount of joy, as well as pride, in killing bad magicians. She also doesn't ask permission before getting involved in things, such as attaching herself to Cody's travelling show on the off chance that it ends up kicking a hornet's nest (though in her defense, it's the Black Forest and not a place for an untrained magician to be travelling unescorted).
  • Grand Theft Me:
    • Lady Cordelia's plan for David Alderscroft. Her primary aim is to gain the political power she can't claim in a female body, but it's indicated that she will also use this technique to become immortal (by moving into new bodies on a regular basis).
    • An interesting variant in Unnatural Issue: Richard Whitestone intends to summon his wife's soul from beyond death, and install it into their daughter's body... Grand Theft Her, maybe?
    • The climax of A Study in Sable is a borderline example. Johanna's ghost seizing her sister Magdalena's body upon helping send the murderess to her reward was clearly not planned ahead of time and surprised everyone, but it is unclear whether it was a complete accident or a 'might not work but what do I have left to lose' impulse.
  • Had To Be Sharp: "Gunther von Weber's" cover story. A young man who travels Germany's shooting competitions, "he" explains his phenomenal skill as coming from taking care of his mother, having to protect their animals and put game in the pot; "don't hit, don't eat." Actually, Gisette is...embroidering the truth a bit; her skill is largely from being a Mage Marksman.
  • Half-Breed Discrimination:
    • Maya Witherspoon's mother ran away from her wealthy Brahmin family to wed an English doctor and army officer, so she gets it from both sides.
    • Katie is half Traveller, her mother being a Traveller that was cast out from her clan when she fell in love and eloped with Katie's father, a non-Traveller acrobat that she met at a fair.
  • Hate Sink:
    • Simon Parkening in The Serpent's Shadow is racist, misogynistic, an abusive employer, and spiteful to an extreme. While he has the rank and privilege to make life difficult for the good guys, he's also a Too Dumb to Live Smug Snake who insults his (female, Indian) occult adviser when he knows that magic is real and that she's better at it than he is.
    • Reggie's grandfather in Phoenix And Ashes, due to his extremely abrasive personality (with no Hidden Heart of Gold in evidence) and complete lack of sympathy for Reggie's PTSD.
    • The bullying constable Ewynnog in Home From The Sea, who seems to function as this in-universe as well. Nobody respects him but he has too much authority for people to be able to dismiss him entirely.
    • Dick Langford, Katie's abusive, drunkard lout of a husband.
  • Heal It with Fire: Eleanor uses a fire spell meant to purify whatever it's cast on to "purify" her bloodstream of morphine.
  • Heaven:
    • Exists, but isn't described; the one time it's seen, it's just a glorious light through a gateway. Sarah finds two ghost children, who believed that they were destined for Hell for being bad kids, and opens the road to Heaven for them.
    • The pagan Summerland also serves this function. It's primarily for the dead who followed the old Druidic religion, but in some situations where a Christian ghost can't make it to Heaven but doesn't deserve Hell, the Puck arranges for them to go to Summerland as well.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Richard Whitestone is absolutely convinced that women are mentally inferior to men.
    • Maya Witherspoon, being a doctor in an era when women were seldom encouraged to aspire to anything apart from marrying well and keeping a household, gets a lot of this as well.
    • In fact, it's a recurring theme in the entire series; appropriate considering the eras (Victorian, Edwardian, World War I). But never considered a good thing in the narrative.
  • Hermetic Magic: Several Masters, most notably Fire-aligned Jason, Jonathon and Eleanor, use drawn circles and runes, either to actively work magic or as a means of mental focus.
  • Hermit Guru: In Phoenix and Ashes, Eleanor's teacher is an Elemental spirit who takes the form of a hermit (specifically, The Hermit from the Rider-Waite Tarot) for purposes of dream-instruction.
  • Hero of Another Story: Peter Almsley gets a lot of elements of this in Serpent's Shadow, with his work off-the-page on Maya and Peter's part, and the epilogue consists of a letter from him to his Grandmother. Becomes literally true in Unnatural Issue.
    • In fact, Peter Almsley is a clear pastiche of Lord Peter Wimsey. He looks the same, has the same mannerisms, is a Duke's son who has a stupid brother, and the like. In fact, the final letters in Serpent's Shadow are almost exact duplicates of the letters which begin Busman's Honeymoon.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Nan and Sarah, who are practically inseparable both personally and professionally. In A Study In Sable they're even raising their orphan protege together.
  • Historical-Domain Character:
    • Aleister Crowley is a disgraced Magician turned con man. The Elemental Masters positively loathe him, but consider him to be a useful idiot for keeping up The Masquerade; as long as people associate Magick with him and his crowd of drug addicts, they'll be less likely to see it as real.
    • William F Cody, AKA Buffalo Bill, is mentioned several times in From a High Tower; his 'Buffalo Bill Wild West Show' (which really did tour Germany during the time frame of the novel) is referenced by Captain Cody Lee's show (as a reason why they aren't going to the same places that Buffalo Bill did, because when they did in France, it turned out to be a financial disaster).
  • Historical In-Joke: Constantly. One of the funniest is an offhand remark about "that incident at Loch Ness" which may give the lake a certain notoriety.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Alison's earth giant turns on her when she runs out of power.
  • Holier Than Thou: Characters in The Serpent's Shadow have a few sharp words for churchmen who think that charity should only be given to "the deserving poor" who adhere to middle-class values despite being unable to afford them. Maya is introduced to a bishop who turns out to be an aversion, being a genuinely kind man with a lively sense of humor.
  • Homeschooled Kids: The backstories of several characters in the series include being taught at home by tutors who were themselves Elemental magicians. Considering the time period, this is normal, since many wealthy families hired tutors for their children if they weren't being sent to Eton or some other boarding school.
  • Honor-Related Abuse: Shivani kills her sister Surya and Surya's English husband, as well as trying to kill their daughter, in order to cleanse the shame of Surya's mixed marriage from the family line.
  • Hooked Up Afterwards: Suggested for Jonathon and Ninette.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Norry from "Serpent's Shadow." She also moonlights as a pickpocket.
  • Hopeless Suitor: Susanne spends most of Unnatural Issue carrying an intense torch for Charles Kerridge, until she finally has to acknowledge that a) he's in love with someone else and b) he has absolutely no interest in her.
