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We Didn’t Start the Fire

Meghan found Kristin Cashore's Fire to be decent, but falling short of the high and swoontastic expectations set by its predecessor, Graceling.

We Didn’t Start the Fire

BOOK REPORT for Fire (Graceling Book 2) by Kristin Cashore

BFF Charm: Yay, For My Own Safety
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: Once Upon A Time
Bonus Factor: Mysterious Loner Dude, Duckie
Relationship Status: It's Not You, It's Me

The Deal:

Fire takes place in the same fantasy world as Cashore's first book, Graceling, although only one character from Graceling appears in the book, which takes place years before Graceling. In the Dells, a land over the mountains and east of the Seven Kingdoms from Graceling, there are creatures called monsters who are more beautiful and compelling versions of regular animals. Monster dogs, monster birds, monster horses, even monster bugs. Fire's a monster human -- she's so beautiful she has to go around with her brilliant hair covered in order to avoid attention. Just looking at her face makes men go crazy, and she can influence people's minds with her own. All monsters can do that to some extent, and Fire's monster father was one of the strongest and cruelest. She struggles with her power, ashamed of it and afraid of being who her father is.

ANYWAY, Fire ends up having to go south to the king's city and try to help save the kingdom. King Nash is in love with her, natch, and his cold, mysterious brother Brigan seems to hate her. Her lifelong-best-friend-with-benefits Archer is also in love with her and insanely jealous of other men, although he can't seem to stop jumping in bed with other women (they're like Joey Potter and Dawson Leery, only with S-E-X). The king and prince have another brother and sister, twins Garan and Clara, who run the kingdom's spy network and enlist fire for her firepower (ha). There's a huge war, and all kinds of nasty murder plots and craziness with really bad bad guys and good guys who have to learn to use their powers for good, not evil.

BFF Charm: Yay, For My Own Safety

Ok, y'all, I wouldn't want to NOT be BFFs with Fire. She is wicked scary, but in a good way if she's on your side. She cares a lot about her friends, and although she spends a crazy amount of time for a 17-yo thinking about having babies*, she's ok. I would want to smack her a bit when she gets too mopey, and luckily several of the other characters in the book do just that.

*What is WITH YA books and babies lately, y'all? Cos the last Twilight book totally squicked me out (for many, many, many reasons, not the least of which was the fact that I was reading it at all) because of that nasty vampire baby shizz, AND because what teen REALLY wants to read about babies and pregnancy? Dude, I AM pregnant and I DON'T WANT to read this stuff. This book has THREE prego ladies plus a girl pining for kids (but monsters always beget monsters, so Fire knows she'll never have babies) and it seriously was way distracting, not in a good way.

P.S. Oh, and did I mention the HORSES? This book is all about horses. And babies. Ok, not really (it's totes about mind control and killing people), but there are a lot of horses in this book, and I'm not into them AT ALL so it was really noticeable.

In fact, if this book could have anti-bonus factors, they'd be babies, horses and periods (oh yeah, it got a little Judy Blume with the period talk, only Margaret Simon didn't have to stay inside or risk being attacked by evil monster raptor birds who were driven crazy by the smell of her blood when she got her period).

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

Ok, Archer and Fire have totally been getting it on for 2 years before the book even begins, and there's not even a drop of sizzle. None. And when Fire really falls in love, it should be all electric and tingly cos it's with the emotionally unavailable guy who seems to hate her (hello? Classic romantic setup here -- Mr. Darcy or Mr. Rochester anyone?) but it's SO not. It's like negative swoon. I mean, I bet they even do it with fuzzy socks on like old married people.

Talky Talk: Once Upon A Time

Cashore's style is similar in this book to her style in Graceling -- very old fashioned and almost detached. In Graceling, though, I got caught up in the story and in Katsa's mind and feelings quickly, and the fairy-tale talk worked. It's too detached here, and it reminded me a lot of those Shannon Hale Goose Girl books -- it's so detached and oldey-worldey that it makes what could be an exciting story a bit boring. And this is exciting in an old-school fairy tale way -- think Brothers Grimm and H.C. Anderson, not Disney. Think evil scary things under the bed, and little girls freezing to death and wicked witches gobbling up children and blood and guts and people bashing other people's faces in. No joke. But somehow there's no intensity.

Bonus Factor: Mysterious Loner Dude

Brigan is all aloof and cold and "let's throw her out to let the monster raptors eat her" with Fire, and as we all know, there's no better way to get a girl's attention than to totally ignore and hate her. Plus he has all these secrets -- some even he doesn't know about -- and a soft, gooey center.

Bonus Factor: Duckie

Archer is a classic Duckie, except he's totally hot and gets all the chicks he wants (except Fire). He's actually a total ass, and not really someone you root for fire to end up with, although you do understand the assiness and kind of feel for him.

Casting Call:

Lauren Ambrose as Fire

Um, so Fire's supposed to be so beautiful you can lose your mind looking at her. And I don't know any actresses like that at all, but this chick has red hair and is pretty and can do the intense-emotional thing, so here you go.

Tim Riggins as Archer

Hot? Check. Cocky? Check. Gets in bed with all the girls? How about an all-access pass for Mr. Riggins, say what?

Paul Wesley as Brigan

He certainly has the trying-to-atone-live-for-good-not-evil thing down. Plus he's a bit broody.

Relationship Status: It's Not You, It's Me

Y'all, I know people LOVED this book. They said it's better than Graceling. I REALLY wanted to love it. I just couldn't get into it. Yes, I read it in 2 days, and I did want to know what happened at the end, and I did like Fire and really liked the supporting characters (Hello, Clara? Call me anytime!) but I just didn't get into it like Graceling. Maybe that's a good thing, since Graceling took all my hopes and dreams and just dropped them in the trash can along with my books in the hall in front of the caf without even a buh-bye, but I don't know. I had hopes for this book, and they didn't even get off the ground. Glad I read it? Sure. But any more than that? Nope.

Meghan Miller's photo About the Author: Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas and writer for Forever Young Adult. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.