Author: Kristin Cashore
Days to read it: ONE NIGHT
Synopsis: Fire is a monster. Her beauty and supernatural powers of attraction are so mesmerizing and craze-inducing to man and beast that she must spend most of her time locked up in her room, away from the uncontrollable waves of emotion that roll her way whenever she steps outside. There are only a few people close to her that can tolerate her presence without losing control of themselves. The only other person who can even come near to understanding her life is her father, who used his powers to wrap everyone he met around his little finger. For like her father, Fire can read and control the thoughts and emotions of those around her but unlike her father, she refuses to become a true monster and give into the temptation of using them. With her father’s past haunting her life, Fire must fight against not only the outward hostility from those who mistrust her because of what she seems to be but also her own fears that the hidden truths of her life make her more monstrous than her father.
Impressions: I am so amazed by this book! You know how I didn’t like Graceling? And I was pretty darn sure I wouldn’t read anymore of Kristin Cashore? I’m glad I second guessed myself and went ahead to read Fire anyway. Boy, am I glad.
I enjoyed Fire a billion times more because the characters and the complexities of their relationships to each other were so much more interesting – especially the Fire vs. Dad dilemma. How gloriously messy and difficult to explain! At the essence of it, we have Fire, who loves her father so very dearly and who clings to him as the only other being in the world that could possibly relate to her special situation. However, Dad has done some terrible things with relish. On the one hand, she and her father live in this special magical world, tucked away from the world regular people inhabit. On the other hand, how can she forgive her father for the monstrous deeds he has committed? How can she forgive her father for enjoying it? There is much to chew on there.
What really drew me into this story was Fire’s voice. There is so much sincerity and rawness to the storytelling. You’d think that a story about the most beautiful woman in the world would be teeth-grindingly painful to read – full of vanity and disdain at uglies, perhaps. But Fire is so likeable for the honesty of her thoughts and feelings. And despite the control she has over the thoughts and emotions of others, she doesn’t look down on others or pity them for being like lambs she could lead in any direction she chose if she wanted. She tries so hard to gain people’s trust, to break the monstrous legacy her father’s shadow cast over the world. But in the end, people seem to always give into their emotions and let her overwhelm them. In the end, she can’t help but feel disappointed, like there is no one in the world who can treat her just like a normal person. She must constantly control the kind of aura she emanates to those around her and, at the end of the day, she is exhausted. Is there no one she can unleash her strange burden on? No one she can trust to be able to handle himself in her presence so that she doesn’t have to creep around in the shadows, a scarf over her head?
Of course, there is someone. This is a romance after all. All I can say is that it is sweet, tragic, hesitant and full-blown passionate all at once. That is all I will say.
I’ve also come to appreciate the world Kristin Cashore has created a lot more. There are raptors in this fantasy-scape – how freakishly cool is that? I’m not sure if the “raptors” described are actually like the raptors I’m thinking of (erm…think Velociraptors but with wings? Or maybe it’s another way to say dragon?), however, the idea is still intriguing. This story is set in a kingdom called the Dells, which is separated by a chain of unpassable mountains from Monsea, which, as I recall, was the backdrop in Graceling. There are also all these random tunnels around the area of the mountains, where people have a tendency to fall between the cracks and disappear, certain people the world would do well without!
Aside from romance and internal conflicts, there is political intrigue and storylines that cross and mix with ideas that were hinted at in Graceling. And there is also a nice twist at the end!
Tonight they were clear and perfect in the sky.
Standing on a rocky patch that rose beyond Cansrel’s monster cages, she bathed in the light of the stars and tried to soak up some of their quiet. Breathing deep, she rubbed the place in her hip that still ached sometimes from an arrow scar that was months old. Always one of the trials of a new wound: All the old wounds liked to rise up and start hurting again, too.
She’d never been injured accidentally before. It was hard to know how to categorize this attack in her mind; it almost seemed funny. She had a dagger scare on one forearm, another on her belly. An arrow gouge from years ago in her back. It was a thing that happened now and then. For every peaceful man, there was a man who wanted to hurt her, even kill her, because she was a gorgeous thing he could not have, or because he’d despised her father. And for every attack that had left a scar there were five or six other attacks she’d managed to stop.
Tooth marks on one wrist: a wolf monster. Claw marks at one shoulder: a raptor monster. Other wounds, too, the small invisible kind. Just this morning, in the town, a man’s hot eyes on her body, and the man’s wife beside him, burning at Fire with jealousy and hatred. Or the monthly humiliation of needing a guard during her woman’s bleedings to protect her from monsters who could smell her blood.
“The attention shouldn’t bother you,” Cansrel would have said. “It should gladden you. Don’t you feel it, the joy of having an effect on everyone and everything simply by being?”
Cansrel had never found any of it humiliating. He’d kept predator monsters as pets – a silvery lavender raptor, a blood-purple mountain lion, a grass-colored bear glinting with gold, the midnight blue leopard with gold spots. He’d underfed them on purpose and walked among their cages, his hair uncovered, scratching his own skin with a knife so that his blood beaded on the surface. It had been one of his favorite things to make his monsters scream and roar and scrape their teeth on the metal bars, wild with their desire for his monster body.
She couldn’t begin to imagine feeling that way, without fear, or shame.
I really like this excerpt – Cansrel, or Fire’s father, is such an interesting character!
Rating: 5 face bites from monster bugs and still beautiful
I’m so glad I didn’t let my prejudices prevent me from reading this book. For the longest time, I avoided this book because it sounded like it could be a tedious read – it is about a girl with unimaginable beauty, after all. And, from what I remembered of Graceling, the whole “People with the beautiful eyes” kind of grated on me. Kristin Cashore has definitely wiggled her way into my heart with this book!