The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey
|Book Name:||The Fire Rose|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Audio Book|
|Genre(s):||Fantasy / Fairy Tale|
|Release Date:||November 1, 1996|
Rosalind Hawkins was born in the wrong era. Before women were allowed to vote, even before electricity had reached all areas of the country, Rose was working towards acquiring her Ph.D. in medieval and ancient languages. While most women were reading Jane Austin and the Bronte sisters, Rose was reading The Odyssey in its original Greek! Rose cared little for what others thought of her. She would make her own way and not have to rely on her father’s money or some man to leave her mark on the world.
Rose’s plans ran smoothly even when a failed business venture placed her and her father under crushing debt. But, Rose could make do without the fancier things in life. She could walk to school instead of taking a cab and make her clothes instead of buying them from boutiques. Having to skimp a little here and there would not interfere with her dreams. However, when her father dies and the debt collectors force Rose on to the street, it seems fate has different ideas about where her future is headed.
That’s when she receives a mysterious letter. A rich rail baron on the west coast is seeking Rose’s services as a governess and tutor for his two children. And if that weren’t odd enough, the job description matches her qualifications exactly! Rose isn’t sure why two young children would need to learn ancient Latin or medieval French, but she accepts the job anyway and makes her way from her home city of Chicago to the huge manor of her new employer an hour outside of the growing city of San Francisco.
But her employer, Jason Cameron, is not entirely honest with Rose, and instead of a job teaching children she instead finds herself translating obscure text on alchemy and magic for a man that she has yet to lay eyes on. And massive house seems to be empty, save her and Mr. Cameron’s assistant. Servants anticipate her every need and whim, but work in complete silence and are never seen or heard. However, the love of her work keeps Rose going without questioning, until she decides to read one of Mr. Cameron’s ‘magic’ books cover to cover on her own time. Her scientific mind suddenly brims with questions. Could magic be real? Could it be that her benevolent employer is really a wizard? And if that’s true, why does he need someone to translate texts for him? And what does he really want with Rose?
– – –
The Fire Rose is the first book by Mercedes Lackey in the Elemental Masters series. This series takes place at the turn of the 20th century. Each book in the series is a retelling of a classic fairy tale; The Fire Rose being Beauty and the Beast. The world it’s set in is pretty much historically accurate, except for the existence of magic. But magic and its masters are hidden from the world, and most people go their whole lives without ever knowing that the unknown is all around them. In this alternate universe, for example, the general populous is blissfully unaware that the Great Chicago Fire was caused by two warring Fire Masters rather than Mrs. O’Leary’s cow.
The magic system in the story is based on the four elements: earth, fire, wind, and water. Every person has all four elements balanced in themselves. Only people whose balance is off and leaning towards one element can cast spells and talk with the spirits of their given element.
In The Fire Rose, Jason Cameron is a Fire Master and his ‘invisible’ servants are actually mythical salamanders, beasts of fire and magic. And if you haven’t guessed by now (from the cover of the book, if nothing else), the reason Jason does not initially speak with Rose face to face is that he has accidently turned himself into a beast and now needs someone to help find a way to change him back.
As a kid I was a huge fairy tale buff and to this day Beauty and the Beast is still my favorite fairy tale, and one of my favorite stories of all time. So was this a good retelling of the story? After thinking about it for a week or so, I would have to say yes. I like the way the author made Rose a strong character before she even met Jason, rather than being a poor maiden in need of true love. I like the way magic works in the world and I like the way they fit major historical events into the story. Even the twist that he turned himself into a beast, instead of being cursed by an outside force, makes the story that much more interesting.
That being said, I was not thrilled with the ending. It made sense and it fit with the rest of the story, but it seemed rushed, almost as if the author had a deadline or page requirement they needed to meet. And while the magic system is interesting, the book spends a lot of time explaining how it works, which can get a little tedious if you just want to get back to the plot. I’ve only read the first book in the series, but I have it on good authority that the books following this are much better, as the world is already fleshed out and the magic system doesn’t need to be explained a second time.
Overall, I think the world and the characters were interesting and it was a nice, easy read. But if you’re not into fairy tales or you like more gritty fantasy stories, you probably won’t be interested in this book. I, however, am going to dig up the next book and see if my family was right about the series getting better with each story. Plus, Snow White is the next retelling and I’m curious to see if the author keeps the seven dwarves in the story or not.