Sep 3, 2008

The Fire Rose

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


  1. Enjoying the story but not the telling perfectly sums up how I felt about the only book of hers I've read, The Black Swan. The story was good, but I really didn't like her writing. She has good ideas, and I can see why she has so many fans, but I don't think I could ever really love her books.

  2. Well, I'm glad to know I'm not the only reader who feels this way!

  3. I commented under the winners post. Sorry you had not gotten my email reply.

  4. I much prefer Beauty by Robin McKinley to the Fire Rose! Like you and Nymeth, I was disappointed by her writing, and thought of how wonderful the book could have been. So I can't recommend any more by Mercedes Lackey, but I can recommend almost anything by McKinley!!!

  5. Anonymous9/04/2008

    Those visual images are important to me too. The cover does sound like a mismatch.

    I've never heard of this author. Is she still writing? Maybe her prose will improve...

  6. Yes; she's still writing. Her books fill almost an entire shelf at my public library! She appears to be very prolific.

  7. It sounded so interesting that I was going to put it on my wishlist until I saw that you gave it a 2/5. Not worth the time with all the other books there are in the world!

  8. I think what appeals to readers about Mercedes Lackey is something similar to Twilight.
    Although it is not written well, the ideas are good and it catches the fancy of female readers.

    Don't get me wrong, I love Mercedes Lackey, although I don't like how many of her heroines are Mary Sues and I don't particularly enjoy her writing style. But if I were to recommend any books, it would probably be the Valdemar series. (But only as light reading, pure mindless entertainment, not as something to be analyzed and critiqued)


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