By now some of you know of my adoration for fairy tales – Most of my movie reviews so far and planned for future have been Fairy tale movies or related to fairy tales (I.e. Mother Goose in Babes in Toyland) – And my love for these adaptaed tales cross over into books too! If you’re after a good adapted fairy tale there are several ports to call in the storm of writers out there… Robin McKinley, Gregory Mcguire, Juliet Marriler, Gail Carson Levine… Well, I could probably sit here and slowly list every single fairytale author on my shelves, but I figure that would be somewhat Boring… But probably the most prolific of the repeate offenders on my shelves is a lady called Mercedes Lackey.
Not only does she get a whole shelf to herself for her Valdemare seires (Which is quite vast, Over the years I have every book in the series except for the most two recent ones – Which I would have gotten but I have a stack of books to get through first) but also for her Fairy tales. The First Mercedes Lackey book I actually read was The Black Swan, An interesting twist on Swan Lake writting from the point of view of the false swan, Odile. From there she eventually ended up writing 500 Kingdom Series (Which I’m sure I’ll be getting to reviewing eventually since I keep re-reading those ones – And I brought them with my to my Month long respite to my sister’s abode while she’s overseas) and the series which I am only now beginning to read, The Elemental Masters series.
The Idea behind the Elemental Masters series is not only that the series has a continuing foundation on how the magic of the world works, and continues to spread in Lore and Knowledge without destroying the original Idea (Mercedes is very good at that, In all the series of her’s that I’ve read, she always builds on Lore, never re-writes it in a way to destroy the original idea) but that we’ve taken our normal fairytales, Uprooted them from their normal locations and time and thrust them down into the Victorian Era, across London and America. That’s right. We’re dealing with somewhat STEAMPUNK Fairy Tales.
The First Book which I devoured last night (Yeah, I’m a Speed Reader and I have trouble putting things down) is called The Fire Rose and is based upon Beauty and the Beast. The Cover features a Fox Man staring into a Crystal ball with a Victorian lady inside. Very Chic. I hardly need to tell you the setup of a Beauty and the Beast Tale, but it would probably interest you to know that in this version Beauty aka Rosalind, aka Rose is a young student in Chicago, recently orphaned and penniless; Sad to be giving up her Doctorate and scholary persuits for either becoming a Governess, a Teacher or a scullary Maid. Unfortunately the Victorian Era is not the best place for a headstrong, smart girl in terms of Options. A Rich man from outside of San Fransisco offers her a position as a governess for his two children. Just to rail home the whole Steam Punk thing, the book makes a big fuss about Rose’s journey there via the train system. Well, I call it a big fuss, but it does indeed set the time period quite well.
However once she gets there, the Mysterious Mr Cameron apologizes profusely about lying to her about the being children to teach and instead he requires her to read for him, from books with ancient and dead languages in them since an “accident has left him unable to handle a book and read from it.” Gee, I wonder what could be wrong with him? Surely looking at the cover wouldn’t be the hint.
Of course, There’s no real need for me to go through and spoil the rest of the plot, because why would you feel compelled to read it based on my suggestion then – but before I tell my own opinions of it; I would like to at least explain the mythos of the magic.
Basically everyone in this world has a magickal nature made up of the Four elements – However most people have an even balance of the Air, Earth, Fire and Water. Having the ability to become a magickian or even an elemental master requires you to have an unbalanced amount of any of these elements. As Rose describes it. It’s kinda like a blind man having really good hearing. By having less of the other elements you become really attuned to that element and it’s reflected in your magic. If you consider the name of the book; Obviously Cameron – The Fox man is a FireMaster.
That being said there are other masters hanging around in this book, The antagonists in this book are from another Fire Master and Apprentice and there’s an Earth Master, though he is from the Eastern Contients and knows the magic by different means and powers but fundamentally still the same.
And now, What I thought of the book! The Fire Rose is a very solid book, the descriptions are lovely without feeling over the top or constantly being shoved in your face like erm, Someone who insistently shoves something at your face. The characters are beleivable and most of them are quite moral and “of good society” – Victorian Era and all, and there’s enough wonder and amazement and a bit of “ick, ewwww!” to keep me enthralled in the book. The err “ick, ewww!” comes up every time we get the POV of a character called Paul du Mont who, erm, seems to enjoy thinking about how he helps “break” the new prostitutes in for the different brothals about San Fransisco.
No matter how strong the book was going all the way through right up to the final conflict, It just sorta… fizzled. All the Conflict was resolved without too much of a battle for my liking; considering how violent and brutal the pre-battle warm up was. It just sorta ended up being all “Yeah, That happened, Let’s go home and be happy?”
And now, I shall delve into the next book – THE SERPENT’S SHADOW, Which Wiki tells me will be a Snow White Tale. Hot Damn! We know how much I can get behind a Snow White Story… Well. Except for… Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman; That story deeply disturbed me for quite a while and there was about 5 years I couldn’t look at a Snow White without thinking about it. Hey, Enjoy looking that one up!