Very original. At first I wasn't sure I'd like it. As a first time reader of the author I was placing my faith on all the fabulous Amazon reviews. As it were, the story was nothing like I imagined it to be whether from the reviews, the blurb on the back of the novel, or from my knowledge of the romance genre. In fact this is not a typical romance story and the book would probably be just as at home in the fantasy section.
The story is a dark fairy tale and the style of storytelling evoked comparisons with Ellen Kushner in my mind. Ellen Kushner is one of those authors whom I appreciate on the basis of her ability to tell a compelling tale but find the overall process of reading to be bittersweet as the story is often very dark and not of the 'happily ever after' genre. Like Ellen Kushner, Kathryne Kennedy's story is dark, full of intrigue, unlikable characters, and necessary evils. Even the 'good guys' have questionable moments at times that leave you wondering if you can ever fully like them as you would most heroes and heroines of other romance novels. The ending is bittersweet and I do not recommend it for those who want their romance stories to be tied up happily in the end. Of course if you shy away from reading this novel based on that criteria alone, then you are missing out on a truly creative, unique, and, yes, romantic story. It took a while for all the pieces of the romance to fall into place for me, but the wait did make the eventual payoff all the more intriguing and magical.
There is definitely room for more stories to come and I do so hope that The Fire Lord's Lover becomes part of a series that deals with the unfinished story lines leftover at its end. I recommend this novel to adventurous romance readers and lovers of historical fantasy.