Stories, thoughts, observations, rants and dribble. Just another of my attempts to keep the interested people informed ...

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Review of Fire by Kristin Cashore

Because I haven't really blogged much lately (like, at all), here is my overly-long review of Kristin Cashore's Fire. Clearly, I wasn't impressed. FireFire by Kristin Cashore
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I started reading this book on the heels of Graceling, which I quite enjoyed (although it definitely had its drawbacks). I was utterly disappointed, and at several points in the book I wondered if I would actually be able to make it through the whole thing. Last night I managed to power through about half of the novel, mostly so I could put it behind me and start on something enjoyable (I know, I know, I just should have let it go).

I didn't mind the general story arc, even though it does drag on a bit. I liked finding out where Leck had come from and that this other land existed across the mountains from the Seven Kingdoms. I didn't mind the characters - even the unlikeable ones are fairly well-written and believable. Some people have said that Fire's relationship with Brigan happened too quickly, but it happened over months, during pre-wartime, so that's fine with me too. What really got to me was the less-than-obvious feminist 'undertones' (or obvious themes) that weren't really discussed but just taken for granted. This is a medieval setting so I'm not shocked and appalled that girls are having sex at 15 (though since this is YA, I don't know that this is appropriate), but the way that no-strings relationships, abortion, and illegitimate children are just assumed, and not addressed, bugs me. Spoilers about abortion and self-sterilisation follow. Mila, when she is already too-far-pregnant, says that she would definitely have taken the abortion drugs if she knew they existed (and she doesn't take this back or address it once her child is born). Fire, with only a short lead up and barely addressing it, decides to make herself sterile, thus ending her race completely. The introduction and the reveal were so sudden and indirect that I had a "Wait, what?!" moment and had to go back and read it again. It was covered in a few short sentences:
"In the middle of December planning, Fire made a choice. She hoped she chose right."
"‘No,’ she said. ‘Don’t fret, it was a small thing. I’m recovered.’ Which was a lie, for her body was sore still and her heart raw as Hanna’s knees. But it was what she hoped would be the truth, eventually."
"And then, because he was holding her hands, she told him all of it, quite simply: how desperately she wanted children, and why she’d decided she mustn’t have them, and how out of fear of changing her mind, she’d arranged quietly, with Clara and Musa’s help, to take the medicines that would make it forever impossible. And she hadn’t recovered, not nearly, for her heart was small and shivering, and it seemed that she couldn’t stop crying."

And then they just go on to say that she must be around babies in the future because she loves them so much! Nothing about how there will never be another monster human, and she decided, alone and as a teenager, that all future monster humans' natures would be too awful to be permitted to live, even though she seems to be turning out different from her father. Nothing's really mentioned about this again. There's also that I really didn't need to hear about Fire's 'monthly bleedings', especially because the blood attracts other monsters so she has to hide inside! I don't think this was really that necessary to the story, and I can't imagine how much more work it would have been for Cashore to work the travel, action, and sex around times when Fire wasn't bleeding.

The other major thing that bothered me was some of the writing and naming of things. I know this is supposed to be for YA readers (although that's questionable), and the protagonist is a teenager, but when Fire starts thinking about a bookshelf's bookshelfness, I nearly put the book down forever. I also really didn't like the term monster for the mind-addling versions of regular animals. I didn't mind the concept, but the word bugged me from the very beginning. She had such a great word in Graceling, why couldn't she have come up with something better than monster lady. I also didn't like Fire's name, which didn't seem to fit with the world. Nobody else was given a noun as a name, except for Archer, and his was a nickname. Then there's Lord Mydogg. I couldn't read this without thinking, "What's up, my dog?" every single time. It was quite distracting. Another small aside was that I found it weird that she named the months of the year the same names we do. Why would they have July and August, etc?

All in all, this book did not make me want to read the next one in the series, which is a pity. I think that the world she created was generally well fleshed out (although I can't imagine how there were raptor monsters, rats, lions, etc in Fire's world and not in Katsa's). I won't be rushing to read the next Cashore book.

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