Book Reviews, Literary News, and Thoughts on Life
It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash is clinging to his throne, while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. War is coming. The mountains and forest are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men.
This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistable appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she has the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own.
Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City. The royal family needs her to help uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there’s more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom.
If only she weren’t afraid of becoming the monster her father was.*
*Summary courtesy of the back cover.
I must be honest with you all from the start and state that I had mixed feelings about this book which is a shame, since I adored Graceling. By the end of this review you will probably be thinking I am at best old-fashioned and at worst a prude, but I am entitled to my opinion regardless.
I always like starting things on a positive note, so let’s talk about what works in Fire. Cashore does an excellent job with world building. The Dells are certainly as vividly draw out as Graceling’s Seven Kingdoms were, both in the places described and its inhabitants.
Fire also demonstrated Cashore’s knack for creating female protagonists with whom readers can certainly sympathize, though they may not be personally familiar with the specific struggles the characters face. I most definitely felt Fire’s plight. Not only must she deal with the fact that her extreme beauty inspires either ardent devotion or murderous rage in most men and jealousy in most woman whom she encounters, but she must face the preconceived notions of strangers familiar with her father, who frequently abused his mind controlling powers. This is a lot for a seventeen year old girl to come to terms with.
Though this is definitely Fire’s story, I also thought Prince Brigan was also quite a well-developed character. He initially shows a strong prejudice against Fire based on what he knows of her father, but this diminishes over time as he learns she can be trusted and they bond over their shared struggles. They weren’t able to interact nearly enough for my tastes, given Brigan was away most of the time with his duties as the army commander, but he and Fire develop this sweet consideration for one another that eventually blossoms into something deeper (I’d point this out as a spoiler, but it seemed fairly obvious to me from the start that this was where their relationship was heading).
The drawbacks of this novel are many, in my mind (minor spoilers to follow). Let me be up-front with you all and tell you that I despise cheating and irrational jealousy and all of those relationship no-nos. This book is rife with that. While I genuinely cared for Fire, I could not stand her first lover, Archer. He seems insistent that Fire marry him (which she doesn’t wish to, since Cashore seems to have a beef with the institution), yet the concept of remaining faithful to her seems a foreign one to him.
He’s jumping in and out of the beds of nearly every eligible young woman (and some not so eligible as well, I’m sure) with whom he comes in contact, though Archer has the gall to accuse Fire of not loving him enough and suspecting that she will fall in love with every young man in her vicinity. Now, don’t get me wrong, I want a character to have flaws, but I do expect a character to grow and mature over the course of a novel. Archer doesn’t ever seem to do so except maybe the slightest bit at the very end.
Though none of it is portrayed graphically, there seem to be quite a few mentions of sexual activity for a book geared toward teens, so if that bothers you as a reader (or as the parent of a reader), do be aware that this occurs throughout the course of the novel. Also, by the novel’s end it seemed as if the majority of characters had either cheated on their spouse, or were the product of cheating or illegitimate unions, to the point where the characters were starting to resemble the cast of a soap opera.
Finally, the book did seem to drag a bit at times (though that could be in part to do with me listening to the audio, as they sometimes seem to take forever to finish), though some of this can be attributed to Fire’s struggles being mostly internal, rather than external battle scenes or action sequences. Also, I seemed to be able to anticipate some of the major revelations before they came to pass. Whether that makes the book predictable or me just too clever for my own good, I couldn’t say.
So that’s that. While Fire ended up being somewhat of a disappointment to me, I can’t say that all readers will have the same experience as I have with it. I won’t lie and say some of the social issues addressed didn’t challenge my moral values and beliefs, but it wasn’t quite to the point I had to put the book down or, worse, throw it across the room (I think the library would have been more than a little angry with me had I destroyed it). If you have Fire sitting on your TBR pile, I’d simply recommend taking these matters into consideration before you pick it up. If these types of issues aren’t a problem with you, then I’d say there is nothing stopping you from enjoying Fire.
Have you all ever been prevented from fully enjoying a book because of the way the author has approached various social or moral issues? Which books were they? Inquiring minds like to know.
Book 4/100 completed for the 100+ Reading Challenge.