Tempted as I am to do a chapter-by-chapter readalong of The Fire Rose, I know I’m likely to run out of steam before the end so I won’t. Especially as both scenes I want to highlight by way of synecdoche (see! I know what the word means now!) are near the end.
Warning: spoilers. Knowing a story has never spoiled it for me, but if it does for you, go and read the book first if you can bear it. Another warning: infant (and adult) murder and strongly implied cannibalism in the first quote.
First, the villain’s household:
Beltaire had told him the history of each of his new servants, and Paul had found it fascinating that Beltaire had managed to locate three such amazing felons and see to it that they had employment that would satisfy their cravings and the needs of their employer without drawing the attention of the law. Smith was a former jockey and a horse-owner-the horse Paul used now had been one of his own racehorses. Both had been banned from the track for drug use, and Paul suspected that Smith was still doping the horse as well as himself. Those were the sins that Smith had been caught at; according to Beltaire, he had also made a habit of sabotaging other horses and jockeys-one or two with fatal results, though he had never been charged with the fatalities.
The maid was a pretty case-she had gotten pregnant by a married man, given birth to and smothered the baby, and left it on its father’s doorstep in that condition-with a note, made public, naming him as the parent. This had had the desired effect of not only destroying the man’s reputation and ruining his business as a consequence, but of driving his wife into the divorce court. Then, with his life in tatters, the man mysteriously died. Some said it was because of the burden of his sins, and some even claimed he might have killed himself-but other women sometimes came to visit the maid, and men in their lives had a high mortality rate as well….
And as for the cook-Beltaire had cautioned Paul always to specify the kind of meat he wanted, and never, ever to share what the cook made for himself. And du Mond had noted that when Smith disposed of one of the used-up slaves, he always paid a visit first to the cook….
Still, they were all perfectly satisfactory servants in every way that involved du Mond, and that was all that mattered.
This is so typical of that villain’s over-the-top evilness. He attracts it wherever he goes. I wrote earlier about the “sexual depravity as shorthand for evil” trope that Mercedes Lackey uses too often for my taste (well, once would already be too often, I suppose), but this is … fascinating, I suppose. Not long after, the villain himself will come to a bad end. (I did warn of spoilers, though it’s probably hardly a surprise.)
Next, the heroine almost but not quite making the only sensible decision for her life:
Well, the brave heroines of quite a few fairy tales sacrificed everything for the happiness of the one they loved. She thought about the Little Mermaid, dying so that her prince would never know that it was she who had rescued him, and not the princess he had come to love. Or the half-human, immortal Firebird, giving up Ivan so that the mortal Tsarina could have him. The thought of Beauty and the Beast occurred to her, but she was no Beauty, and her love for him would be no cure for his condition.
Very well, then. I shall be the Little Mermaid, and walk upon legs that stab me with a thousand pains, and in the end, fling myself into the ocean with a smile so that he can have his life again. I will still have my work, I will have a lovely wardrobe, and I shall have the financial means to complete my degree and pursue an academic career. I believe that I will make a fine Professor of Literature in a women’s college somewhere. I shall attempt to wake the intellect of silly young girls, most of whom will be occupying space until they marry men like Jason, and I will treasure and nurture the intelligence of those few who are different. I will be mysterious and enigmatic, respected, if not loved, perhaps a little eccentric, and I will continue to have Magick.
She practiced the bright smile in the mirror, until she was certain that she had gotten it right. At least she would do better than the poor Mermaid out of this. In the end, she would have a well-fattened bank-account and someplace to go.
And she would have Magick. Perhaps among those silly young girls, she would find another with a spirit like her own, to pass the Magick on to. Jason’s Master had never needed anything more than the Magick to make his life complete. Perhaps she could learn to feel the same. Her throat closed over tears she refused to shed. And pigs will surely fly the day I do….
I wish she’d gone through with this. The traditionally happy ending she did have is okay, but I’m craving books in which everything gets resolved and the heroine doesn’t need to marry the hero, having them continue as friends instead. Partners, soulmates, best buddies, whatever. In some stories, romance only distracts.