Monday, September 28, 2009

Review: Fire by Kristin Cashore

Tags: YA, fantasy, politics, feminism, beauty

Rating: 5 out of 5


In the country of the Dells, monsters—brilliantly colored creatures with irresistible allure—roam, seduce, and terrify. 17-year-old Fire is the last human monster, born at a time when politics are deceptive and mistrust abounds. Her incredible beauty and her ability to manipulate others’ thoughts earns her admirers and enemies alike, but her life truly changes when she’s drawn out of her secluded rural home and into the capitol city to help the king discover information about the lords who are plotting an uprising. It was one thing to hide in seclusion from her father’s terrible legacy, but it’s another to use her ability in a whole other manner…


When an author’s second novel far surpasses her already critically acclaimed debut novel, you know there’s something special going on. Kristin Cashore is such an author, and FIRE is such a book. Not since Robin McKinley has an author written so convincingly of a politically charged fantasy world.

The protagonist, Fire, has the cursed gift of absolute beauty and attractiveness, and many times during the course of the book, she brings up the question, “How does gender factor into the reaction to beauty?” For Fire constantly encounters men who want to do unspeakable things to her at the very sight of her, while her equally attractive father had people falling at his feet, eager to do his bidding. Call it fantasy for sure, but FIRE contains a lot of gender politics that could make for interesting discussions, even in the classroom.

Kristin Cashore deftly unfolds Fire’s past into her present story, which helps readers slowly understand and appreciate her judgments. Even so, FIRE is an intensely emotional read, especially at the end. Its ability to affect me so strongly is one of the things I like best about it, though. The romance between Fire and Brigan is less developed than the one between Katsa and Po in GRACELING, but Kristin gives depth to all the characters, not simply the protagonist and her love interest, and I’d much rather have three-dimensionality in all my characters than in just the two main ones.

It’s difficult to say this for sure right now, but if you had to read only one hard fantasy YA book this year, FIRE just might be the one. Its blend of fantasy, romance, political intrigue, and feminism will appeal to all fantasy lovers, and then some.

Similar Authors
Robin McKinley
Suzanne Collins
Shannon Hale
Herbie Brennan (The Faerie Wars)
Philip Pullman

Writing: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Plot: 5/5

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 4 out of 5 - So shiny and fantastical, perfect for a soon-to-be-bestselling fantasy novel and perfect as the companion novel to Graceling.

Penguin / Oct. 5, 2009 / Hardcover / $17.99


  1. Oh My! " second novel far surpasses her already critically acclaimed debut novel" spoke volumes to me!

    I was feeling a bit apprehensive about reading Fire. Why? When I love a book as much as I did with Graceling then that raises the bar for the next book. KWIM?

    Anyways, yours is the second review that has sung praises for Fire. I am glad as that has put my mind at ease. I look forward to the reading of Fire.

  2. I loved Graceling, so I really want to read this book. I'm glad that you thought it lived up to it's expectations, and I'll definitely be buying it once it comes out! (:

  3. It sounds a fascinating blend, and an interesting question about gender and beauty. I've not read the first but will look out for both.

  4. I'm paranoid about book reviews (well, ones that I've been looking forward too for a very long time...had a bad experience with Catching Fire this year), so I didn't read yours, but I DID see the rating, and I just wanted to say...OMG. Can't wait. Yay! :)

  5. Ooh, I enjoyed your review. I'd completely missed the gender question in the ways Cansriel's beauty affected people compared to the way Fire's did. Good insight!

  6. Yippee! 5/5. That's what I like to hear. Can't wait for the Australian release.

  7. You know what I think about it! :)

  8. I read the sample chapter a few weeks ago and liked it, but now your review has made me really want to read this one!

  9. now THIS is right up my alley !

  10. Wonderful review, Steph. You've got me really intrigued about the gender politics issue. I absolutely need to read this one.

  11. Really interesting -- I love the idea that gender politics are a part of a YA fantasy book. I liked Graceling a lot and there was some of that there, but I think it would be cool to see how it works out more in this book.

    I'm on hold for this book at the library -- I can't wait for it to come!

  12. Ecstacies of delight! A review copy arrived for me today, huzzah!

  13. Wow, what a review! I liked, but didn't love Graceling, so maybe I'll love Catching Fire!

  14. I loved this book and your review is spot-on! Such a wonderful tribute to the book.

  15. I could not have imagined a better cover either, I loved the color, the effects and the eyes! The beginning, the ending and the story were all amazing. How she came up with all this, I have no idea. Needless to say, that whatever your reading preferences are, you have to read this book. I highly recommend it.


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