Book Review: Mercedes Lackey & Holly Lisle’s When the Bough Breaks

Posted December 30, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Mercedes Lackey & Holly Lisle’s When the Bough Breaks

When the Bough Breaks


Holly Lisle, Mercedes Lackey

It is part of the , Elves on the Road series and is a fantasy in Paperback edition that was published by Baen Books on 1993 and has 279 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books in this series include Bedlam's Edge, Born to Run, Wheels of Fire, Arcanum 101, Silence

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Unnatural Issue, "The River's Gift", Finding the Way and Other Tales of Valdemar, Foundation, Intrigues, Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit, Owlknight, Charmed Destinies, Changes, Beauty and the Werewolf, Invasion, Home From the Sea, Dead Reckoning, Conspiracies, Bedlam's Edge, Crown of Vengeance, Redoubt, Harvest Moon, World Divided, Elemental Magic: All New Tales of the Elemental Masters, Sacrifices, Steadfast, Burdens of the Dead, Bastion, Victories, Blood Red, The House of the Four Winds, Games Creatures Play, Closer to Home, Born to Run, Wheels of Fire, Chrome Circle, Changing the World: All-New Tales of Valdemar, Under the Vale and Other Tales of Valdemar, Arcanum 101, A Tangled Web, Winter Moon, Moving Targets and Other Tales of Valdemar, Elementary: All-New Tales of the Elemental Masters, No True Way: All-New Tales of Valdemar, From a High Tower, Hunter, Closer to the Heart, Silence, A Study in Sable, Elite, Closer to the Chest, Tempest: All-New Tales of Valdemar, A Scandal in Battersea

Third in the SERRAted Edge urban fantasy series, a part of the overall Elves on the Road universal series, and revolving around Fairgrove Industries, an elvish racing firm that employs elves, mages, and humans. The focus is on Maclyn.

My Take

Ah, jeez, this story is just horrible. The first two were bad enough with their underlying themes of saving children from abuse, and When the Bough Breaks has to be the worst. Why do intelligent people not even attempt to break the cycle? They know it’s horrible. They know the damage it does. Why continue it? For revenge? Who are they getting revenge on?

What an appropriate title. From the lullaby, and it’s so horrendous about a father who was abused and chose to continue the abuse on his daughter. He’s tortured her so badly that the little girl splintered off into multiple personalities AND she’s possessed by a witch who has been thrown into this little soul.

I love D.D.’s response to the student’s question about why she’d need a college education if she’s “just a mechanic”. Too right!!

It gets funny in spots. One I did enjoy was Mac’s leading “Jewelene” on. Some of it he was aware of and some of it was unconscious. The tricks the students pull on their teacher and that breakfast Mac “cooks” for Lianne (oh, gawd, makes me look like a gourmet, master, all-powerful cook — and THAT’S sayin’ somethin’). As for Mel’s line of “work”…all I can do is repeat what P.T. Barnum said: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Something I don’t understand about teachers. They’re around children 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, and 9 months out of the year. Each year they get a new crop of students with all the differences and similarities one could expect in a group of people. How is it that they aren’t able to recognize certain constants such as dyslexia, child abuse, etc.?

It’s interesting how easily Lianne figured out that Mac was different; however, I don’t see how she could make that leap of intuition as she did. What would even make her think of this? I must’a missed somethin’.

I’m surprised that it takes Mac so long to make the connection, what with all the experience he and the other elves have with how cruel parents can be to children.

Lol, I do like Lianne and how she managed to escape, although I think you should always throw a gun far, far away, and not just think you’ve taken out all the bullets.

The writing is rather juvenile, but it conveys a powerful message. One of the saving graces in When the Bough Breaks is the judgment and the punishment decided. All too fitting, and it makes me wish we truly did have elves in the world.

The Story

It’s a horrible accident that could have been tragic if not for one unknown telekinetic savior. And it tells “Jewelene” that the rumors are true. Just not the who she expected.

Mac has his own problems: deciding where to go from here with Lianne and the dangers looming over Felouen and the High Court.

Amanda has her own issues. In fact, each of the girls — Anne, Amanda, Abbey, and Alice — have strict, defining roles to enforce and refuse to see how they might aid each other if they were one. For they refuse to be one. It’s safer. And just when Anne thinks she’s found a safe place…

The Characters

Maclyn, a.k.a., Mac Lynn, is a Knight of the High Court of Elfhame Outremer who likes to race — he loves the energy generated by the fans. His elvensteed, Rhellen, prefers to travel around as a Palomino-gold ’57 Chevy convertible. Dierdre Brighthair, her human name is D.D. Reed, is his mother, his crew chief, and one of the best mechanics on the team. Afallonn is her elvensteed. Redmond is D.D.’s human boyfriend.

Lianne McCormick is a fifth-grade school teacher at Loyd E. Auman Middle School whom Mac is seeing. Other students include Latisha McKoy, Marilee Blackewell, and Bobby Smithers.

Amanda Kendrick is one of Lianne’s students. Fudge is her pony. The Father, Andrew, is a corporate lawyer; Step-Mother, Merryl, raises champion Arabian horses (Vassar, Junior League, Arts Council). Both are Old Money and quite conscious of it. Sharon is Andrew’s child with Merryl, I think.

Cethlenn, a Celtic witch who was part of the MacLurrie’s circle and died back when Celts fought Gauls — Stranger is what they all call her, the battered, angry Anne who learns more about her magic and how to visit the Unformed Plane *shudder*; the everything-is-normal Amanda; the repressed, puritanical Alice who follows the rules; and, the sheltered, brilliant Abbey. Back in the day, Cethlenn was seeing Eodain whom she didn’t know was elven.

The Seleighe

The racing side of things (and includes humans)
Brad Fennerman is with the SpelCo team. Keith Brightman fields his own car and crew — something he couldn’t do if he didn’t know how to run a business.

The High Court of Elfhame Outremer
Felouen has been in love with Maclyn for centuries; Moortha is her elvensteed. Gwaryon, who has an obsession with all things ancient, has been in unrequited love with Felouen. There are those who refuse to believe Dierdre or Felouen: Ymelthre and Thaerry who is more interested in chasing Droeweyn while those who believe include Amallen and Hallara.

Jewelene Carter, a.k.a., Belinda Ciucci, a.k.a., Alessandra, Lady Rivers, a.k.a., “Bits”, is a former corrupt (Honest Ed had been her partner) and a hitwoman scouting for talent for Melvin Tanbridge, who runs pseudo-science magazines designed to part people from their money. Stevens and Peterkin are the muscle. Sharon is the receptionist at the Prince Charles.

The Unformed Plane is mist that can be formed and mist that can attack. Banesidhe wind is pure destructive energy born of torture on the earthly plane; it can only be conjured up by someone with magic who is willing to be tortured.

The Cover and Title

The cover finds a small party in the wood battling with swords: two on foot while one is horseback. And naturally, racing car in the background. A young child is standing in hope and fear in the background.

What an appropriate title! A quiet, gentle song to send a child to sleep, only, in this story, When the Bough Breaks, it’s a horror for a young child who has suffered too long. Then again, let’s live in hope that this bough’s breaking means the cycle is also breaking.