  • Horror Hunger: The Troll in Reserved for the Cat.
  • Hurting Hero: Reggie Fenyx starts Phoenix and Ashes with a combination of broken bones, shell shock, and psychic trauma from extended magical Cold-Blooded Torture.
  • An Ice Person: In The Wizard of London, after her pact with the Ice Dragon, Lady Cordelia is basically a mage version of this. David is well on his way to becoming one as well.
  • Industrialized Evil: Arachne's potteries are "Satanic mills" in the most literal sense, poisoning their workers as a form of Human Sacrifice.
  • Interspecies Romance: The Fire Rose deals with the romance between a human and an involuntarily transformed sorcerer anthro wolf.
  • Intoxication Ensues: The fake medium in The Wizard of London uses hashish-laced incense during her seances. The unknowingly-drugged clients are much easier for her to fool.
  • In Vino Veritas: Alluded to in The Serpent's Shadow, when Maya Witherspoon brings a young man injured on the orders of one of the book's villains to the Fleet Street Clinic. The head nurse is worried about the attraction he shows to a female medical student/clinic volunteer, until Maya points out that there's just as much truth in a quarter-grain of morphine as there is in wine.
  • Invisible to Normals: Only those with at least a touch of magic can see the Elementals (though normal people can see the effects of them).
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: The Fire Rose features a double-barreled example in the same chapter when Jason Cameron and Rosalind Hawkins both realize that they have fallen for each other, decide that the other at best regards them as a respected friend, conclude that once Jason is restored to humanity they will be a millstone interfering with the lives that the other has earned and honestly enjoys (Railroad Tycoon and Scholar, respectively), and thus resolve to put on a brave face when they go their separate ways.
  • Jabba Table Manners: One of the side effects of Jason's transformation in The Fire Rose. Rosalind eventually gets him to use a knife and fork.
  • Kick Chick: Ninette from Reserved for the Cat borders on this when she kicks an attacker into a wall. Justifiable because ballet requires both strong legs and precise movements with them.
  • Ladykiller in Love: In his debut in The Serpent's Shadow, Peter Almsley is shown to be quite contented with hired courtesans and not at all interested in love or marriage. Cue Unnatural Issue, and this is quietly forgotten, because Susanne Whitestone needs a husband and Charles is a Romantic False Lead.
  • Life Drain: Alison does it to her solicitor in order to increase her magical power, also to her two daughters. Possibly Shivani, since Peter Scott notes that she looks too young for her twin sister to have a twenty five year old daughter and there are only so many ways to preserve youth.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine:
    • The twins sisters in "The Serpent's Shadow". Surya was gentle, loving and maternal (light). Shivani is vicious, vindictive and cruel. Maya as well is light being a doctor and healer.
    • Marina and Madame Arachne in "Gates of Sleep." Marina is kind and friendly, if somewhat stubborn and "positively lawyer-like" in her ability to stymie rules or orders she doesn't care for. Her notable exercises of Water Mastery are to seek out poison and eradicate it. She has to be forced into wearing mourning black - by virtue of having her wardrobe completely replaced. In contrast, Madame Arachne is cold, manipulative, and cruel but seductive and alluring. The base of her power is in poisoning - the environment, people, souls. Her entire wardrobe is expensive, impractical, and very, very black.
  • Little Red Fighting Hood: Rosamund "Red Cloak" von Schwarzvald. A Hunt Master, Action Girl, Magic Knight and walking armory, she's practically The Dreaded to the werewolves (and other monsters) of the German forests, and the hooded cloak she once wore to her grandma's house has since become her trademark.
  • Lost Will And Testament: The Gates of Sleep has a variation — Madame Arachne doesn't destroy the will to keep Marina from inheriting from her parents, she destroys it because it assigned Marina's guardianship to her godparents. She then claims Marina's guardianship as the newly-orphaned girl's sole remaining relative.
  • Love at First Sight: Completely unremarkable in this series; it's repeatedly stated that magicians often recognize their True Love on sight and are married shortly after without so much as posting banns.
  • Lovely Assistant:
    • In Reserved for the Cat, Ninette acts as assistant in some of Jonathan's magic act.
    • In Steadfast, Katie gets a job as the assistant in Lionel's magic act, replacing his previous assistant Suzie, who was Quitting to Get Married.
  • Lower-Deck Episode: Steadfast is about lower-level Mages in the seaside city of Brighton, with no Master in sight (though Lord Alderscroft and Lord Peter Almsley are mentioned) until after the whole problem is cleaned up..
    • could also be said about Return from the Sea, at least socially. Mari is the daughter of a poor fisherman. Nan and Sara may have the backing of Lord Alderscroft, but they themselves are effectively Bohemians who dress respectably; Sara is a daughter of the middle-class at best, and Nan is a former street kid
  • Mage Marksman: Giselle, the heroine of From a High Tower, is a skilled markswoman to start with and when she uses her air magic to 'help' the shots she manages range from phenomenal (Boom, Headshot at nearly a mile) to near-impossible (slicing a playing card in two edgewise).
  • Magic A Is Magic A: Elemental Powers, Psychic Powers, The Fair Folk, and Indian divine magic, among others.
  • Magical Native American: Downplayed in From a High Tower. Medicine Chief (and former U. S. Army Scout) Leading Fox being an Air Master is totally justified by magicians occurring in just about every nationality; however the only other members of Captain Cody's Wild West Show aside from Cody himself (a low-level Fire Mage and longtime friend of Leading Fox) and their current announcer/manager (an Austrian who has relatives in the Brotherhood of the Black Forest) who knows anything about magic are the other Pawnee with the show.
  • Magicians Are Wizards:
    • Jonathon Hightower, an Elemental Master of Fire, is also a skilled stage magician. Most of his stagework is sleight of hand, but he enjoys using "real magic" at least once in each show.
    • Lionel Hawkins in Steadfast, is an Air Magician and has sylphs that help him with his magic acts.
  • Magic Knight: Hunt Master Rosamund von Schwartzwald from Blood Red switches between her considerable Earth Magic and weapons of varying mundaness in her battles with various monsters and/or rogue wizards.
