Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thinking with Fire

I adored Graceling (along with a lot of other people including critics), but I have to say I was afraid that the next book would be too similar, so I held off buying and reading it.  Unfortunate repetition happens to a lot of YA authors.  In Fire's favor was the fact that it was not a sequel, always a good sign.  Also in its favor was the fact that it took place in the same world as Graceling but in another part of it where the rules were different.  (Echoes of Tamora  Pierce, hooray!)  I found the world fascinating and was all for more exploration of it.

In Fire, the situation the heroine was in was sort of vaguely similar, and it was destined to be a romance from the beginning, so there was a certain amount of predictability there, but there was also a lot of court intrigue and reversals and hard decisions and bad things happening to lots of people and misunderstandings and nuanced characters and other bits to keep one reading and guessing.  I enjoyed Fire

I must admit that, at first, while I was reading it, I wondered if it sold very well.  Lots of people are sort of Method Readers: they have to find something they can identify with in the main character to keep them reading.  I wonder how many teenaged girls struggle with being so effortlessly, ridiculously beautiful that they literally have to fight off men attracted to them.  The answer is probably not many.  So what would make this book appealing and relevant to them?

I actually found my answer in the responses of those around this main character.  Many wanted her dead because she was by her very nature a temptress (even though she didn't consciously use her powers, especially not for evil) who caused strife, and they were afraid of her potential if she chose to be evil.  They were scared of their weakness and her power over them, so they hated her and tried to confine her or even kill her. 

I found myself remembering that in many places in our real, modern world, women are forced to cover themselves completely and hide away because the men around them believe that their existence and visibility leads men to sin.  Of course, the men can't be expected to control themselves; that would be too hard, so let's blame the women.  It's their nature to tempt men to sin simply by existing, right?  The way the story raised and handled these issues was great.  There wasn't any preaching; no one made speeches they wouldn't have made if they really existed, and I still walked away thoughtful.

I like the conclusions Fire comes to by the end of the novel.  I really do.  She wrestles with her demons and her nature, and she comes to a peace with them.  If only other women in captivity to the weak men around them could have such a hard-fought, hard-won happy ending.  If only all teen girls could successfully fight their way to peace with themselves about their bodies and their responsibility to the people around them.  I hope some of them can.  Maybe reading this book will make them think about it. If not, it's still a great read full of adventure and romance and sacrifice and redemption and good and evil and other things that make a story worth hearing.  I'm looking forward to Cashore's next book.  It's coming out . . . soon, I hope.

Are you more of a "Method Reader" or a total omnivore (omnibibliovore)?

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