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A brand-new Elemental Masters novel from the national bestselling author Mercedes Lackey. Richard Whitestone is an Elemental Earth Master. Blaming himself for the death of his beloved wife in childbirth, he has sworn never to set eyes on his daughter, Suzanne. But when he finally sees her, a dark plan takes shape in his twisted mind-to use his daughter's body to bring backA brand-new Elemental Masters novel from the national bestselling author Mercedes Lackey. Richard Whitestone is an Elemental Earth Master. Blaming himself for the death of his beloved wife in childbirth, he has sworn never to set eyes on his daughter, Suzanne. But when he finally sees her, a dark plan takes shape in his twisted mind-to use his daughter's body to bring back the spirit of his long-dead wife....

Title : Unnatural Issue
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781101515952
Format Type : ebook
Number of Pages : 368 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Unnatural Issue Reviews

  • Rebecca
    2019-05-08 12:29

    Yet another installment in the Elemental Master series, this one is based on the fairy tale "The King Who Wished to Marry His Daughter". (Yes, yes, I know--while each of these books is an update of a classic fairy tale to the mid-19th or early 20th century, the tales in question are getting increasingly obscure as she goes on.)Not brilliant literature. Just fun. They're the literary equivalent of, I don't know, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Unsophisticated, churned out, and utterly lacking in any nutritional value. But easily consumed and enjoyed.This one does a nice job of bridging the gap between the mannered manor-houses of the Victorian era and the horrors of World War I, which it treats quite reasonably and respectfully. (Or as respectfully as you can when--minor spoiler--a necromancer is walking around a battlefield covered in dead bodies. The results are fairly obvious.) It was clearly written fairly quickly--there are some conversations that are awfully repetitive. And the romance, I'm afraid, falls fairly flat. (Fortunately, the romantic element is somewhat less important than Susanne dealing with her dreadful father.) Another minor problem is that some of the characters from other books recur, and Lackey is having some conservation of names problems. There are now too many Peters and Roses running around this series, and it's becoming confusing.But there's a nice, well-developed magic system, a suitably spunky heroine, a bit of tugging at the heart-strings, and a plot that moves along at a nice clip. Grab some popcorn. It's perfect for a quick read on a rainy afternoon.

  • J. Tamsin Green
    2019-04-28 16:30

    As with so much of this series, an agonizing read. No attention paid to narrative, pacing, or plot; occasional, interesting historical details undermined by the slapdash production values, which cause me to mistrust the author's research. Well, that's not wholly true: I believe she's spent some time taking notes about dairy management of the period.That said, the book's greatest sin is its distracted characterization: Suzanne goes from bland to actively detestable, and achieves semi-convincing character growth only in the last thirty pages. The character she becomes would have been worth the couple of hours (and thirteen bucks) that I spent. But the character as written? Good god, I got through the book by wishing her ill. As for Lord Peter Almsley--criminally underwritten, which is a pity, since I had fond memories of him from earlier novels and bought the book chiefly because it featured him. Spent his scenes gnashing my teeth at all the wasted opportunities for development. Only likable minor characters in the book have appeared as protagonists in the other novels, and so benefit from the reflected glow of past effort. A good thing, since Lackey didn't extend herself to give them any substance in this book. Weakness of plot not helped by the exclusive use of the most heavy-handed villain I've read to date--a misogynist, gasp!--who succeeds only in being so believably stupid that we have no trouble believing Lackey can wrap up his plots in fifteen pages. (Half that, with a better editor.)Not the worst thing I've ever read, but definitely shelved in hell.

  • Melanti
    2019-05-20 12:35

    "Donkeyskin" is one of my favorite fairy tales. It's dark, creepy, and disturbing. That's everything that Lackey isn't these days. She was, long ago, capable of being dark and disquieting. That's one of the reasons her Last Herald's Mage trilogy is so popular - because of everything she put Vanyel through. But over the years, she's started to write lighter and lighter fantasy. I've read interviews where she says her lighter works sell better than her dark ones. I try not to blame her for writing what people will buy but it makes me wonder why she chose one of the darkest fairy tales for this series. A light treatment of "Donkeyskin" just doesn't do the tale justice. Even with the looming start of WWI and a necromancer, nothing really seems to touch the main characters at all, other than a few paragraphs of crying over how terrible hospitals on the front were. Even Phoenix and Ashes, with its treatment of wartime PTSD, was a darker novel than this one. It's truly a shame when a re-telling of "Cinderella" is darker than a re-telling of "Donkeyskin." I've read many truly excellent historical fantasies in the last few years -- Connie Willis, Delia Sherman, Susanna Clarke, as well as straight historical fiction like Sarah Waters, Heyer and Austen. Lackey's "historical" details don't hold a candle to any those ladies. There's nothing truly wrong with her settings, but there's not that sense of place that I've come to crave from a good historical novel. One of the greatest things about Willis's Blackout/All Clear, for instance, was that it really made me feel like I understood what life is like during WWII - both the good and the bad. With Lackey, though, I don't even get the sense that the characters understood what life was like during WWI, and that makes the characters seem incredibly shallow.I am biased against Lackey; writing yourself into a book and making your alter ego be the love interest of the loner main character is incredibly amateurish and I can't believe her editors allowed it. I've given up on all her other series but, I love fairy tale re-tellings, so I continued on with this one. My tastes have really moved on from Lackey's trademark lightweight style. Maybe I should have moved on as well.