  • Magic Mirror: In The Serpent's Shadow, the villainess has a magic mirror called a dark mirror (understandable, since this is an adaptation of the Snow White tale). Said mirror is horror of the And I Must Scream variety — she uses it to imprison the ghost of a man she sacrifices and tortures him constantly to insanity then slavish devotion so he can be useful to her. And she planned to do this to the heroine...
  • Magic Music: One method of summoning.
  • Making a Splash: Water Masters/mages, the main ones being Peter Scott (The Serpent's Shadow), Lord Peter Almsley (Unnatural Issue and The Serpent's Shadow), Marina Roeswood (The Gates of Sleep) and Mari Prothero (Home from the Sea).
  • Malicious Misnaming: After Alison magically binds Eleanor into slavery, she always refers to her stepdaughter as "Ellie". Eleanor definitely takes the new name as this trope; whether Alison meant it this way or was trying to emphasize "Ellie's" new status note  is left up to the reader.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage:
    • Maya's parents. Maya and her mother were looked down as inferior by the British ex-Pats in India and barred from pretty much all of the social institutions. And for all that, the British were still more accepting of the marriage than Surya's family was...
    • Bias against mixed-class marriages is brought up in Phoenix and Ashes — when Reggie tells his godmother that he loves Eleanor, her first reaction is that Reggie's mother won't approve because Eleanor is "common".
  • Masquerade Ball: There is a masquerade ball towards the end of Phoenix and Ashes. Eleanor attends costumed as a fairy princess. Her stepsisters are dressed up as historical personages Empress Josephine and Madame de Pompadour, while her stepmother is the Queen of the Night from The Magic Flute.
  • Master of Illusion: Jonathon. Later Lionel as well.
  • Maternal Death? Blame the Child: In the prologue of Unnatural Issue, Richard Whitestone returns home to find that his wife succumbed to Death by Childbirth a few hours earlier. He blames the baby, Susanne, for the death.
  • Meaningful Name: Marina in The Gates of Sleep is a Water Master. Mari is the Welsh form of Mary, which can mean 'beloved' and 'rebellious'. Mari Prothero certainly rebelled against the pact of Arranged Marriage between her family and the Selch and only agreed to it with conditions, and is beloved to her father and husband. Also Maya's name means 'illusion' and she is very adept with spells to avert notice. Peter means stone and Peter Scott marries Maya, an Earth Master. The other Peter follows him in Unnatural Issue, with his love interest being also an Earth Master.
    • Eleanor's nickname Ellie is quite similar to Ella for Cinderella, and Reggie's surname Fenyx evokes The Phoenix.
  • Meaningful Title: Reserved for the Cat; as lampshaded by Thomas in the ending scene, 'Reserved for the Cat' is actually a theatrical in-joke/double entendre: back when theatres had actual 'reserved for...' signs on the expensive private boxes, the phrase 'reserved for the cat' was used for people so important (often royalty) that they couldn't be openly identified. The novel's main location is a theatre/music hall, and it's a retelling of Puss in Boots!
    • A Study in Sable and A scandal in Battersea are slightly-adjusted versions of the titles of two of the most well-known Sherlock Holmes stories; these books both feature Sherlock Holmes, John Watson and Mary Morstan Watson.
  • Mentor Mascot: Thomas the cat in Reserved for the Cat.
  • Mentor Ship: In Home from the Sea. Mari ends up falling in love with the Selkie sent to be her magic teacher, instead of the Selkies sent to court her.
  • The Mourning After: Richard Whitestone does not take his wife's Death by Childbirth well, refuses to set eyes on his daughter, and turns to necromancy.
  • Muggle Born of Mages: In The Gates of Sleep, Arachne Chamberten was born without Elemental magic, to parents who were both Elemental mages (and implied to be from long lines of mages). Unfortunately for her parents and mage-born brother, she found out that you don't need inborn mage-talents to use Black Magic.
  • Muggle Foster Parents: Inverted with Marina Roeswood – the three godparents who raise her (and the fourth who is brought in to help teach her) are all Elemental Masters.
    • both played straight and inverted with Susanne Whitestone: she's raised collectively by the servants of the Whitestone manor house, but her magical tutor and metaphorical fairy godfather is Robin Goodfellow.
  • Mundane Utility: Mercedes Lackey is in love with this trope:
    • Earth mages not only use their healing powers to become doctors or farmers (they prefer rural life since the soil is polluted in cities), but use Earth Magic to handle household tasks such as making cheese. They can also apply their talents to geology.
    • Water Masters make their fortune in shipping, sailing, or navigation. They also tend to show up as physical (rather than performing) artists and priests - (at least more than the other types.
    • Air Mages/Masters tend to be entertainers. This is a major plot point in Reserved for the Cat and Steadfast. In Reserved for the Cat, Air Master Nigel is the impresario of a music hall and Air Magician Arthur composes and directs the orchestra (with help from Wolfgang). In Steadfast, Lionel is an Air Magician who uses Air Magic to enhance his illusions as a stage magician.
    • Fire Masters have some ability to sense the movement of energy, which means they can do well in the commodity market. They can burn off foreign substances, as Eleanor did to overcome a dose of opiates, so they also provide quite a few doctors. They also tend towards entertainers (possibly from an inborn flamboyance??) in From a High Tower, Captain Cody Lee, who owns and is a star act in a Wild West Show, turns out to also be a Fire Magician, and in Reserved for the Cat the star performer at Nigel's music hall is a stage magician who is also a Fire Mage. The heroine of Steadfast is an acrobat and dancer, who finds out she is a Fire Master. And of course, they never have to eat burned food.
  • Mystical Plague: Alison calls up a disease elemental at one point, and basically tells it to go nuts infecting people. Mercedes Lackey doesn't come out and say Alison just created the 1918 pandemic, but it's certainly implied.
  • Necromancer: Richard Whitestone turns to necromancy following his wife Rebecca's Death by Childbirth.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: After a close call involving her psychotic necromancer father, Susanne Whitestone was bundled off to safety by the White Lodge. To be precise, she was evacuated to a country estate in the Ardennes department of France... in late June 1914.
  • Ninja Maid: No kung-fu, but Ailse McKensie takes on a magical assassin with an iron cookpot.
