This book is the latest in the Elemental Masters series. Unlike the last couple of books in the series, it is not a retelling of a familiar fairy tale (or at the very least, not familiar to me). I find Lackey's version of Victorian England compelling and enjoyable to visit (while I suspect that a true scholar would be gnashing his teeth over details that she gets wrong, I know little enough about the period that it works for me), and she once again demonstrates her ability to make me care surprisingly deeply about characters that, objectively, seem flimsy and cliché. The broad outline of the plot is unsurprising, but the details are just inventive enough that for the most part, it is comfortable rather than trite. The greatest problem I have is in the pacing of the story. The first two thirds or so of the book proceed slowly, with not a whole lot really happening, and then there's this moment where it seems that Misty suddenly says "wait a minute, this is a standalone novel, not the first book of a trilogy! I only have 100 pages to bring this story to a conclusion! eep!". The sudden shift from a bucolic, nearly boring story to fast and furious action and Big Portentious Events leaves this reader's head spinning. It's compounded by the fact that that the shift in pacing happens at the same time as the villain, who was plenty nasty but chillingly believable, gets a Big Idea and pursues it very quickly and aggressively, in contrast to the character she'd been given.
I like the way Lackey writes. This book started out to be one of her better efforts, and then had a not so good ending (by page count) or middle and ending (by plot content) stuck on. I still enjoyed it, but I don't think I can give it more than a 7 out of 10.