Reviews for Fire

Booklist Reviews 2009 September #2
*Starred Review* This prequel to Graceling (2008) introduces Fire, a monster-woman with the fundamental elements of her kind: a breathtaking beauty that inspires nearly irresistible sexual attraction and the dual powers of reading thoughts and bending another's will to her purposes. Though her father used his monster powers to control the kingdom for his own evil purposes, Fire struggles to use hers only for good. Her growing regard for the king, his brothers, and his sister leads to some uncomfortable dilemmas and decisions as well as, eventually, the revelation of old secrets. Drawn in to tip the delicate balance of forces struggling over the realm, she begins to trust herself to act on behalf of the royal family, though in doing so she violates a long-held principle that has held her considerable powers in check. Like its predecessor, this novel focuses on a young woman who thinks for herself, wields considerable powers, and acts courageously. While the two stories take place in adjoining lands and one character appears in both books, readers can enjoy this novel without having read Graceling. And enjoy it they will, with its vivid storytelling, strongly realized alternate world, well-drawn characters, convincing fantasy elements, gripping adventure scenes, and memorable love story. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2009 October
Sense of Wonder: Harnessing the power within

This month our fantasy triptych includes the story of a young woman who is too beautiful and powerful for even the most powerful men, a machine too powerful for the Wild West and a former slave whose power may destroy him.

In the world of Kristin Cashore’s Fire, every living creature has a monster analogue, distinguishable by unnatural colors and a lust for blood—particularly monster blood. Though she does not lust for blood, Fire is a human monster. Her beauty causes uncontrollable lust in weak-willed men, and through a form of telepathy she can force men to do her will—though she is understandably reluctant to do so. Her father and his puppet king destroyed their kingdom through excess and cruelty, and Fire quickly finds herself embroiled in court politics, assaulted by the king and used as a tool to interrogate spies. She faces internal conflict as she sees the manipulation of human will too similar to her father’s amoral and casual brutality, but also necessary to the defense of the kingdom. To make matters worse, she falls in love with the prince—and his daughter. Aside from sharp writing, the strength of Fire lies in Cashore’s depiction of womanhood. The author plays with traditional gender fantasy roles, giving us a strong but feminine character whose physiology generates her strengths and weaknesses, and male characters who are aggressive chauvinists and misogynists—not the asexual ideal heroes of Tolkien’s pale imitators. The enchanting prequel to Cashore’s beloved young adult novel Graceling, Fire is an excellent book for all ages—particularly young women.

Steampunk in Seattle

There are plenty of alternate Civil War novels, but none quite like Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker. In the 1860s, Leviticus Blue builds a gold-mining machine in response to a Russian contest. But something goes terribly wrong—either intentionally or by accident, we don’t quite know—and the Boneshaker destroys the banking district of Seattle and unleashes a gas that turns the living into the living dead. A wall is built around Seattle to contain the gas and the zombies. Sixteen years later, Leviticus’ widow attempts to rescue their son, Ezekiel, who has braved the wall to vindicate his universally hated father. Behind the wall, a man who may or may not be Leviticus—and who may or may not have robbed the banks—has built a kingdom of the living, and he has other plans for Ezekiel and his mother. What follows is a fantastic whirlwind tour of an alternate history and a steampunk version of The Lord of the Flies. While slightly marred by a few too many similar chase scenes, Boneshaker offers fans of both steampunk and the New Weird much to enjoy.

Fantasy pick of the month

Flesh and Fire gives us another unlikely hero. Jerzy is a slave plucked from the vineyards because he shows a talent for creating spellwines. The reader learns (as Jerzy does) that these magic wines were omnipotent until the vines were split into types by a semi-deity who ordered that vintners and governing entities be entirely independent from one another. This Command has been kept and vigorously enforced, but has led to a stagnation in the development of government and particularly the evolution of spellwines. Peace has been held for centuries, but a new malevolent and destructive power appears which no one can identify. The narrative develops slowly, but the patient reader is rewarded with the skillful unfolding of a richly developed world heavily dependent on religious interpretation—a delightful discovery especially as the novel eschews slavish imitation of Grecian mythology or thinly veiled criticism of Christianity, instead presenting a history and mythology which informs and guides the powerless and the powerful. Laura Anne Gilman also approaches the issue of slavery from an alternate viewpoint; Jerzy sees slavery as a natural and moral behavior, is unable to recognize any other option, and questions the meaning of “freedom” through an examination of what it means to be guided by a dead deity’s Commandments. Moral questions are deeply embedded in the novel, with a brilliantly limited authorial intervention, and presented through well-developed characters and first-class world-building. Since this is subtitled “Book One of The Vineart War,” we can only look forward to the sequel(s).

