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Mercedes Lackey – The Fire Rose

January 6, 2008

3. The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey (1995)

Length: 433 pages

Genre: Fantasy; Historical Fiction

Started: 02 January 2008
Finished: 06 January 2008

Summary: Rosalind Hawkins, an intelligent and bookish – and therefore “unwomanly” – student at the University of Chicago, has recently been orphaned, with her only financial assets taken to pay her father’s debts. It seems like the hand of providence when she receives an offer of employment that so perfectly fits her situation and skills: tutor to the two children of the recluse railroad baron Jason Cameron. However, when she arrives, she learns that the children were a ruse, and her duties are much different – translating ancient and mysterious texts for her employer, who she never sees. Slowly she comes to realize that Jason is not just a wealthy recluse, but is instead a powerful Firemaster, and has been driven into seclusion after one of his Magicks went terribly wrong. Even though she enjoys her work, can she remain the employee of someone who is occasionally more wolf than man?

Review: The back of this book dubs it “Beauty meets Beast in San Francisco…”, and although the basic elements of the story are there – bookish girl who’s prettier than she realizes, “prince” who is laboring under a transformation brought on by his own arrogance, a “castle” full of invisible/enchanted servants, “rose” symbolism – the plot structure is different enough so that it’s not a straightforward re-telling. There’s a lot more emphasis placed on the magic itself, and Rose is sufficiently more modern and has a lot more options open to her than the original Beauty. I definitely enjoyed reading this book – the prose is clean and unobtrusive, and just has enough details and texture are provided to enmesh the reader in the world of 1905 San Francisco without getting overly descriptive about every dress and piece of furniture. Plot- and pacing-wise, there were a few threads (Paul du Mond’s “recreational” activities, for one) that were maintained throughout the book without ultimately bearing much on the plot, while there were other elements (the differences between Eastern and Western Magick) that could have used some more elaboration. Finally, I wasn’t satisfied with the ending; the crisis came relatively late in the book, and everything seemed to happen too quickly, wrapping itself up neatly but not very satisfyingly. I would have happily read another 50 pages to have the crises and endings of various story threads elaborated on instead of quickly disposed of. This book is one of the rare ones that has enough potential that I actually wished it was part of a longer series. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Definitely an enjoyable read; recommended for anyone who enjoys fantasy and/or fairy tales, particularly fantasy grounded in a real historical setting.

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Vocab:

  1. p. 35: “‘That man is a thief and a masher!’ she said indignantly.” – a man who makes advances, esp. to women he does not know, with a view to physical intimacy.
  2. p. 48: “His saturnine face held a pair of brooding brown eyes above chiseled cheekbones and a decidedly Romanesque nose.” – having a tendency to be bitter or sardonic.
  3. p. 59: “To meet her employer, she picked a skirt of the softest wool she had ever touched in her life, wool as soft and as plush as velvet, in a deep sapphire blue, and a silk waist with a flowing jabot in pale blue with more lace, dyed to match, at the collar and cuffs.” – An ornamental cascade of ruffles or frills down the front of a shirt, blouse, or dress.
  4. p. 72: “By the time she finished exploring that floor, she had the feeling she ought to be returning to her post, or she was likely to find a cold collation instead of a warm dinner.” – any light meal.
  5. p. 74: “There was a red Morocco-leather box on the table, and when she opend it, she found a lady’s chatelaine watch within, complete with neckchain.” – a clasp or chain worn at the waist for holding keys, a purse, or a watch.
  6. p. 148: “Probably more of those ballads the trouveres created; I suspect my selection is as good as that in her university.” – one of a class of medieval poets who flourished in northern France during the 12th and 13th centuries and works on the themes of courtly love.
  7. p. 416: “She braced herself in the doorway with her hands and legs as the earth began an insane gigue.” – any of various lively dances in triple time; jig.
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One Comment leave one →
  1. Pamela permalink
    June 12, 2011 7:18 pm

    Actually it is part of a longer series. I am an inveterate Mercedes Lackey fan so I have read most of her works. The series that this is part of is called the Elemental Master’s series (otherwise known by some of the “fans” as the Edwardian Fairy Tales). Most, however, do take place in England at the turn of the century. There are these (and the fairy tale they draw from):
    The Serpent’s Shadow (Snow White)
    The Phoenix and Ashes (Cinderella)
    The Wizard of London (The Snow Queen)
    The Gates of Sleep (Sleeping Beauty)
    Reserved for the Cat (Puss in Boots)
    And the forthcoming Unnatural Issue (Which I think may be based on the Thousand Furs story)
    They do follow along the same line but also unfortunately have the rushed crises at the end so….

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