The Silver Bullets of Annie Oakley
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Series: Elemental Masters, book 16
Publisher: Daw Books (January 11, 2022)
Hardcover, 320 pages
Fantasy, Adult Fantasy, Retellings
The sixteenth novel in the magical alternate history Elemental Masters series follows sharpshooter Annie Oakley as she tours Europe and discovers untapped powers.
Annie Oakley has always suspected there is something “uncanny” about herself, but has never been able to put a name to it. But when Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show goes on tour through Germany, Bill temporarily hires a new sharpshooter to be part of his “World Wide Congress of Rough Riders”: a woman named Giselle, who also happens to be an Elemental Master of Air. Alongside this new performer, Annie discovers that she and her husband, Frank, are not simply master marksman, but also magicians of rare ability.
As they travel and perform, Annie must use her newfound knowledge and rare skill to combat creatures of the night scattered across the countryside, who threaten both the performers and the locals. Annie’s got her gun, and it’s filled with silver bullets.
I’m just so relieved Mercedes Lackey has moved on from the Sherlock Holmes-esque moment and back into the realm of fairy tales and legends. Much like the previous book in the series (Jolene), this installment of the Elemental Masters series has a bit of an American in the time of the Wild West/settlements feel, only this book focused on a Wild West show traveling through Europe.
A lot of what I’d consider to be the “action” for the main conflict takes place in the first 5% and then the final 5% of the book, which leaves the other 90% descriptions of Annie Oakley’s performances in the Wild West show, life in the show camp, learning magic, and building friendships with Frida and Jack. If you’re looking for an action packed adventure, that’s really not what this book is. Really OBJECTIVELY I should probably rate it more like 3.5 or 4 stars, but this series has a lot of nostalgia for me and I’m SO GLAD to be past the Sherlock Holmes Nan or Jan or whoever they were moment that my ratings are kind of skewed, haha.
There’s a lot of introspection in this one about proper usage of power, and how Annie reconciles her pacifist Quaker upbringing with her new experiences Hunting the monsters of the night. I had a hard time putting this book down, not because it was fast-paced and I needed to know what happened next (because it’s really not), but because I loved every moment of the world building and the escape to this traveling Wild West show. This was exactly the sort of soft, gentle escape I needed to take me out of some personal garbage going on right now, and I was loathe to leave Annie’s world behind and return to the real one. I really just wanted to pour my own cup of coffee, wrap a blanket around my shoulders, and cozy up by the campfire to listen to some tall tales and yarns.
This is the sixteenth book in the Elemental Masters series, but can be read as a stand-alone. I don’t believe any of the characters from previous books are in this one, though the Brotherhood and Hunt Masters as a society as introduced in Blood Red and From A High Tower do play a part in this book as well.
A digital ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley for review. All opinions are unbiased and my own.