In alphabetical order, Sean Melican is a chemist, father, husband and writer.


Copyright 2009 BookPage Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Spring
The most dangerous monsters in the Dells are the human monsters. Fire, with her ability to cajole minds, is one--though raised to have a conscience. Fire's complicated relationships provide an emotional drive to match the story's abundant political machinations and inventive world-building. Rounded out by the chilling backstory of Graceling's villain, this stand-alone prequel paves the way for further exploration. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #5
In the Dells, across the mountains from the Seven Kingdoms (Graceling, rev. 11/08), there are no preternaturally gifted Gracelings, but there are monsters -- magical, often dangerous versions of real creatures. The most dangerous of all are the human monsters, of which Fire is one. Raised by her guardian Lord Brocker to have a conscience, she shrinks from attention and covers the inhumanly red hair that marks her heritage. When Fire accompanies Brocker's son Archer to court, she is recruited, with her ability to read and cajole minds, to aid in royal intelligence missions: King Nash and his brother Brigan are attempting to quell rivals in a kingdom Fire's monster father brought to the edge of ruin. Cashore's prose has matured, growing piercing and elegant, and her descriptions of the beautiful, treacherous landscape of the Dells include some lovely turns of phrase: "The Winged River was so named because before its waters reached their journey's end, they took flight." The romance between Fire and Brigan (both more believable characters than Graceling's Katsa and Po) is tenderly drawn and satisfyingly slow to develop; along with Fire's complicated more-than-friendship with Archer and the teased-out history of her relationship with her volatile father, it gives the story an emotional drive to match the political machinations, physical peril, and inventive world-building that Cashore provides in abundance. Rounded out by the chilling backstory of Graceling's villain, this stand-alone prequel surpasses Cashore's debut and paves the way for further exploration of a world in which readers will happily immerse themselves. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2009 September #1
A jewel-toned companion to Graceling (2008) inverts the trope of the exotic, gifted, irresistible fantasy heroine. Every species in the Dells has its impossibly attractive "monster" counterpart. Fire, last of the human monsters, must constantly use her mind-altering abilities to protect herself from the frenzied desire and resentful distrust of man and beast alike. Though her father used his powers to corrupt the kingdom, political tumult leads the ruling family to seek her aid, dispatching the one member strong enough to shield his thoughts. But the subtle intrigues of palace plots and even the sickening horrors of open warfare are vehicles to total immersion into Fire's character, and her experiences of crippling pain, guilt, fear, grief and--even more devastating--the fragile unfurling of trust, friendship and love. For this is a love story, not just a romance (although that as well, surpassingly sweet). As Fire journeys from her isolated home to slowly integrate herself into a wider community, she tentatively, tenderly, passionately falls in love with a family, a city, a kingdom, with the very contradictions that make them human--and, at the last, with her own place among them. Fresh, hopeful, tragic and glorious. (Fantasy. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Media Connection Reviews 2009 November/December
In the Dells there are monster animals and humans with exotic beauty, vibrant coloring, and supernatural gifts. Fire is the last of the human monsters and is irresistibly beautiful with a mane of hair the color of glittering fall foliage. Yet unlike her late father Cansrel, she does not want to cause harm with her supernatural ability to read and control minds. When Fire is summoned to assist the late king Nax?s heir, King Nash, she reluctantly leaves her home and heads to the King?s City. She agrees to use her abilities to help the kingdom in its war with the southern and northern lords. Fire not only assists the cause, but with Brigan?s help eliminates both southern lords at a winter gala. Captured shortly thereafter, Fire is caught in the clutches of evil by northern lord Mydogg?s soldiers and a Graceling, Leck. Fire is rescued, the war is won, family tree complexities are worked out, and the spark between Fire and Brigan burns brightly. Fire is the prequel to Cashore?s first book Graceling (Harcourt, 2008). The bold adventure, a realistic fantasy world, well-rounded characters, a strong female protagonist, and superb writing make Fire a compelling read and one sure to win many honors. Highly Recommended. Leslie Schoenherr, Librarian, Lexington (Massachusetts) Christian Academy ¬ 2009 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 July #3

