by Elizabeth Lowell
Rheba, a Fire Dancer, and her Guardian, Kirtn, are all who remain of their homeworld, Deva. Together, they journey across the various worlds of the Concord trying to locate survivors whilst maintaining their exceptional bond. When they are enslaved on the planet Loo, Rheba’s power begins to grow along with her frustrations. Kirtn tries to focus her skills before passion and fire consumes them all…
Fire Dancer is science fiction/fantasy at its most lyrical. From the very beginning, the writing is magically descriptive and underpinned by a seam of poetry which is maintained to the very last sentence. Ms Lowell chooses her language to unfold the story but also to utilise the sheer beauty of words. There are some lovely, intricate metaphors, ‘Satin laughed, a sound as sleek and cold as polished chrome’. The exquisitely worked prose gives the story an ironic complexity and combined with the depth of Ms Lowell’s imagination, Fire Dancer is an all-encompassing, clever and unique read. Personally, I would have liked more plot-time spent traversing the different worlds and, in places, the narrative is a touch dense; it could be argued the book is slightly long. Reading Fire Dancer is like gazing into a prism of intense rainbow light; it can become a bit overwhelming. However, the relationship between Rheba and Kirtn literally glows with unspoken intensity, both emotionally and sexually charged. Their attachment is sentient, all-encompassing and well-realised. Kirtn inhabits his role as Protector effortlessly, aided by his physical size and strength. Ms Lowell hits the correct note with Rheba; naïve, vulnerable yet teetering on the cusp of something that few can explain. As the novel progresses, she becomes ever more aware and questing while still retaining a level of credible innocence, especially in regard to Kirtn.
For me, the standout character was Fssa, the polyglot snake. I thought he was brilliant - incredibly visual, vain and humorous. Aside from the developing and deep connection between Kirtn and Rheba, the premise of the Fire Dancer is how base and vile society can be; enslaving and degrading those who are perceived to be in a weaker position. It is Rheba, despite her callow youth who rightfully and stubbornly clings to the thought of emancipation from both the mental and physical slavery on the planet Loo.
Fire Dancer was originally released nearly forty years ago, it feels fresh but with a retrospective texture (due in no small part to the excellent cover) that is very current. It is a rich and vivid work of fantasy; absorbing, intelligent and visionary. Highly recommended. Buy from: