Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fire by Kristin Cashore

Genre: Young adult (fantasy)
Publisher, Year: Dial, 2009
Other Works: Graceling
Flags: Teen angst, tenuous references
Rating: C or Good Idea Bad Execution
Premise: A young woman with special gifts tries to use her power for good and not evil.

I really enjoyed Cashore’s first novel, Graceling. It was mesmerizing and wonderful and can’t-put-downable. However, I did not feel Fire was able to do this for me. Unfortunately, I found this novel seriously lacking. The idea was a good one, and at the beginning I was interested to see where it would go, but I soon felt so confused that all enjoyment I may have experienced vaporized.

Fire is an anomaly. She’s half human and half monster, named for her unearthly red hair. This brings a lot of problems into her life. First, monsters are extremely attractive to humans—always. Because of this immediate response from humans, Fire has the ability to control humans’ minds and make them do things she wants them too. She can also “sense” the presence of people, depending on how close they are and how well she knows them. Fire is called upon to use her abilities to help in a civil war raging in her homeland. She’s favored by the king and his family, who she believes have the right to the throne. As she struggles with the decision to use her powers to interfere in the war, she faces dangers she never imagined. +/-

This story is so all over the place, I’m not really sure where to start. First, I was under the impression that this story was supposed to be about Leck (a character from Graceling), but found that he really had little influence besides the occasional cameo. I actually found him sort of annoying, as if he was part of an unrelated side story that was clumsily incorporated into an entirely different story in order to connect it to her previous novel. That bugged me. Although, I do admit that I might simply have suffered under a false expectation of what the book was about.

I enjoy a good super power. But, I have to say that I just didn’t get Fire’s supernatural abilities. The “attractiveness” confused me, only because I felt like it was inconsistent. Because of this immediate passion, people react differently to her, meaning some want to have their way with her out of desire, others want to kill her out of hatred, while still others want to torture her out of jealously. But some seemed more affected by her than others. Some seemed pretty much untouched, as if Fire was a regular being, while others were like a mosquito to an electric bug zapper. And then, there’s the question of how she could ever have a real relationship, since her very presence caused serious complications. I also found it slightly creep that Fire became especially desirable during her “time of the month” if you who what I mean, even by other monsters, who could apparently smell her better.

And that was only the beginning. I tired of Fire and felt she was sort of selfish, in a lot of ways. I also tired of a lot of the characters, the obsessive behavior, the “war” and its intricacies. I mean, the “best” archer’s name is Archer. Really? Not to mention, keeping track of who was sleeping with who gave me whiplash.

However, through it all, there are a few moments where I’d read a passage and think, “Yeah, that’s the Kristin Cashore I remember.” She really has a unique way with words, I just think this story needed more cutting down and a lot more work. But, I’m undaunted. I’ll still seek out her next book to see if that one returns to her original brilliance.

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