Wednesday, July 17, 2013

FIRE by Kristin Cashore - Book Review

[Note: This review was originally published on February 2nd, 2012.]

Rating: 4/5 -  A satisfying read that’s worth every word.

Title: Fire

Author: Kristin Cashore

Format: trade paperback

Published: 2009

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy

Publisher: Firebird

Landed in my hands: purchased myself

Summary (from the cover blurb):

She has been hidden away. Now she is choosing to use her power.

It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. Young King Nash clings to the thorn, while rebel lords, in the north and south, build armies to unseat him. War is coming. The mountain and forests are filled with spies and thieves.

This is where Fire lives, a girl whose startling appearance is impossibly irresistible and who can control the minds of everyone around her.

Everyone... except Prince Brigan.



What impression does the word carry? Does it make you think of an incredibly beautiful girl who has the capability of ensnaring the minds of people around her with her very presence, and the ability to compel those minds with her thoughts? A girl who is intimidated by her own power and inherent capacity for evil?


That’s why I like that Cashore has chosen simple language. She hasn’t created a new term for her creatures — which is fortunate, since they take the form of every living thing in her universe — and she's spun the known sense of the word on its head. Fire is the last of the human-shaped monsters, and the world is populated with other monsters, born of every species, dangerous oddities within the realm of nature. Coveted for their rarity and power, and drawn to consume each other for their own monster nature.

It’s damn interesting.

Yes, I’ve read Cashore’s first book, Graceling, set in this same universe, and Fire is in effect a prequel, so I had no compunctions about reviewing it without having reviewed Graceling (excellent, by the way).

Cashore’s prose is elegant, a joy to read. It’s very relaxing. Comforting, even. And it has an impossibly sweet and poetic little romance within its narrative.

[He] had been unshaven, in black clothing, his boots spattered with mud. His light eyes standing out in a weary face. 
She’d very much come to like his face.

So simple, and so powerful.

The simplicity of this growing romance is so graceful, so heart-warmingly sweet and natural in its progression that I can’t help but fall in love with the two characters as they discover their mutual care for each other. It’s comfort food for the eyes.

Fire has that strong female lead I’m so fond of, as well as an interesting take on the nature of monsters and cruelty, and a relaxed approach to sexuality that I found refreshing. Cashore is character- and world-focused when writing, and her teens are not really teens in their actions, due to the medieval setting. Which is good — in the middle ages there was no teenage stage, you were simply a child or an adult (once you hit puberty), and Cashore's characters behave like adults, not modern day teens displaced from the local mall.

Though truthfully, the Young Adult label of this title makes it a little shocking when the sexuality of the characters is broached: they are teens by age and our own society's standards, so the blasé attitude about lovers is a touch surprising. (Oh, I hear that damned spoiler alert — no worries, no names attached.) This is especially true when one character manages to impregnate two ladies — at the same time. And aside from some social awkwardness, it's all taken in stride.

Despite this event, I think the message is less a promotion of promiscuity and more about being cautious of your actions and remembering that everything has a consequence. It's not preachy, it's realistic to setting, and because of that, I like it.

Aside from a particular set up that felt more plot device than anything else (won't go into it, that spoiler alert is making my head hurt), this book would have top marks. As it stands, both of Cashore’s novels will be on my keeper shelf.

Happy reading!

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