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Fire

Review

Fire

The first thing you need to do before you read Kristin Cashore’s FIRE is to forget everything you thought you knew about monsters. Monsters of all kinds populate the pages of Cashore’s latest work, but they’re not the creepy, drooling, under-the-bed kinds of monsters that you’re used to. Instead, they’re beautiful, alluring creatures that have the form of more familiar animals but whose colors are both more vivid and more glamorous than the ones we know. Their beauty masks hidden dangers, though: they have the power to enter and even control humans’ minds.

Seventeen-year-old Fire is the last remaining human-shaped monster. With her bright red hair, she is stunningly beautiful and well aware of the power her beauty holds over men (after all, she can enter their minds). She is also a fiercely independent warrior, a keen shot with her arrow, and can be brutally stubborn, especially when someone (like her longtime friend and current lover, Archer) tries to rein her in. Furthermore, she is haunted by memories of her father, a monstrous man whom she both feared and loved. Her monster side relishes the skills he passed on to her, but her human side fears becoming like him.

Fire lives in the Dells, a rocky central land (near the Seven Kingdoms that were the setting for Cashore’s debut novel, GRACELING) whose territory is constantly under threat from both the south and the north. The young king of the Dells, Nash, is desperately trying to hold his kingdom together. His brother, Brigan, is cold and critical --- Fire can’t read his mind and takes an instant dislike to him. When Fire is enlisted for a mission that will utilize her special skills, she must discover her own unique identity, embracing her family history while blazing her own remarkable trail.

Although there is plenty of political intrigue and power mongering afoot in FIRE, the real focus here is on Fire’s maturation as a woman and a warrior, even as her emotional and physical well-being is threatened repeatedly by tragedy, injury and death. Cashore excels not only at bringing an imaginary world to life but also at creating a flesh-and-blood heroine whose personal failings, insecurities and desire for a real family make her an appealing human --- even if she is a monster.

Readers of GRACELING will instantly recognize the creepy little boy who appears in the prologue, but FIRE can stand alone as a complete novel in its own right as it is set some 30 years before the events of the previous book. Those hooked by Cashore’s stunningly realized heroine, however, will want to read both titles --- as well as the forthcoming third book --- set in this vast, richly imagined world. Cashore’s fantasy novels are strong, fresh additions to the genre, and her mature approach to subjects ranging from sex to war will appeal to adult readers as well as older teens.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on October 5, 2009

Fire
by Kristin Cashore

  • Publication Date: January 25, 2011
  • Genres: Fantasy
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Firebird
  • ISBN-10: 014241591X
  • ISBN-13: 9780142415917