Saturday, 23 June 2012

The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey

Mercedes Lackey seems to be one of those authors who have a few gems in her vast number of published books, but it’s a case of unearthing which ones work for you as a reader. Considering how much she churns out, this comes as no real surprise. I’ve only read one of her books before, Gwenhwyfar, which I didn’t really like. If I’m honest, the only reason I picked up this book is because it’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling and I can’t resist such a book.

Title: The Fire Rose
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Series: Elemental Masters #1
Publisher: Baen
Target Audience: Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 433 pages

Story: In 1905, Medieval scholar Rosalind Hawkins is left destitute when her father dies, forcing her to accept the offer that has mysteriously come her way of becoming a governess in San Francisco. But she arrives to find a house without children, a wife, or even an employer--only a terrible secret.

Thoughts and impressions: Unfortunately, I soon found myself frustrated and uninspired by the characters in this book. Paul du Mond (Beast’s right-hand man) in particular was just too much! He’s one of those seedy guys who feed off the work of others rather than doing any work himself; he likes to “break in” the new prostitutes – quelling their spirits so they’ll be pliable for other clients – and even learnt Spanish so he could give the Mexican girls a verbal thrashing as well as a physical one. I think that the author was just trying to use this as a means of introducing the world of San Francisco’s world of prostitution at the turn of the 20th century. I certainly picked up a lot of information that I’d been unaware / half aware of, but I didn’t feel that du Mond’s character was balanced enough for this to go down well. He had no positive attributes whatsoever and that made him very unbelievable for me.

In fact, none of the characters were particularly balanced. The good were sugary good and the bad had no redeeming qualities. Moreover, the Beast doesn’t even grow as a person. The whole idea behind Beauty and the Beast is that Beauty’s love allows Beast to grow and improve as a person. It doesn’t matter whether or not he transforms into the perfect, able-bodied man, there still has to be that character growth!  This particular Beast ends up as the exact same person that he was at the start of the novel.  Don’t even get me started on Rose. She was just so… I don’t even know but I could not like her at all. On top of that she’s too much on the side of perfection for my tastes.

If you know me, you’ll know that I adore Beauty and the Beast and that I’ll eat up anything with a passing resemblance to that fairy tale. I’m very sad to say that this is the first time ever that I’ve not liked a Beauty and the Beast retelling. I was bored, put off and uninspired by the characters and on top of this Beast is called Jason Cameron. It’s often written out in full like that and I’d find myself reading it as James Cameron all the time. I had to keep stopping and rereading the name!

The book’s redeeming feature is its magic system. I rather liked the mastery of the elements and how familiars would work for their master, helping them in their spell casting. I quite liked the ritual system as well and how Magick was not just at the practitioner’s fingertips. I even liked how the Eastern magical ways differ from those practised in the West, but how they could both learn from each other.

Now, if only the rest of the book had been as good as the magic system. This is the second time that I’ve been stung by a Mercedes Lackey book. I’ll think long and hard before picking up another.

Style: I can’t put my finger on what exactly it was about the style that didn’t appeal to me but I found it pretty tough going. I even put the book down at one point for a week or so while I read some other books instead.

Final verdict: Really just not my cup of tea I’m afraid. 2 stars

Extra notes: I don't think there was any bad language. No explicit sex though prostitution and what is essentially the rape of kidnapped girls are mentioned in passing.


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