I read the first book in this series, The Cold King, in May 2013. The Cold King is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast and while not the best retellin...moreI read the first book in this series, The Cold King, in May 2013. The Cold King is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast and while not the best retelling I’ve ever read, it was one that I really enjoyed. When I saw that there was a new title available by this author, The Fire King, I knew that it had to be a continuation of the world created in The Cold King. There was no question of whether I’d read this new book, it was merely a question of when. I gave the synopsis a cursory read and for some reason I thought it was going to be a Cinderella retelling. It was a bit of a surprise when I started the book and realised that what I had here was Snow White, not Cinderella!
It should be noted that although not a continuation of the first book, I would recommend reading The Cold King before The Fire King as the characters from the first book do make a reappearance and certain plot points from that book are brought up again but not expanded on enough for them to make sense without prior knowledge of what their roles are.
We first meet our new character, Katiyana (Snow White) when she’s at that awkward age between childhood and the teen years. She’s waiting for her father’s new bride, Sula, to arrive and teach her how to be a real Lady. However, when Sula finally arrives, she’s not the new mother that Katiyana expected – she’s cold, distant, and insults Katiyana - putting her down at every opportunity. A couple of years into the marriage, Katiyana’s father, the King, dies unexpectedly, leaving reign of the kingdom in Sula’s hands. Her first act as Queen is to try to have Katiyana executed. With the help of some palace servants, Katiyana escapes into the woods where she lives in a home for females who need to be hidden away from society for whatever reason. Here, she learns and masters many skills alongside the other three girls currently living there until she feels the call to explore beyond the confines of the woods. She enters the territory of King Lian, the Fire King - so named because of his temper - and once he knows who she is, how her past is similar to his own, he is determined to use her in his war against the evil Queen Sula.
The plot is a strange mélange of quick bursts and slow, awkward spreads. For example, Katiyana being captured by Lian’s men and brought before him only to escape and then come back to him of her own accord all goes very quickly. The marriage and political hodgepodge scenes where the characters are in King Valanka’s realms are very drawn out. Even more frustratingly the political part of it doesn’t have any role in the long run, despite being talked up as a very important part of Lian’s plan for ousting Sula.
I liked the new characters introduced in this novel. Katiyana is skittish and socially awkward due to her upbringing, and Lian’s fiery temper is often more than she is able to deal with, leading to a form of fascination between the characters that’s also dangerous. It felt something along the lines of being like an antelope being fascinated with a lion: very dangerous for the antelope as the lion could lash out and hurt it at any time. Despite this comparison, I did like the rapport between the two characters and how their relationship became fleshed out. They both had to face struggles: Katiyana to come to terms with what she wants and what her kingdom needs being very different; Lian to overcome the all-consuming need to avenge the deaths of his loved ones before it destroys his chances of happiness.
My main gripe with the story is that things meander about for a long time in the second half then suddenly around the 93% point there’s this huge rush of events that all happen so fast that there’s no time to let the consequences of various actions / events sink in. Moreover, it means that the story is wrapped up in a whole 1% of the book. I didn’t feel like I’d really received closure to Katiyana and Lian’s story.
What’s more, the story was in need of a good edit. The most annoying thing, for me, was apostrophe use. A lot of the time, the apostrophes were completely ignored so you’d get constructions like “the kings daughter”. This might not seem like a big deal, but I had a lot of emphasis put on the correct use of apostrophes in my private (home) education and it bugs me when they’re not used correctly by people who speak English as their mother tongue.
All in all, I enjoyed The Fire King despite its flaws. This story introduces at least three other female characters (and one province) with hints that they will receive their own stories. I’m very interested in finding out what these will be and following further fairy tale retelling adventures in Amber Jaeger’s fantasy world!(less)