  • Nan
    2019-04-27 15:24

    Another lightweight entry in the Elemental Masters series. This one tries to follow the "Donkeyskin" story by Charles Perrault. As the book opens, it would seem that Lackey does a good job of staying close to the tale, but by the end of the book, it's very much another one in her series. That's not necessarily a bad thing--the final confrontation is as good as anything that Lackey has written. However, despite her willingness to include extreme violence, Lackey's books are never all that horrifying. As readers, we know precisely what Susanne's father wants to do to her (heck, even the cover copy gives that away!), but Lackey's writing lacks the necessary punch for it to really sink in and disturb. I don't want to say that Lackey dodges the hard questions or fails to explore the darker side of this tale. That's simply not true. The sad fact is that Lackey is just not a good enough writer to make readers invest in the characters in such a way as to be horrified. She used to be able to that; her Last Herald-Mage series is one of the most disturbing litanies of character torture that I've ever read. But this book doesn't have that emotional force.For a very dark, very emotional version of this tale, I recommend Robin McKinley's Deerskin. Be warned: it is dark, and if you read Lackey for her lightweight nature, you might not like Deerskin. But more than anything else, Deerskin is a novel about healing, and it is good.Perhaps that's part of my problem with this book. Despite the horrific events Lackey writes about, only one character is deeply wounded mentally and still in recovery at the end of the book. If our protagonists can walk away from such things without psychic bruises, is it any wonder when I, as a reader, feel next to nothing of their pain?

  • Dawn
    2019-05-08 14:51

    To be honest, I find myself reluctant to review Lackey's work at all at this point, despite the fact that I still pick up most of them. Usually off the sale rack or as a library loan at this point, where once I would rush to get my hands on the newest hardcovers as they were released. So I'm doing the latest three as a trio in one. Considering I read the three of them over two days while resting in bed (I've been a bit off lately) I think that's fair. "Unnatural Issue" is another typical piece from Lackey, although admittedly I find this series more appealing than current entries into her other series. This time out we get our heroine running from an absentee father on the brink of WWI. And Dad has taken up necromancy. The usual glimpses of other characters from the series, and these are all carefully tied one into the next. Maybe it's just that I'm older now, and my tastes have changed. The simplistic writing, arch-typical characters and familiar plotlines don't have the same appeal as they once did. The Valdemar series has become a sadly repetitive set of coming of age stories, fairly formulaic. "Changes" stays right on the road, with the exception that this time she hasn't closed the arc on the third shot out."Beauty and the Werewolf" from the The Five Hundred Kingdoms Series is fairly predictable as well, although retellings of classic fairy tales are always welcome.So why do I keep coming back? I guess for the same reason people like Twinkies. They're sweet, fluffy, simple, and remind us of simpler, happier days. Misty Lackey writes novels that are the equivalent of comfort food for me. And in that they excel. Because while these days I appreciate dark chocolate Tiramisu, sometimes you just want a twinkie.

  • Jennifer Heise
    2019-04-30 13:29

    As usual, finishing a Mercedes Lackey book in this series leaves one with the same feeling as finishing a bag of cheese doodles in one sitting. Yes, you know it was mostly air, and you know it was junkfood for the brain, and you shouldn't have... but you just couldn't help it. Crunch Crunch. Lackey's desire to write about Peter Wimsey (view spoiler)[(and saddle him, apparently, with a nicer, younger wife than Harriet) (hide spoiler)], plus her devotion to a Kiplingish Puck, is all over this. As in her previous works in this series, her research on the real-world late Victorian and Edwardian eras sticks out in lumps... as far as the writing is concerned, those lumps would probably have been better off in a girdle. (I am reminded of the time Shirley Jackson's daughter allegedly made up a magical world which combined Oz, Fairy Land, Mother Goose, the Hobbit, etc. "because they were scattered all over and I kept forgetting which book I had to take to get to each country.")And yet, as usual, Lackey combines a positive talent for writing addictive scene-setting-where-nothing happens, with that thrill of Tru Crime Horror that our generation adored so much. This particular story, based on the incest-survivor fairytale Donkeyskin, lends itself to that combination beautifully. Lots of elfy Elemental magic, a dose of Puck, a dose of real-life horror in the First World War, and the terrible esoteric attacks.This isn't my favorite in the series; as fond as I am of charming parts of books where nothing happens, I think Eva Ibbotsen did the underservant life much better, and I think Robin McKinley's Deerskin tackled the story better. But when it comes to fantasy and the first world war setting, it's a cut above Suzanne Weyn's Water Song a WWI-based retelling of the Frog Prince.