  • Noble Bigot: Lord David Alderscroft can never quite override his biases against those of lower social classes. He gets manipulated like a puppet by a commoner (and Dark Magician) who did the Henry Higgins thing and took elocution lessons to speak like an upper-class lady. He also tends to treat "women with brains" as rare creatures, as noted in Home From The Sea by Nan. Most of the time he dismisses them and it took a lot to shake him up in that regard to allow ladies into the Lodge.
  • No Guy Wants an Amazon: The heroine of Reserved for the Cat is a ballerina who wins two fights, one with Waif-Fu and another with magical firearms. In both cases she downplays her involvement for fear of scaring off potential suitors.
  • Noodle Incident : so what happened during Nan and Sarah's trip to Africa just prior to Home from the Sea? More importantly, how exactly did they acquire their foster daughter between then and Study in Sable?
  • No Woman's Land: England in The Edwardian Era is like this. An unmarried woman is just a second-class citizen without the right to vote and threatened by harassment, and who can be moved around like a game piece by her relatives, but a married woman is about one step up from a slave, and her husband has virtually the power of life and death over her. Women with magic can normally avert this, however, as they can normally support themselves without marrying and choose husbands who will be good for them. The only protagonist who faces the full force of this trope is Kate from Steadfast, when her husband finds her; she's married to an abusive Jerkass and her mentors are unusually reticent to let her simply kill him herself.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Lord Peter Almsley acts like an Upper-Class Twit most of the time, but is actually anything but. The pose is a useful way to ensure that most of the people he meets will underestimate him.
  • Occupiers out of Our Country: One of Shivani's motivations is to throw the English out of India.
  • Of Corset Hurts: In The Gates of Sleep, after Madame Arachne carries off Marina, her maid forces Marina into tight lacing with the comment "You've never been properly corseted". (Marina eventually figures out how to tense her abdominal muscles to keep her corset from being laced too tightly.) Maya in The Serpent's Shadow and Rose in The Fire Rose also show dislike for wearing corsets, and never laces theirs as tightly as fashion would dicate.
  • One Hero, Hold the Weaksauce: Rosamund breaks the usual Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors setup in that, while she's an Earth Master, she is able to communicate with Air elementals. In Blood Red, this is because she's being aided by a god to right a terrible imbalance; in From a High Tower, the Great Air Elementals choose to commune with her while she's teaching Giselle.
  • One Riot, One Ranger: The Brüderschaft employ the realistic version. Their usual methodology is to send a single Hunt Master to a region to handle a developing situation, and then that Hunt Master organizes the local help into a Hunting Party if they need backup. At one point, this gets Rosamund and her two local allies in way over their head, because the arse end of Transylvania is without any magicians stronger than a kitchen-witch.
  • One Steve Limit: Lampshaded aversion. Peter Scott and Peter Almsley share the name, Water Mastery, and temperament, and they're thick as thieves, jokingly referring to each other as "twins" because of the shared name and mastery.
  • Only in It for the Money: Ninette's entire motivation, at least at first. Played sympathetically as a matter of survival, not greed.
  • Oop North: Most of Unnatural Issue is set in Yorkshire.
  • Opium Den: Opium dens are depicted in all their squalor in The Fire Rose.
  • Our Angels Are Different: In The Fire Rose, the Unicorn is strongly implied to be this. At the very least, it's a spirit of something other than the four elements, it cannot be coerced by any kind of magic, and it's apparently speaking and acting on behalf of some kind of higher authority.
  • Our Gods Are Greater: The pagan gods of Europe are essentially very powerful and humanlike Greater Elementals. Thunderbird, from America, is also a Great Air Elemental. Meanwhile, the Hindu deities seen in The Serpent's Shadow are not elementals, and appear to be linked to the Spirit element, and share more characteristics with the Christian God. God Himself hasn't personally shown up yet, though beings implied to be angels have, and holy Christian objects are extremely lethal against evil beings.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Blood Red has two different types of werewolf show up, and refers to two others. All of them are apparently vulnerable to silver and wolfsbane.
    • Sorcerers can use Blood Magic and a wolfskin belt to become werewolves. They have superhuman strength and a hybrid man-wolf form, plus enhanced healing. They have to cast the shifter spell each time they take wolf form, but apparently can return to human form without another Human Sacrifice.
    • Members of the werewolf bloodlines gain the ability to turn into wolves after they're weaned. They retain the same body mass whether wolf or human (youngsters turn into wolf cubs), their human intellect, and normal strength. If they spend too long in wolf form, they can lose themselves in the wolf's instincts. Their change is completely voluntary, and can take place at any time as long as the werewolf isn't in sunlight. They have supernatural healing (which includes healing diseases), but only when in wolf form. Their bite does not create other werewolves.
    • It's possible for someone to be either infected or cursed with lycanthropy. We don't see an example of either on-page, but it's implied that they almost always "go bad" as the human mind loses itself in the wolf instincts as the shift occurs.
  • Oxbridge: Several characters have attended or are attending either Oxford or Cambridge. Eleanor Robinson goes to Oxford to study literature at the end of Phoenix and Ashes. In Home from the Sea, a minor character mentions that he is being sponsored at Cambridge by Lord Alderscroft, and when Sarah asks, "What, not Oxford?", he replies that his father was a Cambridge man and the idea of his son attending Oxford made him turn puce.
  • Parasol of Pain: Custom made umbrellas with sharpened tips, reinforced shafts comparable to crowbars, and hidden compartments in the handle are mentioned in more than one book as discreetly martial accessories for ladies.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • In The Serpent's Shadow, the death of the protagonist's magician mother quickly led to the death of her father (since she had concealed him from a common enemy who objected to their marriage). The story opens after the protagonist has relocated to Victorian London in the hopes of escaping her family's enemy.
    • The Gates of Sleep starts with Marina's parents agreeing to let Marina be raised by three of her godparents in secret.
    • Phoenix and Ashes opens when the now-orphaned protagonist learns of the death of her father, who was set up by her stepmother.
    • In The Wizard of London, Nan doesn't know who her father is, and her neglectful mother eventually tries to sell her for drugs or alcohol. Luckily, Nan gets rescued by the boarding school that is giving her their leftover food.
