Bookanistas Rec :: FIRE by Kristin Cashore

Today’s Bookanista recommendation is Fire by Kristin Cashore

From Goodreads – It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. King Nash clings to his throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men. This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last human monster. Equally hated and adored, she has the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own. Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, The royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there’s more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom. If only she weren’t afraid of becoming the monster her father was.

Okay, I know I’m a little late to the Fire party.

I’m a huge fan of Graceling and Bitterblue, and I’ve owned a copy of Fire for a few years, but for some reason I was hesitant to pick it up. Palace intrigue, rebel lords, blood thirsty raptors, and “human monsters” were not terms that drummed up a lot of interest in me. Crazy, right? Because after Graceling and Bitterblue, I should have just trusted Kristin Cashore to bring an amazing and affecting story, fantastical or otherwise. That’s exactly what she did with Fire.

Fire is a simpler, quieter story than Graceling and Bitterblue, and I mean that in an incredibly complimentary way. Even though Fire is unnaturally beautiful and capable of influencing minds, I found her easier to connect with than Katsa and Bitterblue. Despite her monster gifts, she’s really quite relatable: sensitive and smart and determined and devoted. She’s terrified of her lineage, of the man her father was, and what her past means in terms of the type of woman she might become. I found this aspect of her personality particularly fascinating.

There’s so much to love about this book: Brigan and his adorable relationship with his daughter, Hanna. The never tiresome descriptions of Fire’s beauty and talent and empathy. The kinship between Nash, Brigan, Clara, and Garan. Fire’s evolving relationships with Roen, Archer, Tess, Brocker, Nash, Hanna, and of course Brigan. Leck’s creepiness, and the way he ties this novel to Graceling and Bitterblue. Fire’s inherent sadness and doubt, how they stem from her childhood with Cansrel, and how she eventually overcomes them. And Fire’s gentleness with and love for Small and the river mare she befriends. In fact, the river mare is responsible for one of my favorite moments in the story, Brigan commenting in his charming, astonished way on the horse who follows Fire home…

As he left to answer the call, she heard him exclaiming in wonderment on the rise. “Rocks, Nash. Is that a river mare out there? Do you see her? Have you ever laid eyes on a more gorgeous creature?

Fire is a dazzling and engaging story, one full of surprising twists and poignant moments that gave me all the feels. Even if fantasy is not your genre of choice, I still recommend giving Fire a read. Kristin Cashore has a talent for creating very real characters  to populate her amazingly fantastical worlds. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!

Don’t forget to check out what my fellow Bookanistas are up to:

Jessica Love falls for THESE BROKEN STARS
by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner

Rebecca Behrens is excited for
THE DESPERATE ADVENTURES OF ZENO & AYLA by Jane Kelley

Christine Fonseca is intrigued by IRON BUTTERFLY by Chanda Hahn

Tracy Banghart is loving PRECIOUS THINGS by Stephanie Parent

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Bookanista Recommendation: BITTERBLUE

Today’s Bookanista recommendation: Bitterblue, by Kristin Cashore

Bitterblue (Graceling Realm, #3)

From GoodreadsEight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past. Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

I made no secret of my love for Kristin Cashore’s Graceling a few months ago. I never thought I’d say this, but I loved Bitterblue even more. This book… It wrecked me in every way possible. It made me laugh, it made me swoon, it made me angry, it broke my heart and, at times, it absolutely horrified me.  I can’t stop thinking about Bitterblue, even now, nearly a week after reading the last page.

Here’s why…

1. I found Bitterblue to be an utterly endearing protagonist. She’s easier to like than Graceling‘s sometimes abrasive Katsa (who I personally have nothing against), and her inner monologues are charming in their openness and honesty. She makes plenty of mistakes, is often naive and occasionally brusque , but she tries with everything in her to be the queen her people need. The opposition (both external and internal) Bitterblue faces over the course of this novel  is monumental–often soul-crushing–and while she reacts appropriately and relateably, she never gives in to the chaos and turmoil that’s thrown at her from every direction. Her determination and absolute loyalty to her kingdom and her friends make her an easy character to root for.

2. The world Kristin Cashore has created within the pages of her Seven Kingdoms books is so thoroughly developed, with such careful attention to detail, it almost feels real. I was completely immersed in the Monsea’s traditional clothing, food, customs, distinct patterns of speech, and expressions (incidentally, can we PLEASE make “Balls!” happen?). From Bitterblue’s lavish rooms, to Leck’s creepy castle artwork, to the seedy streets of Bitterblue City, this story’s world grabbed me and never let go.

3. Bitterblue is a visit with old friends. Katsa, Po, Raffin, Bann, Giddon, and Helda (among others) appear within its pages, which makes it an easy story for this Graceling fan to fall into. Everyone is eight years older, and it’s all kinds of fun to swoon over men in what is technically a YA story. And speaking of men… My love for Prince Po runs deep, but Bitterblue let me in on a whole new side of Lord Giddon. I’ve always favored the literary strong, silent type, and Giddon is those things and beyond. The gentle, caring way he interacts with Bitterblue is lovely, and I’m not-so-secretly hoping for a follow-up novel that offers more of his story.

4. There’s a scene in Bitterblue that takes place in the Lady Queen’s High Court. I won’t give anything away, but I will say that it features Bitterblue, Prince Po, and adorable thief Saf (who’s fantastic) and it is quite possibly my favorite scene in a book EVER. I read it at the park while my daughter played on the monkey bars, and I’m sure the parents in my vicinity thought I was crazy. I could not wipe the grin off my face. Bitterblue is a heavy book with very heavy themes, but this scene… It is so perfectly executed–clever and fun and rife with tension–I read it twice and still couldn’t get enough. (Is it just me? Those who know what I’m talking about: Did you love the High Court scene as much as I did?)

So, Bitterblue. I can’t say enough about this novel. In my humble opinion, it was just about as perfect as a story can get. If you haven’t read it, please, please, PLEASE pick it up soon. It’s most definitely going on my short list of favorites.

Here’s what a few of the other Bookanistas are up to today:

Tracy Banghart revels in GOING TOO FAR

Corrine Jackson wonders at WHY WE BROKE UP

Elana Johnson enjoys INSURGENT

 

Friends, have you read Bitterblue? Did you love it as much as I did?