Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey

(review written in 1996)
The Fire Rose (The Elemental Masters Fairy Tales)Just finished The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey, and found it to be worth the price; slightly more than a movie ticket these days. This is a retelling of the Beauty and the Beast theme that provided me with a couple of evening's entertainment. The tone of this novel is on more of an adult level than most of her fantasy novels, and certainly more adult than the Disney version of B&B.

The heroine is Rosalind Hawkins, a young scholar of medieval literature whose father has died and left her penniless. She is offered a position, ostensibly as a governess to the children of a reclusive rail baron , which removes her from her native Chicago to the wilds of the California coast near San Francisco. When she arrives, she finds out that there are no children, and that she has actually been recruited to assist the railroad magnate, Jason Cameron, in his research of medieval magical tomes.

She is not aware at first, however, that the reason of Cameron's reclusive habits is that he is a magician, a master of the elemental magic of fire, who has been changed into a half-human, half-beast by a spell which backfired. The plot of the story, of course, is her gradual discovery of who and what he is, and her coming to terms with his beastly nature.

What makes the whole book fun, however, is that Rosalind herself has the potential to become a mage, a mistress of the elemental magic of air. Lackey treats us to a light dissertation on the workings of elemental magic, and the training and discipline of a proper magician's apprentice. There's some marvelous intrigue and conflict built into the story by her introduction of an evil rival fire mage, and untimely betrayal by Cameron's first apprentice.

I won't spoil it all for you by letting you know how it all turns out, but suffice it to say that Lackey provides a new twist at the end of an old, old story. I'll probably even read this one again after sufficient time has passed, or she's come up with some sort of sequel.

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