  • Text Addict
    2019-05-21 20:40

    This is the seventh book (or the sixth, according to DAW’s count; the first was published by Baen in 1995) in Lackey’s “Elemental Masters” series, which I’ve been enjoying very much since we happened to pick up Phoenix and Ashes (the fourth one) last year. One of the good things about them is that they don’t really have to be read in order, although they have some characters in common.What they are is historical fantasy – set in the past (in this case, primarily early 20th century England), but with significant magical elements. I’ve read enough fiction set in this period to believe that Lackey has done her research on it. There were a lot of social changes going on at this time, not to mention effects of the Great War, and they’re included in the stories. The magic, incidentally, is “elemental magic,” although there are also other abilities (such as perceiving and contacting ghosts, in one of the other books).They are also, interestingly but not essentially, freely and loosely adapted from fairy tales. Not being as well-read in fairy tales as I’d like, I didn’t recognize the one in Unnatural Issues (I looked into the question and learned it’s called “Donkeyskin”), but earlier volumes included Cinderella and Snow White. It’s an amusing conceit and, I promise, doesn’t get in the way of the story at all.In this volume, we have Susanne Whitestone, whose gentry father rejected her because her mother died of her birth; she’s been raised by the servants while her father stays locked up in his rooms, grieving. Both of them are Earth Masters, Susanne taught by her fae friend Robin, while her father draws in on himself and turns the whole area around the house into a blighted emptiness.Then Squire Whitestone gets the idea that he can learn and use necromancy to call back his wife – and deposit her in their daughter’s body. Susanne learns part of his plan and flees, and the rest of the story deals with her efforts (and those of her friends new and old) to evade and then deal with her father.Some other reviews have complained that unlike other Earth Masters, Susanne seems able to cope with living in London, and near the front in France; I think that living in her father’s blighted house helped her to cope, plus she had strong motivation. The plot point that bothers me – which I hope will be corrected in the second printing and the paperback – is that at the start of Chapter 9, Susanne carefully destroys an object that somehow still exists at the end of Chapter 21 and is key to the book’s climax. Indeed, it looks like the start of Chapter 9 was partly re-written to correct this, but not completely.At any rate, I’ve enjoyed all these books for their well-crafted settings, and their interesting characters and plots, and they’re being added to our library as we find them, and even re-read. And that’s really a pretty strong endorsement of them.

  • Ami
    2019-05-15 20:28

    It's been 2 1/2 years since I originally read this and it's not as bad as I recalled although, I do wish there had been more interaction between Peter & Suzanne. I must also say the the plot hole is no longer in evidence. I originally read this in hardback and this time was an e-book. Perhaps that's why things seem slightly tighter?2013 Review ~ Where to begin? I have been a fan of Mercedes Lackey for 20+ years although, it's actually been some time, close to a year since I'd read anything by her. I've been in my usual rut of mysteries over the summer and was quite ready to take a break from the genre when I came across this at the library. I usually enjoy retold fairytales because often it will reveal a facet I hadn't thought of before and gets me digging deeper. So add that to the fact that I had come across a series I hadn't previously read by a favored author, I'm a happy camper.I definitely enjoyed the main premise; bits of old world Fae, magic, and WWI all mixed together with the rather creepy tale of Donkeyskin. The prologue pulled me in and kept me reading much longer than planned but then it all fell rather flat.Three big characters are introduced, including the main character but the three separate lines weren't joined together very well in some areas and in fact we don't hear from one at all for 2/3rd's of the book which does not do well for answering questions or even helping to understand motivations. None of them were fleshed out well and stayed very two dimensional. Nothing was invested in them; very little backstory, no depth of feelings, etc. One got the sense of the horror, despair, sadness, budding love etc. but none of it was real; only the periphery is felt. We should have been in the thick of things with the characters, good or bad, and losing little bits of ourselves to them but it was just too choppy and areas that should have been filled in better were just glossed over. This could have been amazing but I was left feeling very dissatisfied at the end of it. I may have still given 4 stars just because it was Lackey but for one major plot hole that a seasoned author should never have allowed to print. I actually went and reread a section to make sure I had read it properly and hadn't simply misremembered what it. An artifact that the defeat of the necromancer centered upon was quite clearly destroyed in the first third of the book. How then did it's possession come to be remembered and retrieved for it's use if it were but ashes long cold? Still, this is Lackey and I've not been put off her yet; especially not her earlier works that I fell in love with and still love. I'm still willing to read the other volumes in the Elemental Masters series and can only hope that some of the recurring characters are fleshed out better that way.

  • Jen A.
    2019-05-03 13:53

    I'm a Mercedes Lackey fan, and I while I love her Valdemar series I have to say that I really like her Elemental Masters series as well. Unnatural Issue was a promising concept -- an Earth Master (magician/mage) loses his wife to childbirth and is so overcome with grief that he refuses to acknowledge his daughter, who survived birth, and sequesters himself off into his rooms in his manor. 20 or so years later, he discovers some books on necromancy in his library and becomes convinced that he can bring his dead wife back to life -- in the body of his daughter.Promising, right?! However, Lackey could've used an extra 200 or so pages to this book -- it's almost like she bit off more of a story than she had room to tell, because there's another part to this tale that has to do with a German war coming to France/England. Unnatural Issue starts off with an Earth mage talking about how desperate he was to get out of London because he was so removed from "healthy" magic/Earth... but later in the book, when Suzanne (the daughter) ends up in London (and on the forefront of a war in France) she doesn't really get into the discomfort (magically), just the horrific nature of war. I felt like that was a bit of an oversight, or a lack of consistency that should have been a major element to this character.Also, there's talk of how awesome Suzanne's powers must be, if Robin Goodfellow (the Great Puck, himself) took an interest in training her... but the "big conflict" at the end of the book -- killing her necromancer father -- isn't exactly taken by Lackey as an opportunity to showcase Suzanne's powers and/or ability; she shows cunning and smarts, and bravery, but not necessarily magic. It makes me wonder if Lackey is "saving" Suzanne for a future Elemental Masters book.So, to summarize, a good story with interesting characters (in a country/time that poses its own drama) that doesn't quite live up to its promise... but perhaps gives us an engaging and strong female character to follow in future installments.

