The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey
Baen Fantasy, 1995
Fantasy; 433 pgs
Rating: (Very Good)
First Sentence: Golden as sunlight, white-hot, the Salamander danced and twisted sinuously above the plate sculpted of Mexican obsidian, ebony glass born in the heart of the volcano and shaped into a form created exactly to receive the magic of a creature who bathed in the fires of the volcano with delight.
Reason for Reading: This is my final selection for the Once Upon a Time Challenge. I added this title to my TBR collection in October of 2004, along with a few others of this author’s books. I am a big fan of her Valdemar series and was curious to discover what other treasures she had written.
Comments: I had almost forgotten how entertaining a novel by Mercedes Lackey could be. In The Fire Rose, the author takes a favorite fairytale of mine, “Beauty and the Beast,” and adds her own flavor and spices to it.
Rosalind Hawkins, a medieval scholar, has just lost her father and learned that he was in great debt. She’s soon to be out on the streets with hardly anything to call her own. When the offer to become a governess to the two children of a wealthy railroad baron comes, it seems too good to be true. However, after careful consideration she decides to leave the city of Chicago where she grew up for the western city of San Francisco. Upon her arrival, she quickly learns that she has been deceived. There are no children to tutor, no wife to the baron and only one servant in the mansion where she now resides. She is asked to read manuscripts and texts to her employer, Jason Cameron, through a speaking tube, whose hope is that she will lead him to uncover the key that can unlock him from his prison. Rose is not the kind of woman to be kept in the dark for long. She soon puts two and two together and discovers her employer’s deep dark secret just as Jason’s enemies turn their attention to Rose.
San Francisco in the early 1900’s is the perfect backdrop for the novel. Women have their place in society but are making definite movement towards beginning their struggle for equality. Rose is a woman who has never been content in the traditional role, wanting to get a doctorate and stand on her own two feet. She wears glasses, thinks herself rather plain and is a bookworm. The perfect heroine.
Amidst the magic and glamour of wealth, there is a darker side to the novel. Mercedes Lackey takes readers into the cribs and opium dens of San Francisco’s Chinatown, the whorehouses, and slave trade of women.
The Fire Rose is a worthwhile read in more ways than one. Its touch upon history and the more fantastical elements make it an engaging novel that is difficult to put down. It is always risky to take a favorite traditional story and make it your own, however, Mercedes Lackey succeeded marvelously.
Favorite Part: It always warms my heart to read a book in which at least one of the main characters is a booklover, and so I found a kindred spirit in Rose Hawkins right from the start. I like strong female characters and Rose certainly was that—as well as intelligent. My favorite character, however, is probably Jason Cameron’s personal Salamander. Although he wasn’t much of a character in presence, his loyalty, intelligence and manner drew me to him. Of the humans, Master Pao was one of my favorites and I wish I we could have gotten more into his history. Alas, this wasn’t his story.
What better place to learn more about the author and her books than her website? Do stop by!
Miscellaneous: This week we celebrated Anjin's birthday, but because it landed on workday, we decided to extend it through the weekend. After a brief excursion to the mall, we had a birthday lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. This was only my second time ever going there. Let me just say the White Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffle cheesecake is to die for. Very yummy.
Oh goodie! I have this book on my list for the summer reading challenge!! Great review! I just have a few others to finish up first!ReplyDelete
Wow, I'd never heard of this author, but this books sounds like one I would really enjoy. Thanks for the introduction to someone new!ReplyDelete
"It always warms my heart to read a book in which at least one of the main characters is a booklover"ReplyDelete
I feel the exact same way.
I've been meaning to read Mercedes Lackey for a while now, and this book seems to be a great introduction to her work. Thank you for the wonderful review!
Love the site! I'm adding you to my blogroll...ReplyDelete
Happy birthday to Anjin. A Cheesecake Factory just opened in my neighborhood and I've been curious, but I'm afraid I'll lose control in there. I'd kill for cheesecake.ReplyDelete
Hi Wendy, as usual you've written a great review! This book sounds interesting; will check this out. :)ReplyDelete
Great review. My nephew would like this one.ReplyDelete
I've never been to a Cheesecake Factory and never read Mercedes Lackey. I feel like I'm definitely missing something on both counts, now. :)ReplyDelete
Thanks for introducing me to Mercedes Lackey. A good review like this makes one want to immediately check out the reviewed work.ReplyDelete
I too love books which have a strong female character.That, along with the historical backdrop you mentioned reminded me of Gone with the Wind and Scarlett O'Hara.
Now I'm dying for a piece of white chocolate peanut butter truffle cheesecake. Hmm. The closest Cheesecake Factory is only 30 miles away.....ReplyDelete
Mercedes Lackey is very entertaining! I met her at a Con a few years back. This one sounds pretty good.
Great review, as usual! I've always wanted to read a Mercedes Lackey book...maybe I'll make this my first.ReplyDelete
Oh and YUM CHEESECAKE!!!
My library doesn't have even one of Mercedes Lackey's books. Isn't that disgusting? I'm adding this to my bookmooch wishlist. Very nice review, Literary. I like books that have book-loving characters, too.ReplyDelete
Congratulations on finishing the Once Upon a Time Challenge. It provides a good feeling of accomplishment to wrap up a challenge.
Stephanie - I'm glad you are reading it so soon! I look forward to reading what you think of it (hopefully I haven't talked it up too much! LOL).ReplyDelete
Bridget - I hope you will check this book out further. I really like Mercedes Lackey's novels and this is a great place to start.
Nymeth - Mercedes Lackey has a wide interest in fantasy and has become quite a prolific writer. There's plenty to choose from among her books. I do hope you'll get to read this one though.
Bibliolatrist - Oh, thank you! I will be updating my template this weekend and will be sure and add you to my blogroll as well. :-)
Kookie - Many thanks for the birthday wishes. The Cheesecake Factory is very hard to resist once you've been there. It can be expensive so maybe that will help deter you a little longer. :-) It should be a crime to have as many different types of cheesecake as they do! It's too tempting!
Hi, Melody! Thank you for the compliment. I hope you will get to read this one.
MyUtopia - Thanks!
Nancy - If you like cheesecake, you should try the cheesecake factory. Even if you don't, it's worth going. :-) Of course, after your meal, you may not have room for cheesecake. Thank goodness they let you take it home . . .
Maya - If you do give this one a try, I hope you will enjoy it. I was actually surprised at how grounded in history this fantasy novel actually was because I'm used to the author's more other worldly series. She did a great job with this one.
Carrie K - The chocolate peanut butter truffle cheesecake is worth it . . . A part of me wished that I could have had my own slice and not been sharing with my husband, but it's probably best that I shared.
I'm jealous that you got to meet Mercedes Lackey! I've been a fan of hers for over a decade now. I even bought a couple of CD's of music based on her Valdemar series that I still listen to now and then.
Karina - This one might be a good place to start. Reading all these responses, I'm starting to wish I could have another piece of cheesecake right now. LOL
Booklogged - Thank you! I am glad to be finished with the challenge. I had hoped to finish off the Spring Reading Thing this week, but I keep picking up other books to read first. My last book for the Spring Thing challenge is a little hefty to carry around with me and so I've opted for the smaller books. Soon though!
A couple of other people I know mentioned that they can't find the book in their libraries. I wonder if there's a way to order it?