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Kristin Cashore – Fire

December 9, 2009

143. Fire by Kristin Cashore (2009)
Graceling, prequel/companion

Read By: Xanthe Elbrick
Length: 12h 39m (480 pages)

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Started: 18 November 2009
Finished: 29 November 2009

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I was so blown away by how good Graceling was, before I’d even finished it I’d already requested Fire from the library.

Fire, if she wants,
could make you beat yourself up.
“Quit hitting yourself!”

Summary: In the Kingdom of the Dells, there are Monsters… but not horribly, ugly, scary monsters. In the Dells, Monsters are shaped like ordinary creatures – birds, bugs, horses – but are brightly colored, and have the ability to lure, pacify, and control the minds of the ordinary humans. Most Monsters are animals, but seventeen-year-old Fire is the last human Monster in the Dells. She has bright red, orange, and pink hair that she has to keep covered lest everyone who sees her fall instantly in love; the ability to sense minds, read thoughts, and control the emotions of weak-willed individuals; and a strict sense of morality that she has forged from her unusual life experience. Fire refuses to let anyone use her as a tool for their own ends, but her kingdom is on the brink of war, and she must find a line between duty and self-preservation, and how best to use the power the has caused her to be isolated, mistrusted, and feared, without overstepping her own boundaries of right and wrong.

Fire is more of a companion novel to Graceling, rather than a prequel proper. However, there is some overlap, for Fire crosses paths with a young boy… a strange young boy with eyes of two different colors, and a gift that seems similar to her own, although infinitely more dangerous and disturbing.

Review: Fire addresses a lot of the same issues as Graceling – a young female with powers that isolate her learning how to be her own woman instead of a tool for those more powerful (or, in Spiderman terms, with great power comes great responsibility, and also great danger of being manipulated into using that power in irresponsible ways.) However, Fire comes at these issues from a much darker place than does Graceling. Katsa is unique, for sure, but not nearly to the same degree as Fire, the last of her kind. That loneliness has left its scars on Fire’s psyche, as has her family and childhood, and by giving us glimpses of that damage, Cashore assures that her protagonist will be sympathetic and relatable instead of dangerous and unapproachable. Fire may not be as immediately likeable as Katsa, just because she is something Other, but I think she’s actually stronger, and I wound up respecting her immensely.

Likewise, the book itself is a little more serious, a little darker. While there is a romantic storyline, it’s a quieter, less quick-witted-banter-y kind of romance, and it’s not nearly so much of the focus as was Katsa and Po’s relationship in Graceling. Instead, Fire focuses a lot more on the growth of its protagonist, and the romance is mostly significant because it means that Fire has let down enough of her guard to begin to form relationships with other people. Not that the romance scenes weren’t romantic – they were, for sure, and Cashore has now provided me with two new BookBoyfriends – but they weren’t the main focus.

So, Fire is a darker, sadder, and more emotionally mature book than Graceling, although the pacing, plotting, and worldbuilding are equally well done. All of that being said, I didn’t like Fire quite as much as I did Graceling, although that is 100% my problem, and nothing to do with the books themselves. While I listened to Graceling almost straight through, I listened to Fire in many small chunks, spread out over a longer period of time. Also, I must have been distracted during some key parts of the early chunks, because I missed a few elements of backstory – mainly, the secrets and relationships of the previous generation – that made things rather confusing later on. However, I’m sure this will sort itself out with a re-read, and given how much I enjoyed the parts I wasn’t confused by, I’m sure I’ll be re-reading this some time sooner rather than later. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Fans of YA fantasy, particularly of authors like Tamora Pierce, should check out Kristin Cashore for sure. Fire could easily be read as a stand-alone, although reading it before Graceling might cause some minor spoilers for that book.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Links: Kristin Cashore’s blog

Other Reviews: About Books, Addicted to Books, At Home With Books, Bib-Laura-graphy, The Book Nest, Books and Movies, Books and Other Thoughts, The Discriminating Fangirl, Em’s Bookshelf, Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review, Here There and Everywhere (2nd Edition), In Between the Pages, Killin’ Time Reading, Lisa the Nerd, Lurv a la Mode, The Magic of Ink, Melissa’s Bookshelf, Persnickety Snark, Presenting Lenore, Read What You Know, Reading Keeps You Sane, S. Krishna’s Books, Today’s Adventure
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: Larch often thought that if it had not been for his newborn son, he never would have survived his wife Mikra’s death.

