I picked this up because Stephanie Meyer, author of the Twilight series and The Host, recommended it on her website. Since I have enjoyed all Meyer's...moreI picked this up because Stephanie Meyer, author of the Twilight series and The Host, recommended it on her website. Since I have enjoyed all Meyer's books - and love how she writes emotion - I decided to give it a go. It took me a few attempts to get into the book, but it is an engaging, lovely story with infinitely likable characters. It also offers a great bird's-eye view of the English attitude and sentiments immediately following WWII. I learned a lot and loved the simple, understated, and - at times - quite funny characters. (less)
I think this is Voight's best book. It's like a beautiful fairy tale.
(NOTE: you do not have to read the other Kingdom books to read this - it stands a...moreI think this is Voight's best book. It's like a beautiful fairy tale.
(NOTE: you do not have to read the other Kingdom books to read this - it stands alone)
I've found that some of Voight's other books tend to drag on and cause me to loose interest in the characters and their challenges. I think her writing can sometimes be a bit too removed when what I really want to know is how the characters feel and what they are thinking. This book is more focused. From cover to cover it is a joy to read. Elske is a captivating character and one of my all-time favorites. She is everything that is easy to love: a determined heroine whose very loyalty, honesty and steady purpose achieve miracles. The writing is beautiful, the plot is solid and the characters are intriguing.
I love that the story focuses on friendship and loyalty while the characters face impossible odds together, and yet their relationships (according to status and situation) remain realistic.
And, of course, the touch of romance at the end is beautifully done. Overall, I think this book is nearly perfect. Five stars!
**spoiler alert** I really loved this book. Kristin Cashore is a good author, and I think she will become even better over time, but I had one major d...more**spoiler alert** I really loved this book. Kristin Cashore is a good author, and I think she will become even better over time, but I had one major difficulty with this novel: Fire (our protagonist) insures midway through the book that she will never bear children by voluntarily taking a nasty herb cocktail. Why? Because her children will have the same powers the she, and her father, have – the ability to influence the minds of others. And this is apparently too dangerous to allow. And since she wants children so badly, she must make the decision and ensure that she can never change her mind.
Now this might make sense in another book, but this book is about how great power can corrupt or be used for great good – it is up to each person and it is their decision alone. It is about children not making the mistakes of their fathers, about children righting the wrongs of their fathers; in the end, it is about the goodness in people winning out over evil. Yes, power can corrupt, but what is so beautiful about this story is the way in which the main characters use their power for good and sacrifice themselves over and over out of love. But Fire denies herself children BECAUSE THEY MIGHT BE USED BY OTHERS OR CORRUPTED BY THEIR POWER AND ARE THEREFORE TOO DANGEROUS. Hello? These are exactly the things that she herself triumphs over!!! This is the main theme of the book! Wow! For a heroine who chooses good over evil, how can she have so little faith in her potential children’s ability to make the same decisions? Her decisions are the whole point of the book. Yes, it is hard for her, but that’s life and that is what makes her and the man she loves so appealing: they do what is right even when it is hard. Is she saying she would rather not have been born because the world is dangerous and bad things can happen? Apparently not, because Cashore make it clear that because Fire existed, the man she later loves – and therefore the kingdom – is able to survive; because she exists, she is able to rid the kingdom of her father and fight to make life better for its people. So basically, my point is this: how can a book about good triumphing over evil make a statement like 'people with too much power shouldn’t be brought into this world because they might make the wrong decision'?!?!?
Now this decision is a relatively small part of the book – covering the space of a few pages – but I really couldn’t stop thinking about it after I put the book down. It just doesn’t fit with the rest of the book. Especially as the man Fire falls in love with is so good. It just makes it seem so much more of a shame that they will never have children. What amazing children they could have turned out to be!
Putting this aside, I did like Cashore’s writing style and I found that the book kept me interested (even through several re-reads) and stayed with me long after I put it down. I just wish that Cashore didn’t seem so determined to pit her heroines so definitively against having children (Katsa is the same way in Graceling). As a side note, I also don't like the way marriage seems to have been taken off the table for Cashore's strong heroines so far. Although Fire and Katsa both find great men whom they wish to spend a lifetime with, neither marries. In this book, marriage is not even mentioned. In Graceling, Katsa makes the case that marriage will ruin her life as she cannot be both a wife and what she is. And yet these are both very, very strong women in love with very forward-thinking men who would do nearly anything for them. I'm not intent on seeing all characters in love end their stories with marriage and children, but I don't like the way Cashore's strong heroines act like you have to give up everything else in order to have those things. I don't think it's a good message to send.
Overall, it's worth reading, but keep an open mind. (less)