Last year I read Bitterblue, by Kristin Cashore (and wrote a review), and counted it as one of the top books I read in 2012. This year I decided I wanted to explore the universe that Cashore had created a little more and ordered the eaudiobook of Fire from my library. I only got through half of it before the library took it back and then I had to wait a couple of weeks before getting it again. That was a little trying, but life sometimes is more important to be living than worrying about finishing a book before the library takes it back from you. I think part of my problem was that the story starts a little slow and I wasn’t as into it immediately like I thought I would be. In the end I think Bitterblue is a better book both in writing and in the type of story I like reading, however, I enjoyed Fire immensely once the story started rolling along.
It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash clings to his throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men.
This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had 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 help to 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
Fire is an interesting character, she lives up to her name in some of her temperament, but I was surprised by how often she is actually rather timid. She is afraid of herself in some very fundamental ways. She is afraid of what it means to be a monster and to have powers. As she progresses through the book she gets a little more comfortable with who she is, but I don’t feel she ever had much of a breakthrough. Brigan was a really cool character and I think he saw Fire in a positive and encouraging light, but wonder if one of the reasons Fire liked him so much was in how he viewed her, because she couldn’t view herself that way. I do like that Fire took charge of who she was and her responsibilities in the end and became a stronger character, but it took a while for that development to happen.
I appreciated how Fire had relationships before Brigan and that she knew heartache, love, and disappointment before getting into a more serious relationship. Most YA books are about this one great love concept that I think is unrealistic. I know a lot of reviewers (well, those on GoodReads anyway) found this nontraditional approach to relationships for young women against their beliefs and reviewed it poorly because of that, which is their prerogative I guess, though they didn’t point out that they had a morally different viewpoint just that they didn’t think it was a good book (which is rather poor reviewing in my mind). But I disagree with their assessment of Fire’s relationships. I thought it was more realistic of what most people experience in life. Many people have more than one relationship in their life time, sometimes it is a great love and some times it is a friendly love with sexual benefits and there isn’t anything wrong with that as long as each person is protecting themselves and it is consensual. Cashore shows what happens when people don’t know their boundaries and don’t protect their emotional state or physical state. She shows consequences for some of their behavior (without punishing all the women who are sexual), which I respected because most YA books are either INSTALOVE or the dreaded triangle and Cashore’s relationships among her characters are far more nuanced. They are not easily defined by their sexual interests or killed off because of them, and I appreciated that.
Fire has a lot to overcome as she learns how to use her powers without abusing them. She is caught up in court intrigue between two brothers, one a King and the other a Prince. With the brink of a war coming on, Fire has to grow up and figure out what she wants from life and what she can give to the world and the people around her without hurting those she loves.