Thursday, January 06, 2011

Fire by Kristin Cashore

Fire is a young woman who lives in the Dells. Her father, an advisor to the old King, had the Grace to control everyone's mind, and used it to lead the old King down unsavory paths and turn him into a monster. It's not certain how bad the King was before her father started in on him, but after his influence was assured, the King became much, much worse. Even Fire's birth came about because of her father's influence, when he and the King raped two women on the same night. Fire was the result, and her father only kept her because she inherited the same grace that he possessed.

But Fire doesn't have the same cold heart as her father does. Since she encountered him only infrequently, and was mainly raised by her father's servants, she grew up with a much more centered attitude, and despite her father trying to make him into a smaller, female copy of himself, she grew to hate and despise the way he treated people, and except when he was trying to "teach" her to be like him, she didn't exert herself to use her Grace the way he did.

Now that her father is dead, killed by the very dangerous animals that he kept for his own amusement, Fire has fallen into a relationship with the local lord, Archer, who is possessive of her for her great beauty. And with the bad old King also dead, the country seems to be on an even keel. But the old lords who hated the old King are even upset that his son has come to the throne and are stirring up rebellion against him. But when Fire is discovered by Roen and Brigan, the King's half brothers, she must travel out of her comfort zone of the country and go to the Capital because of her father. And she is shocked to discover that Brigan, a man she is afraid of, is immune to her Grace, and is ready to kill her to protect the country.

But Fire can't hate Brigan, no matter how much she would like to, and on the way to the capital, he slowly revises his opinion of Fire as well, and both come to care for each other, enough that she ends her relationship with Lord Archer and sends him home. But the King would like her to use her gift to question the rebels opposed to his rule to make them find out who is behind the rebellion and what they plan. Can Fire use her gift and not become as bad as her father was, using people for his pleasure? And can the King and his family keep Fire safe as the rebellion comes to a head and Brigan must leave the capitol to fight?

And meanwhile, in the north, someone else with the Grace to control people's thoughts is biding his time, and he means to capture Fire. But why does he want her, and what is he going to do with her? And when Fire heads north to find Archer, who has disappeared in the aftermath of the rebellion, can Fire rescue him, or will she even be able to rescue herself?

This book is a companion, and something of a prequel to Kristin Cashore's previous book, "Graceling". Fire has one of the more powerful Graces, being able to read and influence the minds of others, but in a way, she is almost afraid of her own grace, because of her father's previous bad example, and how he raised her. She seems to fear that because of her father, that no one will be able to love and accept her, and she also fears coming to the attention of people for the same reason: out of fear of rejection.

At the beginning of the novel, she is in a relationship of convenience with Archer. She has affection for him, yes, and she does love him, but at the same time, it isn't love in the same way that she comes to love Brigan. During the course of the story she has to come to realize that not only is she worthy of Brigan's love, but her own essential morality will result in her actions taking during the rebellion being given accolades by the people of the capital, who come to know her, despite her strange, beautiful graced looks.

None of the characters of the original book, Graceling, show up here, except in small, incidental ways, and the beginning of the book seemed to have no bearing on the plot at all up until the last third of the book, which seemed slightly awkward for most of the book, as I kept wondering, "What did the beginning have to do with Fire and Fire's life and troubles?", but when that (seemingly) dropped thread is picked up again, it all became clear. Until that point, I thought the boy might have grown up to be Fire's father. I was wrong, but be assured that the beginning is important and relevant to the plot.

I ended up enjoying this book a lot, and while the ending brings out surprises of its own, I found Fire's story to be even more interesting and enjoyable than Katsa's. This book is a more mature and even deeper work than Graceling, and I'd recommend them both- and I am very interested in seeing what sort of story Kristin Cashore comes up with next, even if it isn't set in this world. She is an author to watch! Highly recommended.

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