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The Fire Rose, the first book in what would become the Elemental Masters, by Mercedes Lackey, is one of my most cherished books of all time. Not for the technical value it brings or for its place in the pantheon of fantasy novels but, more than any other book, for how it shaped my view of magic and the rules that applied.

When I was 11 or 12—my exact age isn’t important—I used to go to a Quaker overnight summer camp. Dark Waters. Anyway, one of the counselors lent me this book. I say this book because for years after all I had was the image of the cover. A werewolf hunched over a crystal ball. The crystal ball showed the image of a young lady in a turn of the 19th century dress.

The Fire Rose is the first book I remember being unable to put down. I don’t remember how long it took me to read, but I loved it. And then, when I finished, I gave the book back to my counselor.

At the time, I didn’t think anything of the book. I didn’t know that I would fall in love with reading. That came with Robots of Dawn and Isaac Asimov. I didn’t appreciate the nuances of English and the written word. That would come from my first high school English teacher.

But all of that did happen. And I know it started with this book. Not just stories and having them read to me. Reading. Turning the page on my own and living an adventure.

I’m 28, almost 29. I spent over half my life trying to remember The Fire Rose and its name. I searched the library endlessly, combing the romance and fantasy sections. In these days, I didn’t have internet at home and the school library still used index cards. All I knew was the indelible cover and the idea of werewolves and that like-types of magic shouldn’t, actually, get along with one another.

I read more than a few books I probably shouldn’t have at 14, sifting through fantasy novels. And again, at 18, instead of working on my AP English thesis on Byron. Eventually, I abandoned actively searching. Until, less than a year ago, I stumbled on the series.

That I rediscovered The Fire Rose is unimportant to this story. What matters is that it inspired me to read more and build my own worlds.

What book inspired you? Even when you didn’t realize it at the time? What’s the first book that really stayed with you?