Monday 20 July 2020

#CBR12 Book 44: "Fire" by Kristen Cashore

Page count: 384 pages
Audio book length: 12 hrs 39 mins
Rating: 5 stars

Official book description:
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 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 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.

I read and reviewed this back in 2010. My original review is here. I didn't remember the plot all that clearly, except that I really liked it and that it was a very unusual fantasy YA novel, with some really interesting topics being discussed. Re-reading it, I was struck at how many of the characters in the story are trying to get over some sort of trauma. Fire is desperately fighting the fear that she will become like her father, a Monster both in name and deed. Her father cared for nothing but his own petty pleasures and nearly ruined a kingdom because of his ruthless manipulations. Fire has kept herself mostly isolated and surrounded by people who can guard their thoughts against her. She understands why Prince Brigan resents and fears her, and she is exasperated and feels helpless about the attraction his brother, the current king, feels towards her. She is used to both men and women falling for her, unable to resist her strange charms.

King Nash and Prince Brigan are also dealing with traumas, having grown up in the court where their father was nothing but a puppet, and having had to fight to survive. Fire's foster father lost the ability to walk thanks to her dear old dad, and her best friend Archer, the man he is raising as his son, is the product of a brutal and malicious rape by a stranger, again due to the vengeful manipulations of Cansrel and his ability to influence the now-dead king Nax.

Yet even with so many damaged people, they step up and do their duty. Fire is scared, but can't say no to helping the king and his brother. In leaving her safe home and travelling to the capital, she risks herself in more ways than one, but also comes to know herself in an entirely new way, and falls in love along the way. The romance in this book is very slow-burn, but utterly lovely, as are many of the friendships that Fire makes throughout the book.

There is also darkness and sadness and loss as part of this book. As with Graceling, I'd forgotten how dark it got in places, and exactly how it connected the two books (this one is actually a prequel of sorts). I listened to the audiobook this time and possibly liked this book even more now than when I first read it. Highly recommended, although for it to really work, you should probably read Graceling first.

Judging a book by its cover: As with Graceling, I own the UK paperback of this. I think the lone female cover model is more suitable on this cover, with the woman portraying Fire in a flowing red dress, holding a bow, her spectacular red hair blowing in the wind. Fire does wear a beautiful gown like that at one point. She's also quite skilled with a bow. At no point are these two things in the same scene, certainly not while Fire stands on a cliff's edge with her hair swirling in the breeze.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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