Angela's Reviews > Fire

Fire by Kristin Cashore
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Sep 10, 11

bookshelves: 2009, books-i-own, fantasy, love-or-romance, monsters-and-creatures, pub-penguin, read-in-2010
Read from September 05 to 09, 2011

SECOND READ: Sept 2011
Listening to the audio book. I was in need of something new and this was on the shelf when I was browsing at the library.

I was curious if my thoughts would change upon a second reading, but my first impression was only strengthened. A compelling story, but still felt like I was being hit over the head with a personal message that kept pulling me out of the story.

FIRST READ: Jan 18-20 2010
This was a great story and different from GRACELING. After reading the synopsis of the book, I could immediately imagine how it connected to GRACELING and even reminded me that there were questions about a certain character that were never really addressed. So I was interested to get those answers (hopefully) in FIRE.

HOWEVER ... I felt like both GRACELING and FIRE were very didactic and that there was an agenda to the characters and the story. And it really bugged me -- I was surprised by how much. So much so that I was distracted throughout this book by it and couldn't see through it most of the time. But I kept reading because I still wanted to know what was going to happen next in the story.

Now that I'm done with this book, I am interested for the last book (called BITTERBLUE, from what I can tell) to see how these two different stories come together. I think I have an idea how GRACELING and FIRE will fit together for the last book, but as of yet I haven't even seen so much as a synopsis yet so I have no idea how close my guess is to the truth.

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Comments (showing 1-19 of 19) (19 new)

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Nikki I'll be curious to know which you like better. I liked Graceling better, but I've talked to lots of people who prefer Fire.

Angela I've only read the prologue so far and it seems interesting. It definitely reminded me that there were lots of big unanswered questions in GRACELING that I hadn't realized at the end of that book.

message 3: by Stacey (new) - added it

Stacey I definitely see the didactic message in them. The thing I think is interesting is if you read her q&a stuff on her blog, she talks about this issue. I guess she says that she isn't necisarrily anti-marriage, but you don't have to have all your characters be pro-marriage in a book. Um yeah.

message 4: by Angela (last edited Jan 21, 2010 10:39AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Angela It was more than just the anti-marriage message for me ... although, in FIRE I had a hard time finding any marriages that were ultimately portrayed as good in any way.

A lot of it falls under a general feminism agenda where a woman can take care of herself by herself and doesn't need anyone (especially not a man) in any way unless it pleases her to do so ... because it certainly isn't a necessity. I love strong female characters and role models and I think they are important. But everyone needs someone. You can't do everything by yourself no matter what gender you are. And putting someone else down does not make you a stronger or better person. But even still, my chafing with these stories is more than that. I'm just still trying to put the feelings into words.

I don't know why, but I just couldn't get past it. And I've definitely read other books that were preachy or definitely had an agenda to the story but could overlook it. I've also read books where the views/opinions/actions of the characters are not things I agree with or find attractive or enticing, yet while reading the book I was able to suspend "ME" and found myself wrapped up in this different reality of thought. But it just didn't happen this time. The issue is not that I disagree with the morals of the characters or the world, but that it was written is such a way that as a reader I couldn't suspend myself and my beliefs and accept these characters and this world for what it was ... fiction and a fantasy. And I'm usually really good at overlooking a lot while I'm reading.

Anyway ... I think these books would make for an interesting book club discussion. And I think I'd like to try re-reading them again to see how a 2nd reading changes or strengthens my initial reaction.

message 5: by Dialma (new) - added it

Dialma I felt the same way after reading Graceling, and to be honest , even when I'm still wanting to get questions answered, I don't know if I'm going to read the other two books. I probably will, because once I start reading a book series, it would bug me until I finish it, but definitely not rushing over to get Fire at the bookstore. I do understand that authors have the right to write their characters the way they want them to be, but for me, the author try to push way too much, her views of the world, to the point that some of the characters choices, don't feel like the natural course of action to me. Oh well, I guess once I read Fire, we should get together and discuss more in detail the books. I do miss talking to you about our reads!