  • Stacey
    2019-05-23 13:30

    I enjoyed it (but, then, I like all of Mercedes Lackey's work). It's an easy read, pitting good (the heroine) against evil (her father). The tale is a wee bit far-fetched, but when you're talking magic you kind of have to role with it. The story takes place in England and France, on the brink of, and then into, wartime. It was a little odd to have a World War going on when the focus was really on elementals and necromancy, but it got me thinking that it would be really cool if in one of the upcoming books Lackey tackled a fighter pilot who was an Air Master (etc.) as a main character. I loved that Robin Goodfellow was a mentor for Susanne Whitestone and that her father assigned her A Midsummer Night's Dream to read. I would have liked to see more of Puck, and it would have been fun to see Susanne as a child elemental master battling her father, rather than as a 21-year old. Charles Kerridge, Susanne's love interest, was completely undeveloped as a character, which left a weird feeling when he became a central figure both for Susanne's feelings and her father's wrath. Charles' ignorance of Susanne's feelings, subsequent marriage to someone else, and complete memory loss were all baffling in various ways. He seemed extremely convenient in a completely unbelievable sort of way. Susanne's final page conversion to thinking of another as a possible romantic interest was also extremely convenient. Romance did not work in this novel at all. The best relationship, and most likely to bear a liaison, was between Susanne and Robin—a possibility that Lackey either did not consider, or discarded immediately (likely because Susanne had known him as a child).I thought Susanne's escape to France was extremely odd, but it was an excellent excuse (view spoiler)[for the evil necromancer to conjure up a literal army of the dead. (hide spoiler)]Not my favourite Elemental Masters novel, but it was nice to see the series in action again.

  • M—
    2019-04-27 12:32

    Well, it didn't infuriate me as much as The Wizard of London and I didn't want to fling it against the wall like I did Reserved for the Cat, but I officially no longer enjoy this series. The Victorian/Edwardian-era setting, so interesting for the first two or three novels, now grates on me. The gender and class politics that seem to resolve at the climax of each book just come back in the next one. I have utterly no patience left for the (male) characters with their relentlessly cheery 'by Jove!' 'old girl' and 'let me just discuss this with Mater and Pater'. The romantic dramas in this book seemed particularly forced, well beyond the point of believability, and I lost utterly all sympathy with the characters when the one male lead, purported to be a talented investigator and after having chapters of dialogue with several other characters explicitly discussing Richard Whitestone, had a this conversational exchange:Female lead: "My name is Susanne Whitestone."Male Lead: Whitestone.... now why does that name sound familiar?FL: "Let me tell you my family history."ML: Whitestone.... where do I know that name?FL: "Yo, my dad was so evil and also an Earth Master."ML: An Earth Master... hmmm, I should know this.In looking back on this series, the only volume I truly enjoyed was the first, Fire Rose. And I'm not even sure I need to own that. My collection of this series is hereby disbanded.

  • Dlora
    2019-05-09 19:35

    Sort of a lightweight, undemanding fantasy but with a 5-star section at the end I'll tell you about in a minute. Set in England on the eve of World War I, Susanne Whitestone has led an isolated life as the daughter of a landowner but working as a servant all her life. Her father had rejected his daughter at birth when his beloved wife died birthing her and became a kind of hermit, turning away from his magical powers as an Earth Master to become a necromancer and dabble in forbidden blood arts. Susanne is also an Earth Master and learns from the ancient powerful fae Robin (also known as Puck and Robin Goodfellow) the art of land husbandry with her magic. The plot starts rolling when Susanne's father catchs a shocking glimpse of her, thinking at first it is his dead wife, and concocts a plan to call up his dead wife's spirit and put it into his daughter's body. Now, the great part of the this novel is when Susanne flees across the ocean to France to stay out of her father's clutches and lands in the path of the invading German army. She joins the nursing brigade and although she has no nursing training, her earth magic helps heal the wounded soldiers. What is marvelous is the descriptions of the trench fighting and the horrible conditions of the foot soldiers in World War I. It's good history and an eye-opening feeling for some of the awful conditions of that war.

  • Cris
    2019-05-24 18:49

    If you've enjoyed the other Elemental Masters novels by Lackey, I think you'll enjoy Unnatural Issue. Maya from The Serpent's Shadow appears several times rather briefly, but while knowledge of the rules of Elemental magic is helpful, readers need not have read any other specific books in Lackey's Elemental Masters series.The characters are well-developed, the plot hums along nicely without getting overly complex and the settings contrast nicely. In short, the technical aspects are almost perfect. But while I hate to say it, I just didn't become emotionally invested in either the story or the characters. The story was glossy and fun, but despite some layers, I think the story lacked heart. So while it was a pleasant enough way to spend a few hours, I doubt I'll remember the story or the characters.

  • Andrea
    2019-05-20 20:42

    Oh, what do with this one. This is classic Lackey writing - with all the good and bad that implies. On the good, we have fun, engaging characters with some great conversation and little plot twists. On the bad, it feels rather formulaic and stilted in places. I love the way Lackey writes people which is what keeps bringing me back to her books, but they do all start reading kind of "samey" after a while. I enjoyed this one and it was a quick read, but will these characters and ideas stick with me? Not really. This was a delicious pastry of a book - easily eaten, soon forgotten.

  • Miriam
    2019-05-05 14:28

    This WWI resetting of the creepy "Donkey-Skin" fairy tale is an improvement in plot and pacing over some of Lackey's other recent efforts, although the romance was very poorly done -- surprisingly so for an author who is usually moderately successful in that area. One star off for not only blatantly stealing another author's character but for doing it so poorly.

