Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Fire Rose

The Fire Rose

Mercedes Lackey

Date: 1996-11-01   —   DVD / VHS

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Fiction, Fantasy

I like retold fairytales. I like them a lot, particularly when they're blown up to book length. Mercedes Lackey has a series where masters of the elements play a big role, and every one is a retold fairy tale.

As one might guess from the title, this book is Beauty and the Beast. The beast in question is one of these Elemental Masters, a man who let his curiosity get the better of him in attempting something he wasn't quite ready for. Because he needs a trustworthy scholar of sorts— as his secretary is impatient and perhaps treacherous— he enlists his salamanders (fire elementals) to find him a scholarly woman of no relations. The former is quite difficult in 1905, the setting of the story, while the latter is to ensure that no one will be too perturbed if such a person is immured at the ends of the earth, that being San Francisco.

You'll note the date and location. That's one thing you can see coming from miles away.

What I found really interesting, though, is a complete tangent. Lackey mentions something called The Great Peshtigo Fire. I'd never heard of it, and you probably haven't either. It is considered to be the worst fire-related tragedy in the US, with anywhere from 1500 to 2100 deaths— and part of the tragedy is that no one will ever be able to tell how many died. Why haven't you heard of it? Well, on the very same night, there was a fire you will have heard of: The Great Chicago Fire. The one "caused by Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicking over a lantern" or, more likely, by the workman who was seen smoking in the vicinity. The urban fire grabbed the headlines, leaving the huge fire that burned 1.5 million acres and destroyed entire towns to be forgotten.

If you have ever wondered why fire management is so important, that's why. "Firestorm" doesn't even begin to cover it.

At any rate, the bespectacled Rosalind of the title is quite a nice Beauty, and James Cameron makes for a nicely dangerous Beast. And the secretary du Mond is a jerk and a cad, a character all too frequent in the real world and possibly drawn from life.

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