Angela Yes, Dialma! Read it and then come over and talk with me about it. :)

Nikki It's funny to me that Kristin Cashore seems shocked by readers' reactions to the marriage issue. She had to KNOW she was doing it twice in a row. And like you said, maybe she was going for strong female characters, or maybe she felt both Fire and Katsa had personal reasons for not wanting to marry. But hello! Their main reason had to do with not wanting children, yet there's plenty of sex in the books. How does marriage automatically equal children? It seemed like in Fire's case, at least, the more natural conclusion would be to marry but refuse to have children. I couldn't understand why marriage itself was an issue.

message 8: by Stacey (new) - added it

Stacey I haven't read Fire yet, but I thought it was interesting that Katsa had this solution for marriage, realized she couldn't live happily without having Po in her life, but still refused to marry him.

The thing I think is very interesting about Kristin Cashore is she seems to write such loaded material, but then plays it off like she didn't.

The whole Raffin and Bann thing in Graceling! She flat out refuses to answer the question.

I have issues with that. I think the author had intent and the reader is allowed to interpret yes, but sometimes the author just needs to tell us what the heck they are thinking.

At the same time I have issues with authors coming out and saying things that I disagree with in my reading of the book - ie. JK Rowling and Dumbledore.

But with Raffin and Bann if she just told me the truth, I can see it working either way.

Like I said, I'm torn. But it does surprise me that she is willing to say her views on strong women and marriage so clearly, but not answer another less important characterization question...

Heather Hamilton I am leaning heavily toward making Graceling my book choice for book club. So I will only throw my two cents in here to see if I can get you all riled up some more. Also note that I have yet to read Fire.

I didn't see Graceling as a didacticism on marriage, and was surprised to see so many people criticizing it based purely on the marriage issue. I was just as bummed as the rest about her unwillingness to commit, but given her history and the "times", was completely empathetic. Here is the paragraph from my Graceling review:

"Katsa is such an outcast and tomboy-ish, irritated when she is treated with any amount of respect or chivalry. I find it amusing. I notice that many poor reviews of this book focus on Katsa's absolute disavowal of marriage. One mentioned that her acceptance of marriage would have better fit in her progression toward self-assurance. I disagree. Having her history -- dead parents, and being raised by her uncle King as an assassin/thug -- would have royally screwed up anyone's concept of social conventions. And the idea that true love would suddenly just fix that, in the span of a year, is ridiculous."

What do you think?

Angela re: Nikki

Admittedly, I have only done a cursory google search on Cashore and trying to find some Q&A's with her. It wasn't a very promising search so I haven't been able to get to know the author very well or her reaction to the books. So it's interesting that you say she is surprised by the strong reaction to the marriage issue. Almost every review/reaction to the book that I've read so far has commented on that issue (either upset about or in favor of the storyline), which I also found interesting. Very rarely do so many people comment about the very same issue in a book (especially an issue that is not absolutely central to the plot). I think it's just the tip of the real issue(s) and the easiest to latch on to and say, "that didn't really sit right with me". Men & marriage really aren't treated very well in these books, especially the more I look at it. It's just more subtle. And maybe that was my problem ... the anti-marriage thing felt very much like it was in my face in neon lights rather than a natural progression of the character resulting from their history and experience. But the neon sign has made me start to look beyond and see other things as well.

I interpreted Katsa & Fire wanting to avoid the "bondage" of marriage and the subjugating of oneself to a man and his whims, desires, etc. more than wanting to avoid having children. Yes, I think they saw children as a kind of inevitable result of marriage, but not the primary reason to avoid it. And at the end of FIRE, Fire makes a comment about the people accepting her as XXXXX someday (Nikki, you should know what I mean, but I don't want spoil Stacey, Dialma and Heather too much!) that made me think maybe she might be considering marriage in the future? But I can't be sure of myself by the end of that book to know if I was reading that right.

Stacey & Heather, your comments are awesome too! I just have to take the girls to dance class, but I have responses to your insight! Heather, I think this would be an awesome book club book. It would be cool if we could get someone before or after you to agree to do the 2 books as a pair, just one book per month so we can keep talking. I think FIRE brings a lot more to the table, at least for discussion that would be interesting to hear I think.

message 11: by Nikki (last edited Jan 21, 2010 01:59PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nikki I definitely saw Katsa and Fire as having different reasons for not marrying. I felt like Katsa was more the feminist "bondage" issue you point to and Fire was more about not having kids. Still, I loved Graceling, and my main issue with Fire was that the second-tier bad guys fell totally flat for me. So the marriage thing isn't a hang-up for me, I just think it's odd.