  • Katie
    2019-05-06 19:53

    You know, this book was almost good. It only would have taken the deletion of a single line, maybe six words of text. But no, she has to destroy the little packet that makes an illusory version of her, and then USE IT TO DEFEAT THE BAD GUY. Editing, people. It isn't hard.I don't actually blame Lackey for that, as much as I blame her editor.

  • KatHooper
    2019-05-26 12:25

    1.5 review coming soon at www.fantasyliterature.com

  • Grace
    2019-05-22 17:38

    Most definitely not my favourite Mercedes Lackey book so far. I felt as though Susanne carried on a bit too much like an impetuous love sick girl. I mean, keeping in mind she is 21 years old, I suppose it is reasonable for her to pine after a handsome young lord... I felt the characters in general were written very uni-dimensionally. They all had very one track goals and experienced minimal character growth. The climax was well-written and very exciting but the ending was ultimately unsatisfying.

  • Alayne
    2019-05-08 13:43

    The Elemental Masters series usually retells a Grimms Fairy Tale, but if that was the case here, I couldn't think of what that story was. As usual with this author it was a gripping narrative and I enjoyed it very much. That said, I didn't think it was as good as others of hers that I have read, hence 4 stars instead of 5.

  • Leni Iversen
    2019-05-26 15:48

    A dark fairy tale rendered relatively fluffy. Lackey is also all tell and little show in this book. To add insult to injury her "tribute" to Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter is a rather poor one. Lackey's Lord Peter is a two dimensional cutout that lacks all the passionate and tormented complexity that makes Sayers' Lord Peter an interesting character. Definitely not the best book in the series.

  • Connie Hendryx
    2019-05-18 19:51

    This book was amazing! Love this series...need to find the rest of the series (and re-read the ones already read!). This book did tend to drag during the beginning, but wow--picked up fast toward the end! Classic Mercedes Lackey!

  • Katie Whitt
    2019-05-05 13:46

    3.5, This one wasn't my favorite, it wasn't bad, but just didn't really do anything for me. I'm glad she didn't spend too much time on the dad plotline, because Ick, but all in all it wasn't very memorable.

  • Cilla Savary
    2019-05-07 18:32

    The main character was wonderful. Loved her relationship with Puck. Lots of creativity with her. but the storyline was somewhat predictable. The father was somewhat 2 dimensional. The final lover too obvious.

  • Mckinley
    2019-05-16 15:37

    Didn't like this one in the series.

  • Ashley Tebbenhoff
    2019-04-27 15:33

    Mercedes Lackey has reigned on the top of my favorites list for a long time along with my love of magic, history, and a good fairy tale retelling. So it goes without saying that almost any book from her is a winner. However, this one came with a mixed bag. I liked, unlike some of her other recent Elemental Masters books, that the book assumed I had some knowledge about the world she had built in her previous books. I liked that she didn't drag me through the character learning the same basic spells each of the others had learned in the past. Above all, I loved that it dipped into WWI and I easily could read a whole book she writes on an Elemental Master/Magician character during the war (even though it'd be dark and depressing and preferably devoid of romance, although I usually crave that). However, there were some staggering issues that held me back and only determination and curiosity pulled me forward. When reading any retelling, while how you retell the story is important, the reader knows the end. So what becomes most important are the characters. In the end (or really the beginning), her main heroine fell short on my list, creating a character I didn't care for, along with some other flaws. Unnatural Issue is based upon the fairy tale, Allerleirauh, which I assure you is at its core a very dark and depressing tale of abuse. Susanne meets the qualification I want in my character of such a tale, she is humble yet stubborn and strong, refusing to be defeated by this danger when it presents itself. That is, her father, a recluse whose depression and anguish have physically poisoned the land he lives on, realizes his daughter can fix the wrongs he spent 21 years blaming her for. She "killed" her mother in childbirth but now, with the aid of necromancy, she can become the vessel for her deceased mother's soul. For those of you not familiar with the tale of Allerleirauh, the heroine has the misfortune of embodying the surpassing beauty of her deceased mother. Her father had promised her mother on her death bed that he should never remarry least she be of equal or greater beauty than she. He has been so long alone and without heir that he cannot keep himself from attempting to act on incestuous thoughts. The heroine escapes and ends up getting a job at a neighboring king's castle before charming him with her beauty and ability to make an amazing soup laden with golden trinkets. In Unnatural Issue, *mild spoiler* (view spoiler)[The great manor she ends up at has a son named Charles who is not only handsome, but kind and also possesses the powers of the Earth. Suzanne goes from being amused that she isn't like other girls, married or with a beau, but not disappointed to instantly be infatuated with Charles to the point she must have him. Most of her decisions from that point forward are selfish, because she wants him to notice her and to want her in kind. The real problem is that she is not that character at all, or at least, portrayed to be more selfless and less sexually aware. Even greater is, knowing the author's habits all too well, Peter's perspective introduces him as Suzanne's true intended. (hide spoiler)]Suzanne started off as boring and then, as the plot picked up, got mildly interesting, only for her to become remarkably flat and uninteresting when the spoiler above came into play. That makes it a crime as she is the heroine. Really, Lord Peter Almsley, who is a character introduced in previous Elemental Masters novels, takes center stage as the most interesting character. Granted, he is a cliché: the traveling rich cad. But even with that aside, his charisma leaks through the pages and you just intimately care about his fate, his thoughts, etc the way you should with the heroine. Which, of course, meant in the end, he deserved much more than he received in his epilogue.To mix in more sour, she told a good portion of the story from the villain, Richard Whitestone's perspective. While she had created a rich background for him and used him to give a deeper perspective into the "dark side" of magic in her universe, he otherwise fell one-noted. His thoughts were of a single purpose and so were his actions. She worked so very hard to show through his backstory as characters revealed it that he was intelligent and clever, that he knew how to fight the evil he became. And yet, in the end, his singly driven agenda apparently kept him blind to things a clever, intelligent man should realize. He felt two dimensional and while, I think, had the story been more spectacular in other areas, it could have easily been overlooked, that was not the case.As a representative of the fairy tale, I think it did a decent job. The story addressed and corrected some of the issues I had with the original tale. Of the remainder, it creatively reinvented about 50% while dropping the other half off of the map. But I suppose with such a dark tale and trying to still maintain a certain level of positivity, that's about all you can ask for.

