by Mercedes Lackey
One day I was reading more about Robin McKinley's Beauty online, and came across some reviews that compared it this novel by Mercedes Lackey. Of course I was curious! The Fire Rose takes the story of Beauty and the Beast and places it in San Francisco, 1905. Its main character, Rose, is a female scholar- quite the bookworm and very outspoken for women's rights. She finds herself suddenly destitute and ends up in the mansion of a recluse, assisting him in some strange research into alchemy and magic. When she finds out the truth, Rose becomes more and more involved until it seems her very life could be in danger... I liked the frequent literary references, and learning a bit more about San Francisco of the time period (although some of the seedier elements of the city were pretty distasteful). The ending pleased me- although it wasn't at all what I expected! But oh, it was difficult to get there. Even though I enjoyed the story, I did not like the manner in which it was told. Something about the prose struck me as very dull, and after about fifty pages I realized why- I could hardly find a single metaphor or simile in the entire book. The descriptions are full of details- but so straightforward it made me yawn (literally). Nevertheless, I was so curious how the story would work itself out that I forced myself to read it to the end.
There were a few other things that weakened my appreciation of the book- two inconsistencies in the text, which jumped right out at me. An obvious solution to a major dilemma in the story which I saw, but none of the characters realized (minor annoyance). Also, though this is no fault of the author's, the cover image is inaccurate. Over and over again in the story it states that the half-man, half-wolf character has misshapen paws, not hands. And the lizard creature? It's supposed to be a magical salamander. The image my mind created (based on the author's descriptions) was so far from this I can't believe the artist and I read the same book. I'm a very visual person, and every time I looked at the cover, it just bugged me.
I can see why fans of Mercedes Lackey prefer this novel to Beauty. It's much faster-paced, exciting, plenty of plot turns and suspenseful moments. But I still prefer Beauty. It may be a quieter tale, but there is more artistry in the words, and that's what enthralls me in the pages. Yet I'm not giving up on this author right away- I do want to try another of her books- any suggestions?
Rating: 2/5 ........ 433 pages, 1995