A young half-caste female doctor returns to England from India after the suspicious death of her parents, hoping to hide from their killer amongst the outcasts and the poor. She attempts to use her magical talent to hide her household drawing the attention of local mages wanting to know who had invaded their patch. Upon deciding the woman is harmless one smitten young gentleman accepts the task of training her in magic.
All goes well until the killer from India tracks the woman down and sets in motion a plan to murder her in order to absorb her power.
With the help of some local mages, her seven familiars (that take the shapes of native Indian animals) and the street people she has treated in her capacity as doctor, the murderer is defeated, her life saved and a happy ever after for all ensured.
This story, the first in a series of re imagined fairytales set in Edwardian London, is a retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. While all the elements are present they are beautifully incorporated into a story all of there own yet unmistakably derivative. This aspect of the tale was very well done.
What wasn’t so well done was the period. The setting is very good, capturing a true sense of time and place; it is the characters that let the piece down. All the main characters have very modern sensibilities but the heroine, in particular, is a twenty-first century girl dropped into 1909. Quite regularly I felt that I was reading a treatise on the treatment of women and conditions of the poor at the turn of the last century rather than a work of fiction, and that pulled me out of the story every time.
In spite of that I did like The Serpent’s Shadow and will read others in the series but not in any great rush.-Lynn