Review: Fire by Kristin Cashore

Publisher: Dial; First Edition edition (October 5, 2009)
Hardcover: 480 pages
Price: $10.52 from Amazon
Summary: [from goodreads]  

Fire, Graceling's prequel-ish companion book, takes place across the mountains to the east of the seven kingdoms, in a rocky, war-torn land called the Dells.
Beautiful creatures called monsters live in the Dells. Monsters have the shape of normal animals: mountain lions, dragonflies, horses, fish. But the hair or scales or feathers of monsters are gorgeously colored-- fuchsia, turquoise, sparkly bronze, iridescent green-- and their minds have the power to control the minds of humans.
Seventeen-year-old Fire is the last remaining human-shaped monster in the Dells. Gorgeously monstrous in body and mind but with a human appreciation of right and wrong, she is hated and mistrusted by just about everyone, and this book is her story.
Wondering what makes it a companion book/prequel? Fire takes place 30-some years before Graceling and has one cross-over character with Graceling, a small boy with strange two-colored eyes who comes from no-one-knows-where, and who has a peculiar ability that Graceling readers will find familiar and disturbing... 


Review: Kristin Cashore has done it again; FIRE WAS TOTALLY AWESOME. Tucking my bias aside into a very nice, cozy corner, Fire was a bit confusing at first, like the relationship between Archer and Fire, but once I got into it, I just couldn’t put it down. Trust me, I tried to put it aside and do a bit of work, but I picked it right up again after a few minutes… and let’s just say an hour later, with no homework done, I woke from a beautiful, intricate world with a finished book in my hand. Hm, the world’s such a mystery.

The world Kristin weaves in her book is truly astonishing. All of the ideas are so original (monsters, anyone?), but somehow still seem plausible. The flow was well-paced and steady; there was always action with bouts of self-discovery in between. I have a small complaint that, at times, I felt like Fire just kept on reflecting over the same things and ending up with the same result; maybe a bit too much self-discovering. Other than that, I just had to keep on reading to find out how this or that event tied in to the big picture. The conspiracy against the crown was obvious, but still very exciting to read how Fire and the others decided to handle it. Plus, lots of small sub-plots and interconnected family ties to keep you guessing. And, *romantic sigh,* the way Fire’s romantic relationship develops is fairly conventional, but the way Kristin chose to depict it makes their love seem unique.

In addition, Kristin has a very unique talent for drawing the reader in and making him/her sympathize with the characters, even when there seems to be nothing alike. I don’t know how, but I even found myself sympathizing with pitying the villains and King Nash (poor thing that hasn’t gotten laid in a while). I think what made all the characters 3-D and relatable, even some that barely appeared in the story, was how Kristin managed to develop believable motives and always present two-sides to a person; not one person can be completely nice 100% of the time, just as a person can’t be completely evil, and Kristin definitely understands that and uses it to make her story more realistic and enticing. Each character had his/her own personality, and though some were better-developed, each contributed a part to the whole. As for Fire, I definitely admire her strength, refusal to back down, capability to do what’s right, and love for others. She’s vulnerable on the inside, but so, so determined. For the most part, I really liked her and could relate to her feelings, but at times I was thinking along the lines of “what is she doing??!” As in Fire would be brave… and then suddenly run out of the room when something happened and come back a minute later. When she does, it’s sort of understandable, but I really expected her to stand her ground and act a little less immature. And sometimes she actually made a good decision about her self-image... and right when I started to cheer for her, Fire would revert to her old ways. You can imagine that might get a bit annoying.

(Just as a little side note, there’s also a little bit of enmity between Fire and me because, physically, she’s just so perfect and that’s stressed so often it’s hard to miss. It is hard to really love a girl that has men practically begging at her feet...)

Anyways, the ending was solid. I definitely wanted more, but that was only because the story was so engaging and I didn’t want to return to the real world. That being said, Fire did tie up nicely, with happy endings here-and-there, and *another happy sigh* true love. It was also interesting to see how Leck, the boy with the Grace that’s introduced at the beginning, turned out to be who he is in Kristin's other book, Graceling. He actually plays a very minor role in the overarching scheme of things, which was not what I was expecting because he seems to always be present. After reading a bit about his history and actions, I could sort of see where Leck was coming from, but I wasn’t able to fully sympathize with him because there just wasn’t enough foundation for it.

Romance: 4.0. Romance was definitely there, and it balanced the action out perfectly. Brigan, Fire’s love interest, is sort of different in that he isn’t those super handsome princely types, like his brother Nash. I think it tells Kristin’s success when I say that she described Brigan so well, that at the end I actually imagined him to be hot because of his bravery, aka male idiocy, and protective glare. Totally rugged, yet refined (technically he still is a prince).

Cover: 4.0 -- I would give the UK version a 5; it's gorgeous! (on the right)
Writing: 5.0
Characters: 4.5
Plot: 4.5

Bottom Line: Inevitably, I do have to compare Fire to Graceling and say I liked Graceling better; but it’s hard to match up to the original so I’ll just respect all the hard work that went into Fire. I would say Fire is a very highly recommended read for fans of fantasy and romance (whereas Graceling is a DEFINITE must-read) and even those that aren’t such big fans of the fantasy genre might still enjoy this book. Prepare to get swept away by Kristin Cashore's flowing writing and rich, mystical land!... Or on second thought, maybe wait, because once you read Fire, you’ll be so anxious waiting for Bitterblue, the third companion novel coming out in 2011 (oh, the horror of such a long year)!