    • In Reserved for the Cat, Ninette's father disappeared when she was a baby, and her mother dies shortly before the novel starts. (Subverted when we learn Thomas the cat is Ninette's father, transformed when he lost a magic duel. He did what he could for his wife and child, but there just isn't that much a cat can do.)
    • In Steadfast, Katie's parents die when their caravan somehow catches fire. In the ensuing grief, Katie is easily convinced by the owner of the circus her family worked for to marry the circus strongman, who turns out to be abusive.
    • In From a High Tower, Giselle's father trades her to the Earth Master next door for a garden of vegetables to feed his large family. Later on, Giselle's kindly adoptive mother dies, and she has to go out into the world in order to earn money to live on.
  • Parental Incest: Unnatural Issue is based on the fairy tale "The King Who Wished To Marry His Daughter", and had a more disturbing version. He wishes to use his daughter's body as a vessel for her dead mother's spirit, and marry her all over again, even making plans to dismiss all the servants who knew about the girl and return with his new 'young bride'. In a particularly creepy scene, the heroine overhears her father ruminating on the things he's going to do to her (well, her body anyway) and is as horrified as you might expect.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Robin Goodfellow states it: "Evil to him who evil does, I say!"
  • Pervert Dad: In Unnatural Issue, the father, a necromancer, intends to call back the spirit of his dead wife, place it in the body of his grown-up daughter, and... he gets his comeuppance at the end, though.
  • Phony Psychic: In The Wizard of London, one appears in it as a medium, pretending to help wealthy people connect with their dead loved ones. The main characters unmask her as the fraud she is when one of her clients tells her friend that she is seeing a medium for her lost son and the friend is suspicious.
  • Poor Communication Kills: or at least impoverishes. If Giselle's mother had thought to tell her exactly what she was doing with Giselle's offcut hair, Giselle wouldn't have had to Sweet Polly Oliver in shooting contests to support herself... but then, if Giselle had known that, From a High Tower would have ended at about chapter 5.
  • Post-Modern Magik:
    • Dr Witherspoon's arcane talents and senses are invaluable in determining what newnote  medical theories actually work, while her knowledge of anatomy and the process of the disease enables her application of Healing Hands to properly cure a case of Tuberculosis.
    • Arachne's method of Human Sacrifice is to take innocent young girls and employ them in an Edwardian pottery/brothel, causing them to slowly waste away from lead poisoning while their minds and souls are degraded from the sex work.
    • Lead from a church roof is used to make holy bullets.
  • Public-Domain Character:
    • Susanne Whitestone gets magic lessons from no less than Robin Goodfellow. Robin also makes appearances in The Wizard of London, Home from the Sea and A Study in Sable.
    • Nan and Sarah work with John Watson and others members of the Sherlock Holmes cast in A Study in Sable, and presumably Scandal in Battersea (Grey and Neville appear on the covers of both).
  • Quitting to Get Married: This is the reason why Lionel had difficulty keeping a permanent Lovely Assistant for his magic act. All of them, with the exception of an Elemental Mage that got called away by Lord Alderscroft, end up marrying men not in the theatre/entertainment business and leaving to be housewives. Suzie is the latest in a line of them, which leads to Katie being hired.
  • Race Lift : Maya Witherspoon, the series' version of Snow White, is English-Indian mixed race.
  • Rags to Royalty: Rose Hawkins of The Fire Rose, Eleanor Robinson of Phoenix and Ashes, and Ninette Dupond of Reserved for the Cat are commoners who marry into royalty; Marina of The Gates of Sleep has a noble heritage she's raised in ignorance of; and Maya Witherspoon of The Serpent's Shadow and Phoenix and Ashes has a noble heritage that she has to give up and go into hiding.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Paul du Mond from The Fire Rose is a bad man, and one of the ways that this is made abundantly clear is that he essentially works as a professional rapistnote , turning poor Mexican and East Coast girls into properly-broken San Francisco prostitutes.
    • The first sign that the man Giselle meets early on is a truly awful man is how he attempts to rape her and nearly succeeds. There are worse implications in what he wanted to do to her as well.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Giselle's hair grows quickly, mostly due to her Air magic, and even more so when under stress. She has to cut it periodically, and by the time she leaves home, she has accumulated enough cut-off braids to fill a trunk. This ends up being a Chekhov's Gun as it turns out her hair, filled with Air magic, is very valuable to certain elementals as payment. So valuable, they leave change in the form of a lot of gold.
  • Real Event, Fictional Cause:
    • In Phoenix and Ashes, an evil Earth Master engineers and sends out the flu strain of 1918 in order to prolong the War.
    • Then there was backlash after that earthquake when the Fire Master was killed in California in The Fire Rose...
  • Real Name as an Alias: When Peter Almsley goes undercover as a gamekeeper in order to befriend Susanne, with his friend and valet Garrick pretending to be his scholarly half-brother, Peter uses his middle name Devlin as his last name, while Garrick uses his middle name Clive as his first.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • When forced to be, Lord Alderscroft is this, being the stern patriarch of the Exeter Club and the one man who's most responsible for keeping rogue mages from running wild in England and maintaining good relations with the local elementals. However, while he can be trusted to do the right thing in the end, until then, he's often not much help.
    • Unnatural Issue explains that this is in a gamekeeper's job description. Theoretically, a gamekeeper is supposed to prevent all illegal poaching on his lord's land, but actually enforcing this just leads to a messy, covert war that benefits nobody. Both Robin Goodfellow and Peter Almsley, when they take on the job, instead confine themselves to ensuring that nobody overhunts the land they're responsible for. (Of course, in Robin's case, it helps that he couldn't care less about game laws, only about the good of the land.)
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Though they're both Water Masters, Peter Almsey and Peter Scott from The Serpent's Shadow definitely count.
  • Religion Is Magic:
    • The Hindu gods are very active in The Serpent's Shadow. Furthermore, Christian holy relics (such as lead from a church roof) are effective against dark magic. The pagan gods of England and elsewhere are also quite active, but they're seen as another variety of Fair Folk or Elemental spirit, rather than something truly different.
    • Subverted in one instance in Blood Red. When Rosamund teaches a village elder to use a seeking spell, she instructs him to use blessed salt. The blessing is unnecessary, but it doesn't hurt anything and makes the magic seem more benign to her superstitious student.
