Fire by Kristin Cashore was fantastic in a way that only action-filled, sexually charged teen lit can be. I read a lot of reviews that condemned the novel for being too mature for teen audiences, but I disagree whole-heartedly. Fire is 17 year old, is burdened with more than her fair share of unusual problems, and yet suffers the same fears and insecurities as the general teenage population.
I’m getting to an ago where teen lit is a guilty pleasure. Five years out of teenager-hood, I should be over it. But I still find myself craving it often, mostly because it is fast-paced, fun, interesting, and lacks the forced introspective depth that a great deal of adult literature writers feel it necessary to stuff into their novels. Fire gave me exactly what I was looking for in a novel. Stuck in the middle of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I needed to find a book that would actually encourage me to like reading again. So I bought it in an Eason in Dublin, and cracked it open immediately, feeling the soothing balm of an engaging story ease my mind and bring a smile to my face.
Fire is the second book by Kristin Cashore set in the same world as Graceling (also amazing) but on the other side of the mountains in a land known as The Dells. The main character is also called Fire, so named because of the color of her hair. In The Dells there are monsters, creatures that look like normal animals except for the fact that their fur or feathers or scales are brightly and unusually colored–magenta, marigold, purple, jade, turquoise, etc. They are also extremely vicious, and even monsters whose animal counterparts are usually very mild hunger for the flesh of humans and other monsters alike. Fire is half monster, the result of the union of her insane monster father and one of his human sexual conquests. She can read peoples’ thoughts and emotions, and even control the minds of weak individuals or collected groups. She is also extraordinarily beautiful, and men often go wild at the sight of her, either with lust or with hatred. However, she is part human, and is therefore appalled by her father’s behavior and, for most of her life before the events of the novel, refuses to use her powers at all. As the political situation in her kingdom deteriorates, she finds herself faced with the choice of using her power to help save her country or watch as it all falls apart. Either way she risks losing the people she loves.
Of course, being in the Graceling trilogy, there is a romance involved as well. Fire grows up alongside her best friend Archer, who eventually becomes her lover. But though he constantly proposes to her, is jealously protective, and wants nothing more than to spend forever with her, she is never able to love him in the same way. Instead, she finds throughout the novel that a romance is blossoming between her and someone very different from Archer. It’s quite sweet and innocent, and I fear I don’t understand my fellow reviewers who seem to thing Fire is a slut. Yes, she sleeps with Archer. But she’s only with two men, one of which she marries (we assume). Except to the ultra-religious, that number (ahem, 2) is extremely low–lower than the number of lovers a lot of teenagers will have. So let’s just reserve our judgement, shall we?
I enjoyed Fire as a character a great deal. I saw a little bit of myself in her. Extremely beautiful, plagued by the attention of men…totally kidding. Her fears and reservations, her insecurities–what girl doesn’t go through those things? Despite the fact that she’s a monster and therefore not quite human, and incredibly lovely, she suffers the same things as women everywhere. She doubts the love and intentions of others because of the power she unwillingly has over others. She is lonely. She is faced with very difficult choices. She worries over the people she loves. She’s tough, but still delicate enough to be feminine and alluring. She’s loyal and protective. And she’s interesting, because at the end of the day, her biggest problems set her apart from us regular humans, and one can’t help but compare her reactions to what oneself might do in her situation.
I wish I could do more justice to how much I loved this book. It is extremely emotional, and Cashore is adept at making the reader feel what Fire is feeling. In the midst of tragedy, the reader is heartbroken. In romance, the reader’s heart is full and excited with the hope that maybe they’ll have that someday (or maybe they already do?). In times of fear, the reader fears for Fire and her loved ones. For regular Bibliography readers, this is a common theme in the blogs about books that I really love: it absolutely has to make me feel some kind of emotion. If it manifests itself physically (tears, a sigh, catching my breath, etc.) then it is truly an effective and moving piece to me. This is one of my favorite things about this novel, and Cashore wins major points.
As I said, it’s the second book in a trilogy. I highly recommend this book, but you will definitely want to start by reading Graceling (Book 1 of the trilogy). Have fun and enjoy it! Great book!