This prequel to Graceling, Cashore's smashing debut, may initially frustrate readers wanting more about Katsa and Po. Fire takes place long before Katsa's birth in an adjacent kingdom called the Dells and shares only one character. But its themes--embracing your talents and moving out of your parents' shadow--are similar, as is the absorbing quality of Cashore's prose. The Dells do not have gracelings; they have beautiful creatures called monsters that are like normal animals except for their exquisite coloration. Seventeen-year-old Fire, who can read and control minds, is the last human monster. Her father, a corrupt adviser to a debased king, recognizes the dangers of her powers and exiles her to the hills, where she is raised by an out-of-favor military commander and befriended by his son, Archer. Many twists propel the action, and although astute readers will suspect who the eventual lovers will be from their first hateful meeting, the buildup to their romance provides tension that keeps the pages turning. Cashore's conclusion satisfies, but readers will clamor for a sequel to the prequel--a book bridging the gap between this one and Graceling. Ages 14-up. (Oct.)

[Page 141]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews 2009 August

Gr 9 Up--This fantasy, shot through with romance and suspense, is set in the same world as Graceling (Dial, 2008), but on the far side of the mountain barrier in the kingdom of the Dells. Here there are monsters, enhanced and exceptionally beautiful versions of various animal species. Fire is a human monster, so beautiful that she has to hide her hair for fear of attack by both raptor monsters and human men. She is able to enter other people's minds and exert power over them. It is a tumultuous time in the kingdom, as various lords are preparing to overthrow the king, and Fire is drawn into the fray. With a larger cast and a more complex canvas than Graceling, the story begins slowly and takes its time establishing itself. Fire's path is not immediately clear, and although full of action, her quest is largely internal. While the plotting is well done, there are a few quibbles about Cashore's world-building and about the role of a major character from Graceling, Leck. But, this is Fire's story, and readers will fall in love with her as she struggles with her pivotal role in the war effort as well as her complex relationships with her oldest friend and lover, Archer; with Prince Brigan, whose mind is closed to her and who becomes central to her life; and with her monster father's fearsome legacy. More adult in tone than Graceling, this marvelous prequel will appeal to older teens, who will not only devour it, but will also love talking about it.--Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City

[Page 99]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

VOYA Reviews 2009 October
Across the mountains from the scene of Cashore's first novel, Graceling (Harcourt, 2008/VOYA October 2008), King Nash of The Dells clings to his throne through the skill of his military commander, younger brother Brigan. The Dells are home to creatures called monsters, which resemble normal animals but for their brilliant coloration and their ability to enter others' minds. The last human monster is Fire, named by her father Cansrel for her startling red hair. Advisor to King Nash's father, Cansrel was widely feared and hated before his death, and Fire is glad to grow up quietly, far from the capital. But war is about to engulf Fire as the desperate king, beset by rivals, enlists her mind-controlling skills in his kingdom's defense. Complicating matters are the jealous protectiveness of Fire's old friend and lover Archer and her attraction to cool, selfcontained Prince Brigan. In the background, somehow influencing events, stands a strange boy with two different-colored eyes and an ominous ability to cloud others' minds. This prequel and companion to Graceling can be read independently. The only crossover character is the boy, whom readers of the previous book will recognize as the future King Leck of Monsea. There is plenty of action, but the focus is on Fire's internal struggle to define herself. Like Graceling heroine Katsa, Fire is a complicated, independent woman with a matter-of-fact attitude toward sex. Older readers will appreciate her difficult path to maturity and look forward to Cashore's projected third book, Bitterblue.--Kathleen Beck. 4Q 4P S Copyright 2009 Voya Reviews.