  • Rachael
    2019-05-23 13:34

    Increasingly as I have found with this series, Mercedes Lackey is becoming thoroughly sloppy in her storytelling.I am not going to bombard you with a prosy condescending tone to sound like one of those sycophantic wanna-be reviewers with delusions of literary expertise whilst putting on pedantic airs. Yeah, I can do that too. But no.Straight talk, this book was exceptionally disappointing.Essentially, the main character Suzanne is mostly pretty nice, but it was the initial formulation of the plot and the perfunctory way Lackey trotted these folks out that left me cold as a corpse.Suzanne's mother dies in childbirth, and her father, griefstricken after being away fighting the evil powers of elemental darkness, locks himself away for near-on 20 years, while Suzanne becomes one of the servant folk in the household, no longer entitled to her father's wealth. One day, after she has blossomed, her father accidentally sees her coming across the green and is struck by how much she looks like her mother; from this, he hatches a fevered plan to summon his dead wife's spirit and put her back into his daughter's body so that he can be with the love of his life.Yeah, that plot line sounds really creepy and fabulously devious, doesn't it? I mean, wouldn't you want to read more, expecting this gorgeous, tantalizing idea of struggle against insane lust with a strong dash of incestuous wickedness?Nope. You get a bare bones, barely fleshed out set of characters that feel like a rushed, badly done Hallmark movie - yes, there are some really good Hallmark movies - with barely any struggle to make the character seem at least capable of surviving, and less other individuals as a plot device saving her ass.No more than maybe half a chapter later, Suzanne has fled to the countryside and takes up as a milk maid for a lord, whom she is in love with, and who's friend/whatever the hell he was to the lord, becomes Suzanne's teacher. And who, in classic Lackey style, becomes Suzanne's true love interest. The romance was just not there, people. It wasn't.And about this point, the book loses all steam whatsoever. If there was to be some sort of pithy, meaningful exposition on war, or struggling to survive the horrors of war, especially between the people fighting and those working to save those wounded, it felt half-worked and unfinished.The whole book felt rushed and as bare bones as you could get. Yes the descriptions of the place were wonderful, from the places and the cultural norms - those were fantastic. But the rest of it was mediocre and as someone else said about Steadfast, the romance wasn't just tepid or even really lukewarm; it felt perfunctory, truly. Where was the spark? It felt more like she was settling for the friend because she couldn't have the lord.The worse part of all of it, was the father as a villain. He was such a cliched archetype, he was barely there except as a charicature that occasionally popped up to provide some meaningless turmoil and tension. Whatever the spark was that Lackey had when she started this series has definitely burned its course. It started with The Wizard of London and has progressed to Unnatural Issue, and in my opinion, Home From the Sea as well. The stories are good stories that I think have merit, but her problem is that she's cranking them out so quickly that no one is bothering to go back and edit them and say, "This is what you need to beef up or toss in to make it great." She's not really writing a story with the same bite that she used to. And I think honestly, it's just pure laziness.The only upside here is the gorgeous cover art. That alone is all she seems to bring us anymore. Her tepid attempts are just sad. There is no more character development in the way that there was. They're just hollow cardboard cutouts and shadows of what could have been a really interesting twist on a war novel - and she just hurried through without giving organs or flesh.All she sold us were the bones.Tears, Lackey, tears.