Angela re: Stacey

Good point about the loaded material. I think it is loaded and I wonder how much of it was meant to be controversial? Maybe none of it. Maybe she thought "this is just how the world is to me and no one really cares"? But once you read FIRE I think you'll know that you are on the right track with Raffin and Bann.

And again, it's not so much that Katsa still refuses to marry Po as it is that she is unwilling to give him any sort of commitment. I totally get her background making her a little leary of marriage. And really, as much as I love Po I think it was a little too early to be talking about getting married. I think the marriage proposals throughout GRACELING and FIRE are really mocking. They are not true and honest. In GRACELING there is Raffin who proposes a marriage of convenience, Giddon who proposes because he thinks he loves her but doesn't really know/understand her and his proposal is made out of convenient situation as well and not really out of love and desire to be committed together. Then there's King Randa who wants to "use" her and marrying her off or at least pretending to a courtier that he might consider it is just another way of using Katsa. And when King Randa uses his influence to force that lord to give up one of his daughters? And then there's Po ... again, "I like you so we should get married". Even if a guy that I liked and thought I could someday progress towards marrying proposed in that way I wouldn't have said yes.

Even the marriages that are already in the book are not good. I thought at first to say that Po's parents are the only ones to have a good marriage, but still Po's mom had to "protect" Po from his father by not telling the king about his true grace. And Katsa makes a comment about mothers continually having to protect their children from their fathers. And I'm pretty sure Lek's marriage wasn't all that great for his wife either.

So on the one hand I can see how Katsa is not super wild about the idea of marrying. But she's not willing to admit to even a small amount of commitment. She basically tells Po that when she is with him it's only because she hasn't decided to leave yet, but she will leave and that's just the way it is. And she'll probably come back again, but whenever she feels like it. But when a situation arises that she thinks Po really does need her, she does want to go back to him ... doesn't that imply some sort of commitment even while she adamantly refuses that it does?

But at the same time, are you telling me that there are NO good marriages or relationships anywhere in this world? And then my confusion becomes, is this world supposed to be medieval or modern? Because both rules are in place here and it confuses the heck out of me. I don't think you can be both. You can have a character in a medieval world who has some modern ideas, but I think that character would have to work harder to get other people to understand and agree to her more modern ideas. Whereas in this book some of her more "radical" ideas (at least for mindset of the people in this world) as just accepted for the most part.

Anyway . . . you need to read FIRE and then we need to talk! :)

Angela re: Nikki

Nikki, I agree about the secondary characters and even the villians. I also a little disappointed that a certain evil villian was not a more integral part of the story.

re: Heather

Come borrow FIRE from me and then we should chat! :)

Now I'm just going to shut up so that I don't sound like the crazy person who can't stop arguing a point, even when no one's really sure what the point is any more (especially the crazy person arguing it).

Heather Hamilton re: Speedreader
"She basically tells Po that when she is with him it's only because she hasn't decided to leave yet, but she will leave and that's just the way it is. And she'll probably come back again, but whenever she feels like it. But when a situation arises that she thinks Po really does need her, she does want to go back to him ... doesn't that imply some sort of commitment even while she adamantly refuses that it does?"

I was thinking more that she refused to commit to Po so that he is free to do what he wants. I don't think she is denying her feelings or his. When she knows that she can't commit herself, or she doesn't trust herself to, she cannot justify tying Po down with any level of commitment, however lenient Po tries to make it.

Heather Hamilton I am only 34 on the hold list for Fire. And I have a few books on hold. But if I get there, I will just walk into your house and grab it. Leave the door open! (JK!)

Nikki I ended up doing a blog post about feminist issues in YA lit, and I'd love for you to check it out and comment about what you think:

Angela Thanks for the link, I'll check it out. But I think I'll leave my "crazy" here on this discussion thread! :)

Heather Hamilton GOT FIRE AT THE LIBRARY! I am sure I will be done with it in a week.

Angela I can't wait to hear what you think of it.

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