Cover Thoughts: I love the design of these covers. For both this one and Graceling‘s cover, my eye goes first to the weapon, and I just think “oh, okay, weapon on a patterned background”, and then only after looking for a long time do I see the person – the eye in Graceling dagger, or Fire with her headscarf here.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. December 9, 2009 9:20 am

    I feel silly. I’ve seen reviews of this and Graceling all over the place and definitely did not notice the people on the cover until you mentioned it just now. Neat!

    • December 9, 2009 9:23 am

      Jenny – No worries, I was exactly the same… I only noticed them for the first time when I looked at the big version of the cover to do my “cover thoughts” section.

  2. December 9, 2009 9:51 am

    I bet my sister would love this series!

  3. December 9, 2009 10:48 am

    I liked Graceling better than Fire too. I thought that even though Fire was a good read, I wasn’t quite as enthralled by the story as when I read Graceling.

    • December 9, 2009 4:10 pm

      Alyce – I see where you’re coming from, and had you asked me right when I finished the book, I think I would have agreed, but on reflection, I think Fire’s actually a lot more intriguing than Katsa.

      • eliz permalink
        July 6, 2011 4:58 pm

        Deficetly it was quite the read. I must say i enjoyed the contrast between fire and katsa as wellas Po (ah..) and Archer.

  4. December 9, 2009 11:14 am

    I really, really do need to get around to reading this and Graceling. They both sound SO neat.

    • December 9, 2009 4:11 pm

      Ladytink – Hopefully you’ll get a chance to pick them up sooner rather than later; I think you really would like them!

  5. December 9, 2009 11:39 am

    You know, I’m not sure you missed stuff in the early chucks — when I read this book I felt like it lacked some of the early world-building and plot-building and just jumped right in to story. I didn’t really like it initially because of that, although I felt like it picked up a lot once Fire got to the castle. But it’s possible I was reading fast and missed some of that too.

    • December 9, 2009 4:13 pm

      Kim – Most of what I missed was who was related to whom, and who used to be King, and what everyone’s positions were relative to that, and when and how it changed, etc. I sort of remember the characters talking about it, but I don’t know if they were being too vague, or if I just didn’t realize it was going to be so important, so I just blew past it.

  6. December 9, 2009 7:11 pm

    I have this book sitting next to me right now; I’m waiting for an opening in my “currently reading” list to get to it. I absolutely loved “Graceling,” and I’ve generally heard nothing but good things about this one. Besides, if it’s going to give me another book boyfriend (ah, Po), I’m definitely in.

    • December 11, 2009 11:05 am

      J. S. – My new book boyfriend from Fire isn’t as immediately charming and loveable as Po, but I think he’s more like the kind of guy I’d go for in real life. Plus, his relationship with Fire is really wonderful and well-matched, so that may be part of why I like him so much. :)

  7. December 9, 2009 9:56 pm

    Thanks for this review. I loved Graceling but when Fire came out the was this long line of hold at the library and I forgot to request it! I really enjoyed Cashore’s style.

    • December 11, 2009 11:05 am

      Gavin – Happy to serve as a reminder! No matter how long the list is, get yourself on it… it’ll be worth it!

  8. December 10, 2009 3:05 pm

    I’m honestly not sure whether I enjoyed FIRE or GRACELING more. I do know I read FIRE at rather the wrong time, (right after I’d finished a book that’s easily one of my Best of 2009), but I enjoyed it an awful lot despite the outside influences that brought it down a bit. Hmm.

    • December 11, 2009 11:07 am

      Memory – Ah, the unknowable yet unavoidable vagaries of timing. :)

  9. December 13, 2009 5:19 pm

    I’ve seen the book around. And read Graceling I’m just willing to fork over 15 plus dollars for the hardcover. Fire is immensely popular at the the library. If I put a hold on it I would have to wait til July 2010 to get it. I’m going to wait for now, in the end I will still try to read the book.

  10. Helmss permalink
    December 28, 2009 12:40 am

    im reading this book right now!!!
    and i immedietly started to like the chatacter Prince Brigan!!!! He’s so mean but thats why i think i really like him!! i heard he gets more likable!!~~~ but i love him now! even tho he is a jerk in the beginning! i love guy characters who are rough around the edges!!! there are very few softies in books that i like….

  11. August 24, 2010 1:36 pm

    I’ve been reading a sample of Fire’s blog reviews and I’m surprised at how polarized the reactions are. I have to say, I found Fire too noble to be true, too bent on sacrificing herself for the greater good to be truly appealing to me–Katsa had more edge and less angst. But yes, Cashore is still a kick-ass writer, and I can’t wait for Bitterblue!

Trackbacks

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