Friday, January 29, 2010

Fire

After my spell of reading books I didn't much like, finally I settled on a book I did like-- Kristin Cashore's new YA novel Fire. It's set in the same world as Graceling, which I loved, but it's a separate story with new characters.

Fire is a "monster," meaning she has the power to read and control human minds. She's what every teenage girl would love to be--irresistibly attractive, with red hair that makes everyone go wild when they see it, a talented musician, and with a special ability to communicate with horses. Her monster father used his power evilly, but Fire benefits from his example to become a benevolent wielder of her awesome power. Along the way she learns how to love a man who is her equal in power, so she can't control his mind.

That's not what's most interesting about this novel, though. What my daughter liked were the finely drawn characters, especially Garan, a spymaster and political tactician who is introduced to Fire as a person who "has control of himself."

One thing I liked was the increasing humanization of Fire, who finally realizes on the eve of a battle that a person who has always acted weak and foolish around her knows more than she does about love and loyalty:
"'It's not reasonable to love people who are only going to die,' she said....
'I have two responses to that,' he said finally. 'First, everyone's going to die. Second, love is stupid. It has nothing to do with reason.'"

Another thing I liked were the oblique digs at what's happening in our own world (especially poignant this morning in light of the news that there's not enough money in the U.S. budget to continue exploration of the moon): "anyway, the schools are closed now; there's no money for research. Or for art, for that matter, or engineering. Everything goes to policing--to the army, the coming war."

And even though this is the kind of story in which most of the people you care about don't die, there is a bit more realism than in other sword fantasies. When Fire gets frostbitten fingers, they don't all heal; some finally have to be surgically removed. When she falls in love with a man, his daughter doesn't automatically love her, nor can she bear his child. She learns to deal with fame: "it was based not on her, but on stories, on an idea of her, an exaggeration."

There will be a third book set in the world of Graceling and Fire; Cashore says it is "tentatively titled Bitterblue." I'll be looking forward to it, because Cashore has established herself, for me, as an storyteller who doesn't disappoint. Many of us have mental lists of such authors, people whose books we buy in hardback on the day they come out, if we can. Who else is like that, for you?

14 comments:

Green-Eyed Siren said...

Thanks for alerting me to this book. I really enjoyed Graceling, so I'm glad to hear about it!

FreshHell said...

Ruth Rendell and PD James come to mind. As far as YA (or pre-YA), Blue Balliet and Trenton Lee Stewart top the list.

Amanda said...

Still undecided...

Jeanne said...

Freshhell, I will still check out any Ruth Rendell or PD James book I find at the library, but I don't always enjoy them. It used to be I'd check out Elizabeth George, too, for that ultra-British mystery feeling, but I've given her up after too many disappointments.

Jodie said...

Nymeth twittered this moon related link you might like to see: http://xkcd.com/695/

I have Graceling now! I finally caved to all the good sensible people talking about its wonders and its flaws, including you :) Fire sounds like the issues some people had with character development have been ironed out.

Authors I always keep up with because they are consitently good story tellers include Terry Pratchett (obs), Anthony Capella and Joanne Harris, oh and I'll buy anything new that Pat Barker writes even though I'm still catching up on her published novels.

Jeanne said...

Jodie, Oh yeah, it's the Mars rover and that xkcd must be written to try to make the humanities majors cry!

I've tried Terry Pratchett and thought maybe I came to him when I was already too old. I'll try the other authors you mention.

Kailana said...

I really really liked this series. I can't want until book three. :)

Jeanne said...

Kailana, ha, Freudian slip! ("want" instead of "wait") I share your want!

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

I couldn't decide if I liked this or Graceling better. There was something about this book that didn't gel with me as easily, something sort of distrubing about Fire and her powers that I haven't been able to put my finger on yet. But yes, the book has great politics and characters and not a totally happy ending, which can be nice sometimes.

Jeanne said...

Kim, I'm not getting the vibe about Fire's powers being disturbing, other than that I picture her as a kind of mind-reading Barbie doll who comes with two horses, an archer and a prince.

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Nymeth said...

I'm going to have to say that you can never be too old for Pratchett! :P I understand that not everyone will like him, though (grudgingly, grudgingly ;) )

I have no idea why I haven't read Cashore yet. She sounds right up my alley in every possible way.

Jeanne said...

Nymeth, I do think you'd like Graceling and Fire, and they're not the kind of sequels that make me want to wait until the third one comes out to read the first two.