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The Fire Rose    by Mercedes Lackey order for
Fire Rose
by Mercedes Lackey
Order:  USA  Can
Baen, 1996 (1995)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Mercedes Lackey gives us a unique, and romantic re-telling of Beauty and the Beast, that takes in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. Rosalind 'Rose' Hawkins, is a talented, studious, short-sighted medieval scholar, who faces penury after the death of her father (he was swindled out of his savings). Fortunately, she receives the offer of a governess job from mysterious, wealthy recluse, Jason Cameron. He lives in an isolated, luxurious mansion overlooking San Francisco Bay. Sound familiar? It's not; this version is full of surprises, though Lackey does have fun with familiar themes.

Cameron's home is not what Rose expected. First of all, there are no children. Second, though all Rose's needs are swiftly seen to, no servants are visible. The only person she meets is Cameron's 'personal secretary', the obnoxious Paul du Mond, an unsavory character who enjoys power over women. Third, Rose does not meet her employer, but is asked to translate and read ancient, obscure magical manuscripts to him through a 'speaking tube' (he tells her that an accident has left him disfigured). She does make friends though - her employer's spirited, intelligent horse, Sunset; and Pao, a 'Master of Dragons'.

The magical nature of Rose's new environment is gradually revealed. We learn early on that Cameron is a 'Firemaster' (there are also Masters of Air, Earth and Water) who controls 'Salamanders', fire elementals, though he chooses to do so through friendship, not coercion. He is involved in a struggle with a dangerous rival, Firemaster Simon Beltaire. Jason needs Rose's help, researching how to reverse the bestial state that he has got himself into, through hubris. True to the original, feelings grow between Rose and the Beast, while his enemies' evolving plots are entangled in a stirring of dragons that culminates in the 1906 earthquake.

There's a sacrifice and a surprising, engaging ending for The Fire Rose, a delightful read from a skilled author of romantic fantasy.

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