  • Filia Martin
    2019-05-25 13:27

    I'm not sure how to rate this as a story loosely based off of a fairy tale (I'm not familiar with Donkey Skin other than the basics, and I don't WANT to be, thanks), but as a story, this was actually one of the better Mercedes Lackey books I've read. I recall Gates of Sleep being a bit dull, and Phoenix and Ashes being good, but that it took a long time to get to that point.This book is in the same vein to me as Phoenix and Ashes--it takes awhile for the action to happen, but it doesn't disappoint. However, I do have to take away points because it took even LONGER for the action to happen. Much of the book is spent with Suzanne's home life, and then Suzanne's job as a milk maid. These aren't necessarily bad chapters, if the book were longer. But since it isn't, I feel these chapters could have been shorter so that more of the main story could be added. I was far more interested about Suzanne (view spoiler)[becoming a nurse, and the men going off to war (hide spoiler)] than I was about Suzanne's former domestic life. She also could have used those pages to go into Peter and Suzanne's relationship more. Most of it is spent with Suzanne pining after Charles and Peter pining after Suzanne (at least his feelings for her aren't like a five second thing), and Suzanne only realizes she likes Peter in the absolute LAST page of the book. I would have liked to see her realize it sooner, and for them to spend time as an actual couple. Them spending time as friends was great too, but I would have at least liked to see them spend time as a couple too. A last page declaration wasn't enough for me. This kind of frustrated me. I did actually like Peter, though--which is unusual for me for Lackey's male leads, as I just kind of think to myself 'well, he's OK'. Lately, anyway. Another gripe I had was Suzanne only becoming... I guess interesting is the word I'm looking for.. during the middle of the book. Suzanne's domestic life and as a domestic person wasn't that interesting, and she wasn't that that interesting during that time, either. And her being a passive Earth Mage wasn't that exciting, either. She only gets a personality when she (view spoiler)[runs away because her dad is seriously crazy (hide spoiler)], and that is about half way through the book. But it takes past that for her to really shine as a character. Like I said, I wasn't that interested in her as a character until way later. I had spent nearly half the book wondering when Suzanne would become the strong willed heroine Mercedes Lackey writes so well, and she doesn't disappoint in the end (Suzanne actually shows growth as a character, which I haven't seen in awhile for Mercedes Lackey). But it DOES take awhile. In the mean time, read the book for Peter, as he's great all the way through. I'm half joking there, though--it's not that boring as to make you hate it and feel you have to endure until Peter shows up. But it's not super exciting, either. I'm just saying it wasn't super exciting.The final gripe is with Suzanne's father, Richard. I get there needs to be some bad guy. I get he's supposed to be grief stricken and whatnot. But to seriously consider killing his daughter, who even if he did get what he wanted, he'd be inbreeding and with a CORPSE? It's a bit extreme of a contrast of character. I don't know why, but I was somewhat hoping for some kind of realization at some point that he was being crazy (by Richard himself) or even for an actual form of redemption. But the bad guys in Lackey's work are always bad, and never can change. It'd be interesting to read that someone else was really the super bad guy or something, I dunno why. Like he'd still have to pay for what he did, but he finally snaps the hell out of his nasty plan. Or something. I just don't like stock villains, I guess. And where was Rebecca ACTUALLY appearing as a ghost and reaming him out? I was waiting for it, and it never happened. THAT was super disappointing. I guess it happened through fae, but it wasn't her.Also, worth noting for fans of the series, Maya and Peter Scott make another appearance. It's about time, I think. I don't remember them being in any books other than brief mentions for awhile. But I haven't read Reserved For The Cat or The Wizard of London, so I don't know if I missed them there.Anyway, complaints aside, it's a good book, and one of the better ones Lackey has written for this series that I've read. It's definitely worth your time.

  • Kathy Davie
    2019-05-15 13:32

    Seventh in the Elemental Masters paranormal magic series based in England with this one set at the start of World War I.Although, the book itself claims to be the sixth in the Elemental Masters series. I wonder if the series is being re-numbered chronologically since there are already six [or seven!] Elemental Masters stories out there.1. Fire Rose2. Serpent's Shadow3. Gates of Sleep4. Phoenix and Ashes5. Wizard of London6. Reserved for the Cat7. Unnatural IssueMy TakeOh! Another fabulous tale from Mercedes Lackey! I love the history and settings Lackey provides in her Elemental Masters series and Unnatural Issue does not disappoint with its very descriptive feel for the countryside, the people, their interactions, and Lackey's depiction of war in the trenches.I particularly loved the similarity of the stance Puck and the Kerridges took on poaching as well as caring for the earth. It has such a homey, warm, comforting feel to it with a tremendous sense of the practical.As I read, I kept subconsciously inserting "Wimsey" into the text — this Lord Peter seems to be modeled upon Dorothy Sayers' own Lord Peter. The same appearance. The same approach to detecting. The same ruthlessness. I must confess when Susanne first encounters Peter and Charles Kerridge, I kept wanting her to end up with Peter, but Susanne fell in love with Charles… Lackey put an interesting twist on the whole love resolution — I did not expect the ending Lackey gave us.I really hate that I'll have to wait for Home From the Sea to possibly find out how things turn out for Susanne. In fact, there were so many characters whose stories I've read in earlier installments that I may just have to go back and re-read them…before the next book appears as their lives seem to intertwine so much. It'll give me something to do while I'm waiting…impatiently so.The StoryCalled away to aid the Circle in London, Richard Whitestone is anxious to return home to his pregnant wife, but he returns too late to help. Three hours earlier, Rebecca had gone into labor. And died. In a rage, Richard repudiates his daughter never wanting to see her again. And for 20 years, he does not. The servants raise his daughter while Puck teaches her the use of her earth magic. A magic she uses to keep the lands around them healthy and productive.But a chance discovery sets Richard onto a new tack. Raising his wife from the dead.The CharactersSusanne Whitestone, Earth Master, is the unacknowledged daughter of Richard Whitestone. Strong in her power yet kindly in its wielding, Susanne attracted the attention of the Puck and gathers strong elemental allies around her wherever she goes.Richard Whitestone is an Earth Master happily anticipating the birth of his daughter, the dreams he and Rebecca have of many children dancing through their home, swirling in his thoughts. His loss causes him to withdraw from all society leaving his daughter to the care of the servants, the land to anyone's care.Lord Peter Almsley, a Water Master and the younger son of a duke, is an undercover agent for the Old Lion, the leader of the magical community in England, and now he wants Peter to investigate uneasy rumors emanating from Yorkshire.Charles Kerridge is the son and heir of Michael and Elizabeth Kerridge, all three Earth Masters living at Branwell Hall. A happy estate where all are aware of their magics.The Cover and TitleThe cover is easily related to the story with the beautiful Susanne gathering a basket of elementals out in an orchard with yet more elementals clustering around her in her colorful servant's garb while in the background there's a mirror showing her mother and the skeletal dead behind her. Amazing how many stories that cover tells!While I'm not sure just what the title refers to — certainly her father's reaction to her birth is unnatural, and as his child, Susanne is his issue. Then of course you could always argue for her father's obsession as an Unnatural Issue.