  • Revenant Zombie: Phoenix and Ashes offers incorporeal revenants, distinct from true ghosts in that they are so obsessed with revenge that they cannot think rationally.
  • Roguish Poacher: Several of the minor characters in Phoenix and Ashes poach the Fenix woods with the tacit permission of Reggie Fenix — it's a source of protein that isn't affected by rationing.
  • A Round of Drinks for the House:
    • In Reserved for the Cat, Jonathan pretends to be someone who just won a lot of money and is buying rounds to celebrate as a way to keep a reporter occupied while Thomas and Wolf search the reporter's apartment.
    • In Phoenix and Ashes, Reginald routinely offers to buy rounds at the local pub. He's loaded and knows that the guys he befriended there could use a drink since many of them (like him) were sent home after being injured in World War I.
    • In Unnatural Issue, when Lord Peter Almsley is masquerading as a gameskeeper, it is mentioned that he endeared himself to the regulars at the local pub in the proper manner by buying the house a round.
  • Saintly Church: Whenever Christian churches or churchgoers are presented in the books, they nearly always are good people devoted to helping others (though Holier Than Thou types do get an occasional mention), and the power and actions of God are nearly universally a good thing in the world. There is even some holy power invested in churches and Christian objects.
  • Salt Solution: Salt and shotgun shells filled with salt are used to deal with Richard Whitestone's necromantic servants and revenants.
  • Sapient Cetaceans: The Fire Rose mentions that whale and dolphin Water Masters are known to exist.
  • Selkies and Wereseals:
    • In Home from the Sea. The main character has to marry a Selkie to fulfill a bargain her family made centuries ago.
    • The Selkies of Sule Skerry get a mention in The Serpent's Shadow. With their way of life endangered by social and technological progress, things were looking bleak for them; then Peter Scott helped ten young Selkie men acquire brides (by somehow finding ten honest, clean-hearted girls among the streetwalkers of London), as well as acting as an intermediary to build houses for the girls and ensure they're well-provided-for in mortal coin. In return, the Selkies provide Peter with concentrated magical power upon request.
  • Series Continuity Error:
    • The Serpent's Shadow cannot make up its mind about the name of Maya's father. He is mentioned by name twice. The first time his name is Nigel, the second time his name is Roger.
    • In Reserved for the Cat, Ninette's mother is named Marie or Maria almost interchangeably.
    • In Unnatural Issue, Susanna makes a charm bundle and uses it to create a doppleganger of herself so she can sneak off to practice magic. When she runs away from home she's specifically described as burning the bundle and scattering the ashes, as it could be used against her if it got into her evil father's hands. Yet towards the end of the novel it's said that the bundle could not be destroyed by mere burning as it was a magical object and Susanna still had it with her—conveniently, as the good guys could then use it in their plan to draw out dear old dad.
  • Sex Is Evil: Not generally the case, but exploited by Arachne's Industrialized Evil. As the prostitutes working in her paint shops start to think of themselves as "fallen women," they stop trying to avoid vanity, unhealthy and degrading sex acts and spiritual decay. Some of the women avert this - because they never believed that Sex Is Evil in the first place, they're able to maintain a healthy sexuality and their prostitution causes them no spiritual harm.
  • Shapeshifter Showdown:
    • Marina and Arachne throw down in the climax of The Gates of Sleep.
    • Alluded to in Reserved for the Cat. Thomas lost.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Eleanor Robinson, not surprising considering that Phoenix and Ashes is a "Cinderella" reworking.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran:
    • Reggie Fenyx and his fellows in Phoenix and Ashes.
    • Jack from Steadfast has PTSD from his experiences in the Boer War.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Lord Peter Almsley is what Lord Peter Wimsey would be like if Dorothy Sayers had given him magical powers.
    • In Home from the Sea, when Nan and Sarah are telling their former teacher about their trip in Africa, they mention that they were helped in Egypt by a lady who is known as "Sitt Hakim" and from the rest of her description is clearly Amelia Peabody.
  • Shrine to the Fallen: Alluded to in Phoenix and Ashes. When Reggie Fenyx comes home on medical leave, he finds that his mother preserved his room as it was when he left for World War I (though at least it got cleaned regularly). He muses that had he died in France, the room would have become his memorial.
  • The Shut-In: In the backstory of Unnatural Issue, Richard Whitestone spends the bulk of his widowerhood in his chambers and library on the second floor of his country manor.
  • Silver Bullet:
    • Ninette's maid Ailse carries with her at all times a revolver loaded with Cold Iron, silver, and Blessed Lead bullets. Ninette later gets a revolver of her own with those bullets and learns how to shoot it.
    • Rosamund (Blood Red) keeps an assortment of silver, cold iron, blessed salt and so forth in ammunition form for her pistols and shotgun.
  • Skeptic No Longer: Sherlock Holmes proves a downplayed example in A Study in Sable. While he remains a stubborn disbeliever in things he cannot directly perceivenote , Nan Killian convinced him of her Psychic Powers by the expedient of securing an interview and providing a running commentary as she summarily mind-probed him.
  • Skinny Dipping: In The Gates of Sleep, Marina goes skinny-dipping with undines once that we see, but it's clearly a common occurrence whenever the weather's warm enough.
  • Smoky Gentlemen's Club: The Exeter Club passes itself off as one of these (going so far as to hire pensioned-off male servants to sit in the padded leather chairs and read the newspaper or nap) as a cover.
  • The Soulsaver: Part of Sarah's job as a medium is to help ghosts, who are shown to exist in a gray, dreary limbo, move on to Heaven or the Summer Country (depending on their religion).
  • Spooky Séance: One is featured in The Wizard of London, with Nan, Sarah, and Mem'sahib revealing the medium conducting the seance as the Phony Psychic. The actual ghost (a young boy) that they were looking to contact appears at the end of it all and using Sarah as the vehicle, assures his mother that it's all right and to please stop crying as it's scaring his younger sister before having to leave for good.
  • Spot Monkey: After Ninette's performance in La Sylphide at the beginning of Reserved for the Cat, one reviewer compliments her for avoiding this trope and making the Sylph's death scene brief. The injured ballerina Ninette was filling in for was notorious for dragging the death out so long the orchestra had to start repeating measures.
  • Stage Mom: A minor character in The Gates of Sleep is a child chess prodigy whose father drove him into a breakdown by pushing the kid into more and more public exhibition games.
  • Staircase Tumble: In his backstory, Thomas killed the Elemental Master who trapped him in a cat's body by tripping her at the top of a steep marble staircase.
  • Stigmatic Pregnancy Euphemism:
    • Alluded to in The Gates of Sleep. Doctor Pike does not treat cases of "nerves" that result in childbirth a few months later.
    • Played with in Reserved for the Cat. The Big Bad cannot become pregnant since it's not human, but intends to let people think she was off giving birth during the time she was trying to kill Ninette.
  • Straight to the Pointe: Alluded to in Reserved for the Cat — after ballet lessons for little girls becomes the latest fad in Blackpool, the local ballet master specifically does not teach the children pointe dancing, but demi-pointe.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: Reggie goes through this when he returns to the family manor in Phoenix and Ashes after being in the front lines of World War I.
  • Street Urchin: Nan in The Wizard of London.
  • Streetwalker:
    • When Ninette is fired from the Paris Opera Ballet and unable to find employment, she is faced with the prospect that she will have to become one to pay the bills. Luckily Thomas steps in and prevents that from happening.
    • In The Wizard of London, the last that Nan has heard of her mother is that she has hit the bottom rung of a woman in Whitechapel by becoming this, roaming the streets with nothing but the clothes on her back and soliciting men to further her alcoholism and addiction to drugs.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Susanne Whitestone looks almost exactly like her mother...which unfortunately attracts the wrong kind of attention from her father.
  • Suicide, Not Accident: He doesn't go through with it, but Reggie Fenyx strongly considers an "accidental" high speed car crash as a way of dealing with his shellshock in Phoenix and Ashes.
  • The Svengali: Jason Cameron is a mild example of this to Paul du Mond. He's using Paul as an agent while theoretically teaching him Fire Magic, but he knows damn well that his teaching isn't doing Paul any good because the man won't apply himself. While he doesn't lie to Paul, he's happy to let him lie to himself, and he's planning to discard Paul the first chance he gets.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Giselle disguises herself as a man named Gunther von Weber so she can enter sharpshooting contests and win money to provide a living for herself.
  • Tall, Dark, and Snarky: Jonathon Hightower in Reserved for the Cat. He loses some of the arrogance but keeps the snark.
  • Talking Animal: Wolfgang, Maya’s seven "pets" when possessed by the Hindu gods they’re associated with, Neville and Grey. Thomas doesn’t qualify, as he can only speak mind-to-mind, and only to those with some degree of magical ability.
  • Tarot Motifs: Eleanor's magical instruction in Phoenix and Ashes occurs in a dream world where she encounters special beings that masquerade as the tarot cards.
  • Timmy in a Well: Thomas the cat alerts Nigel and Arthur that his mistress Ninette is in trouble. The sensational account makes the papers, with the story changed so that the cat runs for help, finds the two men, and leads them to her, as per the trope. (Thomas is disgusted to be portrayed so doggishly.)
  • Title Drop:
    • The last four words of Reserved for the Cat.
    • Home from the Sea does the same thing.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Good magicians and masters normally avoid using their Elementals to do harm, though this appears to be either a personal choice or dictated by their teachers' tradition. Evil ones practically revel in it, and make generous use of Dark Elementals that enjoy causing pain and death.
    • This doesn't apply in The Fire Rose. Both Jason Cameron (who is morally somewhat ambiguous) and Rosalind (who isn't) are willing to call Elementals for battle. America's magical society is far more violent than Europe's, however.
    • Katie's teachers impress this rule on her to keep her from solving the problem of her abusive husband by just burning him down, because it would destroy the innocence of her Elementals and possibly lead her down the dark path.
      • this could also be because one of her mentors and eventual husband Jack, is suffering from either PTSD or serious depression from soldiering in the Boer War, due to participating (under orders) in a massacre of a native tribe. As for Lionel... Katie is a very new magician, and she's coming to it very late (most Elemental magicians start training either as a child, or early puberty); it's possible that murder by elemental could set a dangerous precedent as well, and her age means it will be very difficult to train out of her magic.
    • Giselle, after reliving her accidental first kill, resolves never to ask her playful, friendly air elementals to harm anyone for her again. She doesn't apply this to herself, however, and by the end of her book is almost as formidable a warrior as Rosamund herself.
    • Rosamund doesn't obey this rule, and freely asks Elementals' aid in battle and even for assassination. It helps that, given the nature of her duties, she has a couple of pagan gods of war and the hunt on speed-dial.
  • Training the Gift of Magic: Marina specifically points out in The Gates of Sleep that while she may have the potential to be an Elemental Master, she doesn't have the training to claim that title.
  • Tricking the Shapeshifter: In Reserved for the Cat, Thomas attempts to trick the shapeshifting villain into becoming something small and harmless, like the ogre in "Puss in Boots". The villain is more on the ball than that ogre, however, and shifts again to catch the cat by the throat when he pounces.
  • Überwald: Eastern Europe in Blood Red. To a lesser extent, the Schwarzvald in From a High Tower; while we see it from the perspective of a cheery Wild West show travelling through, we also see a couple glimpses of just how magically dangerous the place can get (such as stumbling over a haunted Magdalene convent and waking up the ghosts of tormented girls).
  • Uncle Pennybags: Lord Peter Almsley, who casually hands Dr. Maya Witherspoon enough money to fund the Fleet charity clinic for a month without a care. Apparently this is one of his hobbies.
  • Unicorn: In The Fire Rose, Unicorns are Elementals of Spirit, and the physical embodiment of Knowledge, Purity, and Wisdom. When they choose to answer a summons (which requires a virgin to carry out the request), they can take on various forms, such as how medieval artists depicted them, as a young boy or girl in white robes, as a burning bush, or as a white bird. The heroine has to summon one, and unfortunately all she sees is a white, blurry shape, since she can't wear her glasses during the ritual and she's Blind Without 'Em. The voice is described as "bell-clear, sweet, silvery, and sexless".
