Friday, July 26, 2013

Susan's Book Review: Fire by Kristin Cashore

Fire is the prequel to Graceling, a fantasy book I read and loved years ago. I was super excited when Fire was first released in 2009, only to start it, recognize none of the characters, and promptly quit. Cut to this summer when I accepted a TSR book review from a teen that loved Fire and convinced me to give it another shot. I didn’t fly through it like I did Graceling, but I did finish it this time!


Fire takes its title from the main character, the last human monster in the Dells. There are monster versions of many animals (monsters=mad colorful and often dangerous) all over the kingdom. Fire is almost too beautiful to look at and must cover her flaming red hair so as to not attract unwanted attention. She can also enter minds and control them if she wishes. Her father did that and was a monster in every sense of the word, so she is very careful with her powers. The story begins in Fire’s hometown where we meet her best friend, Archer, and his father Brocker, who is also a kind of father to her. Fire’s life there has been borderline sleepy, so when King Nash requests her help, she’s anxious to leave and see the big city.


The Dells are mired in a mess of politics that will eventually lead to war. King Nash, his military leader and brother, Brigan, and the rest of the royal family are hopeful that Fire will help them with intelligence gathering so they might be better prepared. Fire resists on principle at first, but eventually sees she has the chance to use her powers for good and relents. The city suits her, so she stays, and Archer and Brocker eventually join her there. Fantastical worlds can be challenging because they have different rules, slang, creatures, countries, races, etc. and it’s so much to remember. I’m sure some of the strategic war talk was lost on me because I couldn’t keep that information straight and as a result didn’t understand (or really care) what was at stake, but I don’t feel like it affected my enjoyment of the book.


In many stories where there is a kingdom, there is pressure to marry (and often not for love), but that’s not the case in Fire. Instead, the characters are free to love whomever they want and even having babies out of wedlock carries no shame. The story develops slowly and meanders, but I liked the characters enough to keep reading and every 100 pages or so there’d be a new revelation (Archer’s true father! Brigan has a secret daughter!). Fire matures over the course of the book and realizes that no one is all good or all bad, including herself, and the war causes her to find a wonderful purpose for her unique skillset. She can enter people’s minds to soothe them and take away their pain, in some instances even bringing them back from the brink of death. I’m also happy to report that while several animals are important to Fire, they all live to see the end of the book (such a relief!). I’ve been told that I’ll enjoy Bitterblue, last year’s sequel to Graceling, more if I’ve read Fire. I’m excited to see if that’s true, because my favorite parts of Fire include the prologue featuring Leck and every other scene involving Leck, who just happens to be Bitterblue’s psychopath father!


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