Mercedes Lackey: Phoenix & Ashes (2004) Literature and War Readalong October 2014

Phoenix and Ashes

I wasn’t going to do that anymore but after 270 pages of boredom, I had to put the book aside. I’ve got a pile of books on a small shelf, just opposite my bed, and while reading Mercedes Lackey’s novel Phoenix & Ashes I kept on looking at the titles of books I just bought (The Flamethrowers, The Interestings, Nobody is Ever Missing . . .) that I wasn’t reading because of this. I skipped to the end, read the last two chapters and that was that. The idea sounded so original. A retelling of Cinderella set right after WWI. Unfortunately the result is neither a proper historical novel, nor did it feel like real fantasy. It was more like an author filling pages using painting by numbers for books. You can’t just take a fairy tale, and use the story as plotline. Fairy tale retellings need to tell us something new about a fairy tale. They shouldn’t just be abused because the author has no story of her own to tell.

A novel like this needs great characters but I found them all very one-dimensional and uninteresting.

The period detail was well done, but it wasn’t anything new. You could watch Downton Abbey and get more out of it. Or read one of the many excellent historical novels set at that time. No need to trudge through 480 pages of something like this.

I was also annoyed because of the very poor editing. Or shoddy proofreading. So many mistakes in a book are not acceptable.

Luckily I have only one of Mercedes Lackey’s novella’s on my shelves. I’m not going to pick that up any day soon. I thought this book was a waste of talent, because she isn’t a bad writer as such, but sadly this is a lifeless, uninspired book.

My sincere apologies to all those who picked this up because of the readalong. I know Emma had the same reaction and gave up after some 100 pages. But I’m equally sorry if someone loved it and has to read such harsh words now.



Phoenix & Ashes is the tenth book in the Literature and War Readalong 2014. The next book is the WWI novel Flight Without End – Die Flucht ohne Ende by Joseph Roth. Discussion starts on Friday 28 November, 2014. Further information on the Literature and War Readalong 2014, including the book blurbs can be found here.

25 thoughts on “Mercedes Lackey: Phoenix & Ashes (2004) Literature and War Readalong October 2014

  1. Pingback: Lackey is lacking | Book Around The Corner

  2. To be honest, even the concept doesn’t sound that interesting. Also, 480 pages, really? Contemporary fantasy tends to be bloated, and I don’t think it does the genre any favours at all.

  3. I don’t know why, but I have a real aversion to classic tales being reworked. Sorry you had to invest in what sounds like a real disappointment, Caroline. I’m less brave than you–if it’s not good by 100 pages in, I’m done.

    Thanks again for Skellig.

  4. She’s no Angela Carter, then? 🙂 After reading Carter’s fabulously reworked classic tales it would be hard to read something so dismal. I’m a big DNFer. If I don’t like the writing I don’t see any point in struggling on when there are SO MANY other books to read. I don’t understand how people can finish every single book they begin. It stands to reason that we need to sample books to see if we like them, because we all have different tastes. I think this book is probably one you need to label with the tag ‘experiment’, and just let it go. 🙂

    • I’m one of the finishers but I have sworn not to do that anymore. It’s a bit obsessive. Sometimes it’s just the wrong moment. I should have been suspicous when I saw that she turned the idea into a series, going through all the major fairy tales. I love fairy tale retellings and while Angela Carter is one of the most amazing, there still are many other fantastic examples.

  5. Well, now I don’t feel so bad about not finishing it. I was trying to decide what excuse I would make because I think this is only the second readalong that I did not finish and that is out of at least thirty books. I had a different reason for abandoning it after about 80 pages – I found it to be silly. The talk of Elementals and such was laughable to me. I think I would enjoy a sci-fi / fantasy type war novel if it had futuristic battles in it, but not a drama like this book. I did enjoy “Ender’s Game” and “Starship Troopers”, but this book was not like those. Your attempt to go outside the box was commendable, but this was too far outside the box.

    • It did feel somehwat silly to me as well although I’ve seen other authors use elementals or similar forces but they did it in a different way.
      This was just bad – in every possible way.
      I’m glad you didn’t firce yourself to finish. I would have opetd for a Sci-Fi book if the focus hadn’t been WWI.

  6. Sorry to know that you didn’t like the book, Caroline. It is sad when we have to giveup halfway through a book. But life is short and we have only so much of time, and we can’t spend that reading the wrong kind of book which we don’t enjoy. I felt that the premise of Lackey’s book was promising and so it is sad that it didn’t work out. I loved what Tony said in the comments 🙂

    • I thought it sounded promising. There were even people who compared to to one of Sarah Water’s books. Well – I don’t think so.
      I never used to think like that but recently I also find it’s not worth going on reading something that doesn’t appeal.

  7. Too bad about this one. When I first saw it at the beginning of the year it looked like a fun read–but I don’t like the idea of it being so uninspired. And it is always worse when you look at the books you would really rather be reading! Hopefully you were able to pick up one of those other books in the end?

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