  • Unscrupulous Hero: Jason Cameron's worldview in The Fire Rose, inherited from his own Master. He's not exactly a good person, but he believes in being a good shepherd to the lower classes because well-fed poor work better and don't start riots. It's essentially Pragmatic Villainy taken to the point where he doesn't need to be a villain.
  • The Vamp: Alison Robinson got where she is by using and destroying men. Her daughters try, but they lack her experience and are nowhere near as effective.
  • Victorian London: The setting/period for The Wizard of London, chronologically (though not in publication order) the earliest of the novels.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: The rarity of male virgin sacrifices is mentioned in The Fire Rose. The villain needs a virgin sacrifice, and remarks that while the gender doesn't matter, it's so much easier to verify a woman's virginity than a man's.
  • Vomiting Cop: In Unnatural Issue, a squad from the White Lodge in London is sent to investigate the Yorkshire Manor of a reclusive former member that has gone around the bend. When they find that he had killed all the household servants a couple of days ago (in high summer) Dr. Maya Scott (physician and Earth Master) bolts outside to become violently ill; which is understandable given that the victims were still going about their jobs, she could tell that their souls were locked into their rotting bodies, and the perversion of Earth Magic the renegade Whitestone had gone in for would sicken even a (sane) Earth Master inured to the filth and pain of London's slums. The Air Master in the squad follows her a minute later to do the same.
  • Waif-Fu: Ninette. She's a ballerina, but, as she herself points out, ballet builds muscle.
  • Wainscot Society:
    • Magical society in London and America is generally hidden from the muggles, mostly because most supposed magicians are fakes like Aleister Crowley. There's no Masquerade in place, but magicians generally don't advertise themselves as magical to avoid standing out. Out in rural areas (and in India, according to Shivani), however, there's not so much separation between magical and nonmagical; most of the locals in Yorkshire practice the May Day rites and leave milk out for the brownies, and Charles Kerridge's manor openly uses Earth Magic in their cottage industry. Also, during World War I, there's secret collaboration between the mundane government and the White Lodge.
    • In rural Germany and Eastern Europe, most magicians don't interact much with each other, but every magician knows a few others and the location of the local Brüderschaft lodge: Überwald is too dangerous for a Magician to go completely solo. The Brüderschaft itself is a loose collection of lodges who deal with monsters and Dark Magicians; the usual practice is to send out a Hunt Master and have them gather the local talent to help with the Hunts.
  • War Is Hell: This is a major theme in Phoenix and Ashes and Unnatural Issue. WWI has severe negative effects on the characters who are soldiers, as well as those on the home front. Jack in Steadfast suffers from having gone through the Boer War and having a massive guilt complex from the massacres that went on during that.
  • Wartime Wedding: There's a villainous twist to this in Phoenix and Ashes. Alison intends to bespell Reggie into a Wartime Wedding to one of her daughters, magically ensure that an heir is conceived, then get Reggie back to the front to be killed, leaving Alison controlling the Fenyx estate and its wealth through her daughter.
  • Weird Historical War: Phoenix and Ashes and Unnatural Issue both refer to magic being used by spies on both sides of World War I. The latter also has a necromantic summoning in No Man's Land, which goes as well as you'd expect with all that raw material around.
  • The Western: In From a High Tower, Giselle, plus many other Germans, are fans of the Winnetou series by German writer Karl May. After Giselle explains the books to Captain Cody, he immediately changes up his Wild West Show so that it will be more in line with the books and therefore appeal to German audiences.
  • While You Were in Diapers: In Reserved for the Cat, Thomas loses patience with Jonathon's snarking.
    Do not mock me, Jemmie Hightower. And keep a civil tongue in your head. I knew your uncle, and I knew you when you were still in nappies.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: In Steadfast, this becomes an issue for the heroes, because Kate could easily kill her abusive husband by just asking her Fire Elementals. Fortunately for the story, and unfortunately for Kate, the local mages believe in Thou Shalt Not Kill because it might damage the innocence of Kate's Elementals.
  • The Wicked Stage: In the series, particularly The Serpent's Shadow and Reserved for the Cat, ballet dancing (and to a lesser extent other forms of acting) are seen as essentially vehicles for prostitution or stripping. Ballerinas are paid like crap but have opportunities to acquire male patrons, who pay very well indeed for their services; meanwhile, a can-can dancer lives off of tips from showing her legs. In an aversion, the viewpoint characters don't see this as dishonorable, but society as a whole finds the business rather skeevy (as well as the Back-Alley Doctor helping these women).
  • Wicked Stepmother: Alison Robinson to her stepdaughter Eleanor, full stop. She even has two spoiled, cruel daughters to complete the picture.
  • Widow's Weeds:
    • Maya is introduced wearing mourning for her recently deceased parents, and plans to prolong the year of mourning as long as possible, since even a brute would hesitate to insult a woman of mixed race if she's in mourning.
    • Marina is provided with an all-black wardrobe by her aunt, Madam Arachne, and thinks to herself that she would end up looking like Queen Victoria or a would-be Gothic poetess by the time her period of mourning ends. Technically, as a young unmarried woman, she could wear mauve, lavender, or violet during mourning without offending anyone, but her aunt obviously thinks otherwise.
  • The Wild Hunt: Puck calls for it to take an evil ghost in The Wizard of London. It's never properly described, but some characters refer to becoming its prisoner as worse than going to Hell.
  • Worthless Foreign Degree: Maya was a practicing doctor in India for several years, but when she moves to London she has to retake her medical exams and be interviewed by the head of the hospital she wants to practice at.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Lady Cordelia doesn't settle for simply hurting orphans and street children—that would be far too crude. She kills them, then enslaves their souls.
    • The Troll in Reserved for the Cat sets up magical distractions powered by the misery of opium dens and orphanages, and toys with the idea of opening (or sponsoring) a few orphanages itself to exploit later.

Alternative Title(s): The Serpents Shadow, The Gates Of Sleep, Phoenix And Ashes, The Wizard Of London, Reserved For The Cat, Unnatural Issue, Home From The Sea, Steadfast, Blood Red, From A High Tower, A Study In Sable, The Fire Rose

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/ElementalMasters?from=Main.ElementalMasters