Rochelle’s #CBR5 Review #6: Fire by Kristen Cashore

Daddy issues, virginity, and being your own person

My life is an apology for the life of my father.

Daddy issues are abundant in this YA fantasy novel.  Fire and her contemporaries have been left a nation on the brink of disaster by their fathers.  The late king was a pleasure seeker and drug addict who allowed his once stable nation to descend into lawlessness.  Fire’s late father was the adviser with too much control over the king, and gloried in the drama and chaos he created.  Fire, the current king and his siblings are struggling to undo the damage left behind.  In a dangerous land, becoming like their fathers is the scariest danger of all.

Fire and her father, Cansrel, were the last two monster humans in the realm.  As monster humans, Fire and her father have a beauty that drives the weak minded to madness, and are able to control the minds of people who do not defend against them.

At the opening of the book, Fire is not a virgin.  At no point in the book is virginity an issue for any character.  With that out of the way, Kashore is able to explore more nuanced sexual politics.  Fire struggles with her oldest friend and lover, Archer.  His protectiveness and friendship frequently cross into possessiveness and jealousy, while he is indiscriminately promiscuous.  The conflict around his promiscuous behavior comes not from a moral value assigned to chastity, but from his carelessness with the emotions of his lovers.   Kashore strips sex of its moral baggage and wades ankle deep into exploring the positive and negative consequences of sex.  I found it tremendously refreshing to spend time with characters who engage honestly with the good and bad of sex.  Other readers have been shocked and piled back on all the moral baggage, accusing the author of a pro-sex, anti-marriage agenda.

 

Sex complicates many of the relationships in the book.  Archer presumes he has a right to more control over Fire than she wants to give him because of their intimate relationship.  But Kashore doesn’t make Archer the stereotypical bad boyfriend.  He is a bad boyfriend, but he and Fire also have a genuine love and friendship that allows them to transcend their conflict.  If there is a bad boyfriend, there must be a good boyfriend.  He is the boyfriend who comes to know and love Fire for who she is and not who he expects or wants her to be.

As is true for all of us, the characters have no control over the parents who created them, the people who raised them, the situation they are born into, or the gifts with which they are born.  Through their choices and actions, they step away from their parentage and choose the kind of person they will be.  Before the book begins, and during the course of the book, Fire takes dramatic actions to separate herself from her father.  But she must also accept who and what she is in order to fully become her own person.

The weakest element of the book is the political intrigue.

Fire is a prequel to Graceling and Bitterblue.  There is one character who overlaps, but saying too much about him spoils the books.  I will say that he, like Cansrel, is A Bad Example.

 

2 thoughts on “Rochelle’s #CBR5 Review #6: Fire by Kristen Cashore

  1. I loved Fire. I liked it even better than Graceling, which I really liked a whole lot. I’ve not been able to bring myself to read Bitterblue yet because I’m worried it’s going to be a disappointment after the first two books.

    • Thanks! I feel the same way. It’s completely ridiculous, but there we are. If you get to it before I do, I will eagerly read your review.

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