Estara's Reviews > Hidden Fires

Hidden Fires by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel
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's review
Dec 01, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: ebook, read-in-2010
Recommended to Estara by: I loved the first book, so I expect to love this as well
Read from December 02 to 04, 2010

** spoiler alert ** I read this book in the newly released ebook version as a follow-up to Fires of Nuala and I think that was a good idea. Darame and Sheel from Fires are major characters in this book as well, but there is no infodump about the developments of the previous book, so Darame's expertise or habit of dealing with problems herself come as less of a surprise if you have read the first book.

For me this was "The Further Adventures of Darame and Sheel on Nuala", because - as I will explain - I could not like Garth Kristinsson, the third major viewpoint character.

Darame and Sheel were in fine form. Ten years later there has been a general rise in prosperity for Nuala due to Sheel's nurturing instincts as a healer combined with his position as Atare (feudal overlord of his tribe). Darame has presented him with three children (!) - of whom we do not see much in this book, which is a pity because I liked the little I got quite a lot.

Avis, Sheel's younger sister, has married the outworlder she was in love with in the last book and both have forgiven the older sister Leah for her incitement to fratricide and general murder of the other relatives standing between her and the Atare power (which I accepted, considering Sheel and Avis view on family in the last book, but did think rather too tolerant). Sheel was even able to restore her ability to have children and she is happily pregnant now and quite willing to help out the family in general.

The Atares have decided to try and make Nuala stronger as a planet and Sheel and Darame use their personal charisma and the trust of various factions to form a trade council that deals with the offworlders' trade in concert. This sets up the major conflict in Hidden Fires: the tribes profit from the increased profits but are not as independent from each other as they used to be and the Atare are starting to stand out as the leaders of the council: this does not sit well with every other ruler.

We get lovely peeks into the council room and first hints that someone is trying to sabotage the harmony reached so far. Which is where the antagonist comes in.

Garth Kristinsson lost his free-trading father in some deal gone bad. Money was paid into the family account after the parental death, but before anything could be done with it, his mother had killed herself and the money had been taken out again and only a cryptic message left. Garth has researched the situation since this happened (because he is using space travel that amounts to roughly 100 years real time) and has found two names connected with the original deal, one of them a pseudonym of Darame's.

He follows her trail to Nuala and connects with her very soon, because he looks like his mother and Darame grew up with her. Now - this is supposed to be a grown, if young, man. What Garth comes across to me is an emo teenager: Darame gives him every opportunity to connect with her, even though a former free-trader friend of her mentor has warned her that Garth's interest in her may not be completely harmless. She invites him, she talks to him - but he can only think of the weregild she possibly (!) owes him (he doesn't dare ask her or would not likely trust any answer of hers) and how he can get that without getting himself killed.

Of course that means he gets drafted to the "dark side" of the separatist movement - centred in the person of the current Dielaan heir, Rex - and because he's clever but naive, he comes up with an idea which might lead to the desired result of dissolving the council without any major damage. This is where my disgust starts: on the say-so of strangers and a night of love with one of the conspirators, he trusts their honour to do only what he advised. Of course this isn't the case, the whole deal of stealing antimatter and holding it hostage becomes a theft with murder and a blackmail scheme to destroy Atare and the trinium mines.

The Dielaan royal cousin that actually develops feelings for Garth is not taken seriously. I do understand that as meanwhile her cousin Rex has threatened Garth to keep his mouth shut. But even later, when she tries to help Garth repeatedly, he only goes along because doing otherwise might be more dangerous. She herself is remarkably naive about the result various orders of Rex will have, even when she and Garth already think he has gone too far: they kidnap Darame into the trinium mine.

I missed the competence and viewpoints of the guards in this book. Mailaan does show up as one of the few guaard personalities and seems to have attached herself to Darame mostly, but she gets shunted aside (which does lead to some very high octane derring-do by Darame, nifty to read). I loved the visits to other tribes, in the desert and Dielaan, which Darame makes to solve various problems (she's trying to help Garth, for example).

The climax has Sheel trying to keep the council together and forging closer alliances in answer to Rex's gambit, Darame trying to escape the trillium mine on the one hand and defuse the problem with the volatile anti-matter container on the other hand (the author thanked some mine engineers in the dedication of this edition and it really shows in the mine descriptions which make for fascinating and scary reading). I probably would have forgiven Garth his stupidity and bone-headedness if a certain development of Darame's in that crisis situation couldn't have been directly traced to his help with the plot and his further help of abducting her later on. Since this particular development was irreversible and the loss was permanent, I feel he got off far too lightly.

Read this book for subtle Sheel and powerhouse manipulator Darame, for the tribes and the development of Nuala, for the new insights into the landscape and trade - and bear with the idiot emo immature Rex and Garth. It's still a fun read ^^. And an interesting experiment, having an antagonist as one of three viewpoint characters.
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Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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Katharine Kimbriel I had to create Garth -- the publishing board at Warner might not have let the third book go to press without a younger male POV. I'm glad you don't hate him -- he's pretty naive. Think of him as the type of person that without family supervision would have been devoured by free trading.

I was dealing with a young, male editor -- talented, but not aiming for any females who were not already reading SF!

message 2: by Estara (last edited Dec 17, 2010 05:27AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Estara I sort of could forgive a lot of the blunders he made, because you stressed his naivete in the free-trading area so clearly, but the fact that he blithely assumed that other people would have his standards of honor on the basis of maybe two meetings and one hot night of sex and the end consequence was Darame losing the baby - that I couldn't forgive. Not in a person who is older than 18, heh. At that point I was up in arms and cursing!

