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Fire
Kristin Cashore
Gollancz, 334 pages

Fire
Kristin Cashore
Kristin Cashore has written for The Horn Book Guide, The Looking Glass: An Online Children's Literature Journal, and Children's Literature in Education. She received a master's degree in children's literature from Simmons College. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida.

Kristin Cashore Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Graceling
SF Site Review: Graceling
SF Site Review: Graceling

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dan Shade

Kristin Cashore seems to have leapt out of the pages of some graphic novel and taken the life form of a superhero. Kristin can write with super strength. She can write like she's been doing it all her life. I have the impression of this writer as some ancient poet laureate still cranking out the good stuff. Yet, this is Cashore's second novel. I'm a generation older, have published extensively academically and can't get the fiction in my head to paper. Kristin's writing is so accomplished that one is mesmerized. Yes, I'm sure she spends long hours and suffers over it a great deal as there is always a price to be paid for magic. She reminds me of Rumpelstiltskin who could spin gold from straw except, of course, Ms. Cashore is spinning words from letters. And not just any words. Hers seem to be carefully chosen like children building with Legos. When I read Cashore, I feel that each word was considered several times and that she has her own magic spinning wheel where she spins her gold. She is a pure delight to read and I hope she writes a hundred novels as fresh as Graceling and Fire.

As good as I thought Cashore's Graceling was, Fire pleased me even more. Fire takes place in another kingdom but there are subtle differences than Graceling's. According to Cashore,

  "A grace was a particular skill far surpassing the capability of a normal human being. A Grace could take any form. Most of the kings had at least one Graceling in his kitchens, a superhumanly capable bread baker or winemaker. The luckiest kings had soldiers in their armies Graced with sword fighting. A Graceling might have impossibly good hearing, run a fast as a mountain lion, calculate large sums mentally, even sense if food was poisoned. Some Gracelings saw evens before they happened. Some could enter the minds of others and see things in was not their business to see (Fire, pp. 4-5)."  

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In the Dells, where Fire lives, she is considered a monster. Not because she is graced to read and control minds but because of her vibrant flame red hair. Even without it, she would be considered an extremely beautiful woman. With it, all men desire her. The king makes a total fool out of himself over her, pawing and bowing and begging her to marry him or coming to her rooms at all hours of the night and day with new proposals of marriage and threats to kill himself if she does not. These are not idle threats because a person enthralled by a 'monster' is one hundred percent serious. Not only is she the target of all men, other monsters crave monster flesh because it is so delicious. So she is not safe in the woods or countryside where the huge monster birds, Raptors, control the sky or the mighty monster bears control the ground.

Fire is fortunate to live with the King's parents many miles from court. Archer, one of their sons, takes good care of her and protects her from harm. Being, perhaps, the best shot with an arrow in the Kingdom he can best protect her from the Raptors. Yet, being in a royal household she is aware of the problems at court and the wars of the land. The King craves her help but she fears she will turn out to be the true monster her father was, manipulating people for his own amusement and gain. Not caring whom he hurt or killed. He was the King's advisor and could do as he pleased (not King Nash but his father who is also dead). Besides, who could control a man with such powers. It is self-restraint that keeps Fire from using her grace in an unbridled way. And it is this self-restraint for which she is admired. Plus her genteel concern for the suffering of men, horses, and other animals.

As mentioned before, all men desire Fire. All except for Brigan, the King's brother and General of the armies. Brigan seems to hate Fire and opposes her service at court. This is the beginning of an interesting friendship that is one of the main plot lines of the novel and certainly rewarding reading. If I admire anyone of the characters it is Brigan. He is truly noble, a great warrior, and is guided by a set of principles he has adopted himself. Brigan is more kingly than Nash but it seems to come naturally to Brigan. No man in the kingdom would be caught saying ill of this man. Most are drawn to him and want his friendship and admiration much in the way men are drawn to Fire except without the sexual connotations. My dearly departed mother would have said that Brigan is a man's man. By that I think she would have meant that all men would wish to be like Brigan. I certainly would. I've never met a character with higher personal integrity except for perhaps Gandalf the Grey.

As with Graceling, Cashore's characters are larger than life. In fact, they have a Margaret Mitchell flare to them. Brigan is the Rhett Butler of the book. Had I time and space, I could draw up a comparison chart of characters. Fire, of course, is Scarlett O'Hara except she is not spoiled and self-centered. Fire is more accustomed to running from men than manipulating them. Cashore breaths life into her characters. I don't know how she does it but I feel I know these people and am genuinely concerned about their well being. Usually, I think it's a shame that publishers and editors press authors for sequels if their book has been successful. In this case, I hope Kristin Cashore writes 100 sequels or companion novels to Fire. I think I could read them all without burning out.

Copyright © 2010 by Dan Shade

Dan Shade is a retired college professor who loves to read young adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror. But he doesn't draw the line there. He also enjoys writing science fiction and hopes to publish someday. In the meantime, you can find him at lostbooks.org (under construction).


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