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The Fire Rose Hardcover – October 1, 1995
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Lackey's story of a young turn of the century female who is brought to the wilds of San Francisco to read books for a reclusive alchemist recreates the fable of the monster who wins the heart of a young woman yet forbids her to view him. For the monster here is a magician caught in a werewolf spell, and the young girl is a destitute young woman with no other choices. -- Midwest Book Review
About the Author
Mercedes Lackey is a New York Times best-selling author with over 3 million books in print. She's the creator of the Bardic Voices series, including Fiddler Fair, and the Serrated Edge series (both Baen), the Heralds of Valdemar series, and many more. Among her popular Baen titles are The Fire Rose, The Lark and the Wren, and The Shadow of the Lion, and Burdens of the Dead (with Eric Flint and Dave Freer). She is also the creator and principal author of the meta-hero shared wrold Secret World Chronicles, also from Baen. She lives in Oklahoma. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Baen, Jul 1 2014, $18.00
In 1905, Chicago heiress and medieval scholar Rosalind Hawkins has no time to grieve the death of her father as she finds herself in financial straits. With no choices she accepts a position as a governess of Jason Cameron’s children in San Francisco.
However, her new job proves strange since her enigmatic employer has no children or for that matter apparently any family either. Instead Jason hired her due to her medieval language translation skills. She translates ancient French texts through a tubular gizmo to him but never sees Jason, who explains to the scholar that he suffered a horrific disfigurement. Jason conceals from his employee that a spell he cast contained a fatal flaw that leaves this Fire Elemental Master in a werewolf-human abominable convergence. She is his only hope, but neither expected to fall in love before she saw his visage.
This reprint of the wonderful first Elemental Masters fantasy is a delightful rendition of Beauty and the Beast in early twentieth century California. The enchanting storyline retains its magic due a terrific cast; starting with the changing relationship between the protagonists enhanced by strong support characters and a natural disaster about to shake the City On The Bay.
First, Beauty. Rosalind, “Rose”, Harkins, a forward woman, especially for 1905/06. She’s in graduate school, studying the Classics and Medieval Studies in Chicago. Her problem is that her professor father has recently died, leaving her without a source of funds. We assume her mother died earlier, as she’s not mentioned, that I remember. The gas has been turned off, furniture repossessed, along with many of her belongings, and the treat of the losing the house looms high. This all changed when she receives a mysterious job offer from James Cameron.
The Beast. James Cameron, a railroad baron, living a bit, maybe 50 miles, outside of San Francisco and a Fire Elemental Master. Rich, beyond my belief as well as Rose’s, he’s been transformed by blindly following an Earth Mater’s spell to become a were-wolf. It’s left him in humanoid form, but mostly wolf parts, especially paws for hands. He lives alone, where nobody can see him, except for a lazy, somewhat evil, Apprentice, Paul DuMond. James is studying to reverse the effects of the spell, but can’t manage books with his hands, er … paws. He needs someone who can read foreign languages, even in older dialects, which his Apprentice can’t do. Thus, he offers a job to Rose.
Though the book is beautifully written, I have two complaints. First, Rose. She goes from being the modern woman to being almost a silly fool, early on, when dealing with James, for no good reason. Second, Rose and James are fairly well developed, yet the antagonists, Paul and rival Fire Master, Simon Beltaire, are barely two dimensional characters.
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Definitely recommend to mature readers- I've reread it many times.