Fire is a book about a strikingly beautiful young woman with the same name. What sets this tale apart from the stereotypical narrative about drop-dead gorgeous heroines is that Fire’s beauty comes with a price.
It means she is marked as a monster. She can’t go outside because men and violent creatures who roam her world, will lose control when they gilmpse her beauty and attack her in a wild frenzy. It is a powerful metaphor for young women whose identities are often formed through their relationships to their bodies. Fire’s lack of agency is a very real obstacle that readers of all ages will be able to identify with. She must confront danger, loneliness, and her own power if she wants to preserve any chance she has at living a life that she can truly call her own.
Fire is a compelling read, I liked it slightly better than Graceling, which was a welcome shock because I loved Graceling. In Cashore’s second book, a unique prequel (because it contains only one character from the first book and takes place in an adjacent land), the world she’s created is further fleshed out. War is coming. Forests are thick with monsters and outlaws. Court intrigues abound. But it’s the author’s narrative techniques that I most appreciated, along with her crisp language, which propelled the story forward at a rapid click. Fire is also the last of her kind and the sorrow and isolation that comes with this difficult truth is carefully articulated. There is a tangible sadness to Fire’s story that reminded me of Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn.
Our intimate access to Fire’s thoughts and the knowledge we gain about her motivations, her fears and her heartache lead me to truly feel her failures, and ultimately her victory. It was as if I didn’t want to leave Fire alone for a moment, because I was too bound up in her fate. I found myself staying up much too late in the attempt to stay with Fire a little while longer, to see her through her journey. I hope to develop the same kind of affinity with Bitterblue, Cashore’s forthcoming novel.