Friday, March 30, 2018

Review: FIRE by Kristin Cashore

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

After hearing so much that Fire was better than Graceling, I was looking forward to reading it. However, I must be of the minority because I didn’t care much for Fire. I found it to be quite slow with a generic plotline, no subplots, and generally unlikeable characters.

The story of Fire is one you’ve heard many times before: there is unrest in the kingdom, and rebels threaten to kill the king and take his place, so the king’s armies have to fight to defend the throne in a largescale battle in the end. This story takes place about thirty-five years before Graceling in a different land with different characters, so the books don’t have to be read in order. In fact, I think reading Fire first would actually make more sense, seeing as it’s the prequel.

First off, let’s talk about our protagonist, Fire, who reminded me too much of another protagonist I just read about. Katsa and Fire are both strong female leads, but their similarities are more than coincidental; in fact, I was getting frustrated with how much Fire seemed to be based on Katsa. I love strong female characters, but there’s more than one way to write them, and Cashore seemed to fill in the mold with both of these women. Both Katsa and Fire have a superhuman ability, Katsa having the Grace of fighting and Fire having the ability to control people’s thoughts. Both women are well-known in their land for their uniqueness and therefore must be protected from those who wish to do them harm because many men seek to hurt each of them. Both are very closely related to the royal line. Both dote “feminist” qualities and refuse to ever be married even though they each have a lover who they care for dearly and they enjoy the presence of children. Both are viewed as fierce but are actually quite gentle in character. I liked Katsa in Graceling, but I was too irritated with Fire to really care much about her.

Almost all the characters in Fire were so awful that it made for quite the disappointing reading experience. I disliked Leck so much in book one that I wasn’t happy to see him again in book two. I liked getting his backstory in the prologue, but that scene really would have been more impactful in Graceling. Fire’s romantic partner, Archer, is a vile, insufferable man, and I hated him. What a wanker. I don’t know why Fire ever liked him or how she was able to degrade herself to sleep with him for so long. I don’t think I’ve ever disliked a love interest as strongly as I did Archer. Our secondary love interest, Prince Brigan, is so boring, although he is worlds better than Archer as far as character goes. He’s a typical prince with no memorable qualities, and I’ll probably forget about him by next week. Honestly, there are so many unlikeable characters in this book that I just couldn’t wait to finish reading it. I wanted to be done with all of them. The only person I actually liked was the little girl Hanna, and she hardly made any appearances in the story.

Another aspect of the book I didn’t like was the amount of infidelity. I was honestly just disgusted. The only purpose of it was to “further the suspense” by revealing that so-and-so is actually this person’s father, or that character is actually related to this other character. With how often this happened in this book, I’m pretty sure everyone’s related to everyone at this point.

All the big revelations had no bearing on me because I just didn’t care about the characters or where the plot was going. Honestly, Fire could have died and I wouldn’t have been surprised or upset. Life happens. As it is, the book passed quite slowly for me. I had to resort to the audiobook for most of the story because I couldn’t force myself to pick up the physical copy and read. I will say that the narrator did a good job on the audiobook; it was the story itself that I didn’t like.

For some reason, the concept of “monsters” in this land just didn’t sit right with me. It sounded way too immature to be in a young adult book; it’s a concept that would fit better in a children’s story. In the Dells, monsters look just like regular people or animals, but they are brightly colored. For example, you could have a purple rabbit or a blue horse or a green lion. Fire herself is a human monster, as seen by her flame-colored hair. But these creatures don’t act any different from regular humans or regular animals; the only difference is their color. How does that make them monsters?

This book was so heavy on the politics that they became the story. It is easy to guess, very early on, where the plot is going and how it will end. Most of the plot was consumed with war plans and strategies, questioning prisoners, Fire sitting around in the castle. I like political intrigue in my fantasy books, but I don’t like a book that’s entirely based on the politics. There was basically no other story happening.

Overall, I didn’t really care for Fire, and I thought it was too similar to Graceling but a lot weaker. I’m going to give Bitterblue a try because I’m hoping that the story will wrap up nicely with our original characters that I liked much better, but this book really didn’t feel necessary at all.

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