  • Kira
    2019-05-17 15:50

    I apologize in advance, this review makes a lot of comparisons to the other books in this series. Mainly, I wanted to talk about how this does things in a different way and why that is successful.Of all the books in Lackey's Elemental Masters series, this is the one I have enjoyed the most since Phoenix and Ashes. The villain is similar to many of the others in the series (since a Wicked Father is not very different from a Wicked Stepmother or a Wicked Aunt, and they all have a tendency to try to exploit the protagonist for their own gains). However, unlike some of the other books this story seemed to spread out over a more natural period of time. Often it seems like the villain is revealed all at once (to the other characters) at the end of the story with a dramatic magic battle in which they are eventually destroyed by their own elemental slaves. Not so here. Everyone knows something is wrong from the beginning, it just takes a little while for Peter and Susanne to connect the wrongness they each know about to see the whole picture. Then instead of one giant confrontation (in which someone has been kidnapped or drugged) there are numerous skirmishes before the conflict is over. In this way the pacing of the story has parallels with the war that begins in the middle of it.I think the time in which this book is set is ideal for the story. There are warnings of "something bad coming" from the Balkans at the beginning of the story, and as things start to get bad for the characters the war breaks out. It makes the story feel like part of something bigger. It's also works logically for the villain, as a necromancer, to grow stronger throughout the course of the book as the war claims more lives. (view spoiler)[And in a way, Richard Whitestone is destroyed by his own magic; the war that fueled his power is what eventually kills him (hide spoiler)] That might also be why I liked Phoenix and Ashes so much, since it takes place later in the war. If you haven't read that yet and are looking to read another in this series, I would suggest it.(view spoiler)[I don't know why I always feel the need to put the "romantic relationship" details in spoilers tags, but I do. Anyway, I appreciated the gradual development of respect and affection between Peter and Susanne. I was fooled at first, actually. Susanne's immediate crush on Charles (plus the fact that Charles is a country boy at heart and Peter makes it clear that he is not) made me think this would end differently. I appreciate both the initial crush and Susanne's eventual realization that it is a crush and nothing more. Peter's "sudden realization" that he is in love with Susanne is a little abrupt, but I appreciate that the reveal is less dramatic than it could have been. The book ends with nothing really set in stone, which feels right to me. The war is still on, and we haven't yet seen the extent to which barriers between the gentry and the common folk will break down (as is much more evident in Phoenix and Ashes). But we do get the sense that Peter and Susanne have a future, or at least potential to be happy together as long as the war doesn't tear them apart. (hide spoiler)]One final note: it actually seems like this book had enough time put into it. It doesn't have some of the inconsistencies that have driven me crazy in some of Lackey's other recent books, so I appreciate not having an editing fail to nitpick about.

  • Bookworm1858
    2019-05-02 15:34

    Unnatural Issue by Mercedes LackeyDaw Books, 2011361 pagesFantasy; Fairy Tale4/5 starsSource: LibraryAlthough Mercedes Lackey is a prolific writer of fantasy, I'm really only familiar with her 500 Kingdoms series and her Elemental Masters series, mostly because they draw heavily on fairy tales. That makes me feel somewhat bad that I haven't explored her oeuvre more but happy whenever a new book comes out such as this one. This is another companion to the Elemental Masters, drawing upon the fairy tale "Donkeyskin" (yep, the same story that influenced Robin McKinley's Deerskin). While technically considered the seventh, it takes place before at least one (Phoenix and Ashes) and incorporates characters from several of the other books, expanding on the magical partnerships described in earlier books.The book opens with Earth Elemental Master Richard Whitestone heading home to see his beloved pregnant wife; alas she had died several hours before he arrived. Although the baby survived, he disowns her and locks himself in his rooms. The child, Susanne, grows up in an awkward place: not quite gentry but not fully a servant. She also takes on the responsibilities of caring for the land that her father had neglected. All seems fine until Richard catches sight of Susanne and realizes how much she looks like his dead wife. He seizes on a plan to bring his wife back to life and to stuff her spirit into Susanne's body using the dark arts of necromancy. When Susanne discovers part of his evil machinations, she flees and eventually receives enough magical aid to confront her father.That's only half the story though as WWI breaks out and time is spent on explaining how the war is polluting the soil on which it is fought and how it is decimating their magical ranks and abilities. Now I liked this part but I thought it detracted from Susanne's story. I would have liked either a shorter story that more closely focused on her or a longer story that could weave in the bits about WWI better. As it was, I felt only partly satisfied which each half.I did prefer the bits that drew from "Donkeyskin." Richard Whitestone was very crazed and his menace was well conveyed as was his patronizing sexist attitudes that contributed to his downfall. Among the new people she meets after fleeing are Lord Peter Almsley and his manservant Garrick, who I've read are supposed to be based on Lord Peter Wimsey and the amazing Bunter (who I adore) and have been tasked with tracking down the necromancer. I really enjoyed them although I haven't read enough Lord Peter Wimsey to give an opinion on how much they owe to the earlier creation.Overall: A good addition to the Elemental Masters series with some interesting information about necromancy and the darker side of magic. For newcomers, I would probably start with an earlier book because this one isn't as gripping as, say, Phoenix and Ashes.