rachelmanija warned me that even though she loved this series, it was rather pulpy. Having read Maxwell's romances (under Elizabeth Lowell), I had a fairly good idea of what I was getting into, along with Maxwell/Lowell's gender issues. Short form: all her Lowell romances have a sweet, innocent plucky heroine with a masculine, overprotective alpha male hero. Usually the heroine knows nothing about her own sexuality, and the hero goes through much UST, often leading to a not-quite-rape scene.
Surprisingly, this works much better in the SF genre, particulary when the gender politics are based on species.
Fire Dancer stars Rheba, a fire dancer, and Kirtn, her cat-man-esque protector and tutor. As the cover copy says, "Were they the last survivors of their planet's blazing DOOM?" (the entire thing is capitalized, so I am taking advantage of that for "DOOM"!). Rheba's a Senyasi and Kirtn's a Bre'n; their two species evolved together so that the Bre'n's and the Senyasi are paired to control the Senyasi's powers (gene dancing, rain dancing, fire dancing, etc.) and the Bre'n's propensity toward rez, an uncontrollable killing rage.
So first, the crack! I laughed every time I encountered "Kirtn," which I unfortunately pronounce as "curtain." I also giggled over his furry virile manliness and his sexual frustration. Also! There are talking rocks! And there is a species that is so foreign that they forgo apostrophes for slashes! I kid you not, they are called the J/taal. Rheba knows nothing about sex, given that her planet exploded before she could learn. I feel this is a much better reason than the usual "They are too innocent to know!" in Maxwell's romances.
But I still enjoyed this a lot. First, there is a talking snake, which is the best character ever! Second, as I said before, the gender politics projected onto species works a lot more for me, particularly because we see examples of female Bre'n and male Senyasi pairs (no idea if there are same-sex pairs). And ... the crack works better for me in an SF/F setting because everything's so much more heightened and so much more is at stake. Plus, talking snake! Planet dying of blazing DOOM!
On a final note, Rachel mentioned the cover is yet another example of white-washed people. Rheba's explicitly described in the book as having brown skin (and blonde hair). On the possibly plus side, she's not white on the cover. Instead, she's a zombie grey!