But I loved the desert tribe, and the descriptions of Nuala's landscape and Darame and Sheel and the diplomats from those other two tribes who had common sense enough to try and work with Sheel for the betterment of all Nuala. And the action in the mines had me on the edge of my seat (figuratively, I mostly read in bed ^^)

Katharine Kimbriel Remember that Garth IS 18 or so -- he's had maybe a year of experiences since his parents died. Today I'd probably be tempted to beat that horse dead with an angst stick, re-writing the book, but some people bury trauma in their past and won't look at it until they have to.

That's why I kept mentioning the time slip. If the series took off again, there's a character who comes to Nuala -- one of S & D's children goes to Caesarea, becomes a free trader for a while, marries into wealth and has a family. That family produces among them a hot healer, who goes to Nuala because he realizes that other people will always judge him by this one thing. Some characters from HF are still alive when he goes there (trying to write without spoilers!)

The time slip will not be so pronounced when someone figures out how to jump through time and space. But now, there can be big jumps in families, and between families (Sheel's friends all being 40+ Terran years older when he returns, still very young.)

Estara Katharine wrote: "Remember that Garth IS 18 or so -- he's had maybe a year of experiences since his parents died. Today I'd probably be tempted to beat that horse dead with an angst stick, re-writing the book, but ..."

Wow, I so must have read over that information. I thought what with the various jobs he referred to and the 100 years real-time travel, he'd be in his 20s at least.

Katharine Kimbriel I don't remember my exact calculation, but he's been very single-minded -- work to have money for temp. rent and food, jobs that include cold sleep, going in the direction he wanted to go. So he's very young in the way most people mature.

message 6: by Estara (last edited Dec 18, 2010 02:44AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Estara Katharine wrote: "but he's been very single-minded -- work to have money for temp. rent and food, jobs that include cold sleep, going in the direction he wanted to go. So he's very young in the way most people mature. "

Yes, I got that from the text. I have a personal low threshold (even though I was a sheltered, naive youth myself, mostly because I was a bookworm and not very social) for totally confiding in strangers after much too short acquaintance and not taking some precautions if you are aware of danger already (so I was able to accept 16-year-old Meliara's behaviour and Vidanric's caution in Crown Duel with equanimity, but couldn't believe Kim in Coronets & Steel wouldn't at least send a postcard home or an e-mail, notifying her family she was "heading off for adventure with a new met relative and byeeeeee" - I mean they couldn't have stopped her anyway, she was in Europe and they in the US - but if she had vanished they'd at least have had an idea where to start searching!)

Similar my impression of the risks of space travel in your universe, what with cold-sleep and everything, and him having worked for various people on his way following Darame - well I expected more caution out of Garth: I thought his paranoia about Darame was totally understandable (if unfortunate because as a reader of the previous book I had the prior knowledge that it was highly unlikely Darame would have been behind the murder, etc. - so my thought was more "you poor guy, I wonder how Darame will be able to reassure you"), but not opening up so easily to those "strangers".

Katharine Kimbriel Well, Darame is not coarse, generally, so it would be hard for her to suggest that Garth was being lead around by "the little brain" which is the most polite euphemism I can think of offhand. That clearly was a big factor -- instant attraction is a powerful motivator, and young men are astonishingly stupid about always available sex, in my observation. But medical studies now show that adolescents -- males up to 25 or so, women younger -- make decisions in different parts of their brains than mature adults do. They have much less caution, much more black and white thinking. In the sense of "grains of sand, leaves of grass" that is how some great discoveries are made, but also how we lose a few who miscalculate or over-extend.

Garth relaxes a tiny bit at the wrong moment, I think, and then a tiny ball of snow starts moving. Pretty soon there's an avalanche right behind him, about to break loose. And he hasn't a clue what to do about it. He can't go to the local free trader who might be seen as a mentor -- he's Darame's mentor, and they ended up on the same planet and are known associates. He has no family, no longtime friends here. He gets info on the net, but he isn't researching enough history. Otherwise, he might understand where his premises are flawed.

I was a sheltered bookworm, too, so I know a bit about trusting at the wrong time. Part of it is that, on the one hand, Garth knows he can't trust free traders too far -- they are criminals -- but most have a code they follow, if not as rigid as Darame's code. He makes the mistake of thinking that non-traders are not criminals, even though they are unpredictable. Garth forgets, if he ever learned, that "regular people" can be as dangerous, untrustworthy and unpredictable as known criminals.

Estara *nod* But his mind-set costs others more than one life, so good riddance to him!

Katharine Kimbriel Yeah, he's gonna spend time in exile in the south. Like most of his life. But I suspect he will be a true Nualan in the end. Atonement is possible. By your deeds we shall know you.

Estara Katharine wrote: " Atonement is possible. By your deeds we shall know you."

That must be true, I hope.

Katharine Kimbriel Exactly. Garth can never make up for what he helped unleash -- but he can do everything in his power to make sure the war doesn't happen, and when it does, that it ends as swiftly as possible, with as few fatalities as possible. He can make sure no parent loses an innocent child again, not on his watch. He can be a good example, he can teach -- and if necessary he can die for his beliefs.

We have no way of knowing if the universe really keeps score. But we can live like it does, and strive for the scale to be in our favor at the end.

That's the only grace I have for him, since I believe in consequences.

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