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The Fire Rose (1995)
de Mercedes Lackey
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I know that this was Lackey's first book in her Elemental series, but since I've read all of the other ones before having read this one, I feel a bit spoiled. This one was not bad, but neither was it as wonderful as some of the other ones in the series. If you look past the heavy-handedness and some uncomfortable notions though, it's still worth the read. ( )
It's 1905, and Rosalind Hawkins, her father recently dead after losing all their money in ill-advised investing, needs to give up her pursuit of a university degree and a scholarly career, and find paying work. When an offer arrives of a position as a governess for two bright children in San Francisco, it seems like a Godsend. She's soon on the train from Chicago to San Francisco.
Rose arrives to find that her employer, Jason Cameron, is extremely wealthy, as well as quite eccentric, and the position is rather different than she anticipated. Specifically, there are no children, and Mr. Cameron wants her to read to him through a speaking tube. Her scholarly background is important because he wants her to read books in foreign and classical languages, and translate them for him.
They are all books of alchemy and magic.
The servants in the household, except Cameron's somewhat obnoxious secretary, are amazingly invisible and silent; she never sees them, but her bath is drawn, her meals arrive, always hot when she wants them, and her clothes are laid out for her. What's going on?
This is an entertaining take on Beauty and the Beast, set in the months leading up to the great San Francisco earthquake. The villains, both Jason's secretary, Paul, and his principal rival and nemesis, Simon, are rather too one-dimensional and even cartoonish, while Rose is, perhaps, a little too perfect, with her mastery of so many languages, and how quickly she picks up one what's going on. She's likable and entertaining, though, and Jason himself has a few more layers of complexity. We also get a glimpse of the seamier side of San Francisco life, following Paul on his depredations, and the terror of the earthquake itself.
Overall, an entertaining and fun read, if not very deep or complex.
I borrowed this book from a friend.
When this was originally published 1995, it was a stand-alone. Book 2 in the series didn't follow until 2001.
Following the death of her professor father, scholar Rosalind ("Rose") Hawkins is left destitute in 1905 Chicago. Her doctoral supervisor persuades her to take a post in California with a rail baron who wants a modern tutor for his children, especially his daughter. After a multi-day rail journey across the Great Plains and the Rockies, Rose finally reaches her destination - a lonely estate outside San Francisco. Things are not what they seem - there are no children, rail baron Jason Cameron actually wants a research assistant into esoteric matters. He is a master of the element of Fire and a spell he should not have attempted (an Earth spell) has left him in the form of a man-wolf. He has retreated from society and retired to his estate and is served by Salamanders.
This is basically a retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story (the subsequent books are in the same vein). Lackey has deftly transposed it from it's aristocratic European setting into robber baron era America, keeping some elements but loosing the happy ending. The ending is happy in a way - but not in the way of the fairytale. The premise of the world building is that magic exists and follows (in the West) the 4 elements. Oriental magic is touched on - it has similarities to the Western system, but is not identical. History has followed roughly the same course as our world - the Chicago fire was caused by warring elemental masters, the fire following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake (which a Chinese Earth master tries to prevent) follows the death of Cameron's rival Fire master.
I've badged it as an urban fantasy, but it could equally be badged as a secret history. It is not a paranormal romance - although there is a romance element to the story (the interaction between Jason Cameron and Rose Hawkins turns to a love story) it is not in the foreground.
A retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in San Francisco in the early 1900's. Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters series revolves around magicians with affinities for an element (Earth, Air, Fire, Water). This is the first in the series (though really, while set in the same world and having some overlapping charactesr, they can be read in any order).
Rose is a bit of a bluestocking (much like Belle in Disney's Beauty and the Beast) and Jason Cameron is a magician who brings a "curse" in the form of a magical accident down upon himself through his own arrogance (much as Disney's Beast offends a witch with his snooty self and get himself cursed). James is a fire master, and his servants are salamanders, the elemental of fire. (Rather than talking tea pots and candlesticks as in Disney's version, or the invisible spirits/servants in some other versions.)
I love this retelling of Beauty and the Beast because it's about seeing through the surface to the true heart of a person, and Jason is NOT a "beast" in nature. Many modern retellings of Beauty and the Beast seem to involve a guy who is beastly in NATURE, not in appearance (or both), and then the heroine endures his horribleness and tries to "save" him and change him. Even the watered down Disney version features Belle enduring the rages and temper of the beast (though she rages right back, sometimes, which is nice, I guess). Rose and Jason develop a relationship based on mutual respect, which is a refeshing change in much of these fairy tale retellings which are often just overblown excuses to write smut. (No smut involved, by the way - if you're looking for a steamy read, this is not your book. Though there is plenty of romance and tugging of the heartstrings.)
This is my favorite novelization of the Beauty and the Best fairy tale. I'll let you know if I find a better one, but it's not likely. ;)
Well, I finally got to reading the first in this series. It's definitely different in tone from the later books. It's easy to see how things in the book universe developed over time. Overall, I quite enjoyed it.
And yes, I read it in a morning.
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Wikipedia en anglès (2)
Beauty Meets Beast in San Francisco Accepting employment as a governess after hard times hit her family, medieval scholar Rosalind Hawkins is surprised when she learns that her mysterious employer has no children, no wife, and she is not to meet with him face to face. Instead, her duties are to read to him, through a speaking tube, from ancient manuscripts in obscure, nearly forgotten dialects. A requirement for the job was skill in translating medieval French, and she now understands the reason for that requirement, and assumes her unseen employer's interest in the descriptions of medieval spells and sorcery is that of an eccentric antiquary. What she does not realize is that his interest is anything but academic. He has a terrible secret and is desperately searching for something that can reverse the effects of the misfired spell which created his predicament.
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Classificació Decimal de Dewey (DDC)813.54Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
LCC (Clas. Bibl. Congrés EUA)
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