Giselle was still inside her mothers womb when she was bartered away to Mother for the price of enough vegetables to feed her mother, father, and eight siblings through the winter. For her father it was a bargain, a chance to save his children and their mother - but it was also the act that her mother could never forgive. Mother was not a monster though, she has lovingly raised Giselle, teaching her about the Elemental magic that flows through her and that she will one day Master. It is a somewhat lonely existence in the remote abbey where they live, but Giselle is never truly along because the elemental creatures of the Air are her constant companions. Apart from the fact that she is destined to become an Air Master, Giselle has the most extraordinary hair that grows and a tremendous rate - washing it and returning it to braids could take an entire day, and Mother cut it regularly to keep it in check. Mother truly has Giselle's best interests at heart, going so far as to lock Giselle's tower to keep her safe when she has to be away from the abbey.
When Mother is away one day a handsome stranger appears at the base of her tower and strikes up a friendship with Giselle - a friendship that proves false when Giselle helps into her locked tower and he attacks her. Thrown forcefully out of the tower he vanishes without a trace, and Mother decides that Giselle will learn to defend herself. Years later Giselle is a fine shot with a rifle, which is just as well because when Mother dies Giselle is left with property but no money with which to provide for its upkeep. Cutting her hair short and wearing the clothes of a young man Giselle becomes Gunther, a disguise that works a little too well when "Gunther" is conscripted. Seeing no other option Giselle drops her disguise, only to be forced to defend herself with fatal consequences. Forced to run for her life Giselle finds sanctuary and purpose in a most unexpected place - but has she truly left her past behind her?
From a high tower is the latest in the Elemental masters series and like the previous book, Blood red, it leaves the shores of England far behind and settles into the forests of Germany instead. This was a very welcome change and allows Lackey to explore a whole new world with fresh challenges, new Elemental creatures, and a society that is no where near as "proper" as the shores of dear old England. It was a real pleasure to find a traditional tale turned on its head, with the role of the selfish old witch of the original Rapunzel turned into the caring Mother who saved Giselle from a life of poverty that might have been very short indeed. The reason for locking Giselle in her tower was also one of kindness, protecting Giselle and the rest of the world from her uncertain powers during her tumultuous teenage years - the time when her powers are most likely to break free.
Obviously the plot is somewhat predictable - Lackey is reworking a traditional story after all - but the adventure takes some unexpected twists and turns as it leads you on a merry chase through the German countryside. The appearance of Rosa from Blood red was also a welcome surprise - Lackey is known for her strong female characters and it was nice for the damsel to rescue the knight instead of the other way around. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Giselle's world, and the appearance of From a high tower in the same part of the world as Blood red leads me to hope that this is not the last we have seen of Rosa and Giselle. A rollicking good read that deserves to be read in a single sitting!
If you like this book then try:
- The Fire rose by Mercedes Lackey
- The serpent's shadow by Mercedes Lackey
- Reserved for the cat by Mercedes Lackey
- Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey
- Firebird by Mercedes Lackey
- Deerskin by Robin McKinley
- Beauty by Robin McKinley
- Rose daughter by Robin McKinley
- Spindle's end by Robin McKinley
- Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Reviewed by Brilla