The back cover description:
School of MagicThe letter that introduced twelve-year-old Sarah Jane Lyon-White to Isabelle Harton, who ran the Harton School in central London, seemed quite simple and straighforward. But it was what was not written in the letter that resonated to Isabelle's own finely tuned "extra" senses: "Sarah has gifts we cannot train," the letter whispered to her, "nor can anyone we know. Those we trust tell us that you can..."
And it was true, for the Harton School was far from ordinary. It was Isabelle's job to train children who possessed the odd types of magic that could not be trained by London's powerful Elemental Masters: clairvoyants, telepaths, those with the ability to sense hidden danger, the vision to see into the past, and even that rarest of all talents: the ability to see and communicate with the dead.
But Isabelle was uneasy, for though she knew that Sarah Jane had a touch of telepathy, there seemed to be something else about the girl - something that had not yet manifested.
And Isabelle was right to be worried, for as soon as Sarah's full talents became evident, there was an attempt made on her life. For Sarah was that rarest of magicians: a true medium, and for some reason, a powerful Elemental Master wanted her dead.
Isabelle knew that to protect her ward she would have to seek help from the Elemental Masters of the city. That meant she would also see Lord David Alderscroft, the man she had once loved, but who had inexplicably chilled towards her and broken her heart long ago - for he was the leader of the city's Elemental Masters, the man who was now called the Wizard of London.
The Wizard of London is a bit of an oddity in terms of the Elemental Masters series. According to Amazon.com, this is the fourth book in the series, and yet, it seems to me to almost be the first. Not in publishing order, of course, but in terms of where in the story it's set. I could have sworn that I'd seen references to David Alderscroft in some of the other Elemental Masters books, but now I can't find them at all. Only to Lord Peter Almsley, in The Serpent's Shadow. Of course, I don't have all of the books in this series. Then, there's the chronology of the story itself. In this one you've got Queen Victoria mentioned several times. However, Phoenix and Ashes, which Amazon.com says is book three, is set during and after World War I.
The other oddity of the book is that parts of it (I think three chapters) have appeared in the anthology Werehunter, and were previously published elsewhere. Of course, for Mercedes Lackey, that's not so much of an oddity. It's true of at least two other books of hers: Oathbound (In the Sword and Sorceress series of books) and also the story Stolen Silver, which is the introductory chapter to the first of the Alberich novels. However, because of that, I was really excited to see The Wizard of London when it came out. After reading those stories, I'd wanted to read more about Sarah and Grey, her parrot. And this book didn't disappoint. Between the stories of Sarah and of Nan, there was plenty of adventure and lots of moments to make you smile.
Children can get into lots of trouble, and children with gifts can get into even more, through no fault or intent of their own. There's plenty of that here, and not even always the two main characters are the ones at fault. Mercedes Lackey paints a very believable view of London in the time of Victoria, with the various experiences and dreams of childhood that resonate. I loved the bit where the girls were dreaming of a pony that was calm and that they could drive, but the boys wanted a pony for adventures. It just seemed so true even for today.
And the villains leave you wondering all throughout too. What is it they want, and even, are they really all that evil?
I love Mercedes Lackey's novels, and The Wizard of London is no exception.