Friday, September 7, 2012

Book Spotlight: Fire (The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy, Book 2) by Kristin Cashore

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Welcome back, Beardies!

Thanks for joining me for the second installment in my series of posts on Kristin Cashore’s Seven Kingdoms Trilogy. Today, we’re discussing Fire, the second book in the trilogy. First published in 2009, Fire is a prequel set forty years before the events of Graceling, in a neighboring kingdom called the Dells. Fire has only one character in common with Graceling, but as unorthodox as this may seem, it is a stroke of genius for the trilogy as a whole.






The Premise:
Across an impassible mountain range from the Seven Kingdoms lies the Dells, a kingdom populated by both humans and monsters. Fire is the last of her kind, a human-shaped monster, arrestingly beautiful, skilled in archery and music, but taught to hate and fear herself by her father. Like all monsters, Fire can read and control the thoughts of others, but she finds the ability repulsive and uses it as little as possible. The Dells, however, stands on the brink of civil war, and the King’s men arrive to take Fire to King City to serve as a spy and interrogator. On her journey, she forms unlikely alliances that allow her to reconcile her human and monstrous natures and explore feelings she never knew she had.

Gems for Writers:
Races. The monster races are the centerpiece of Fire. Nearly every species in our world has a monster counterpart. These creatures all look more or less the same in our world, except gloriously colorful. All monsters are physically attractive and have the power to control minds. From bugs to birds to fish and even a human, the various monster species are described in perfect detail, bringing them beautifully to life. Among humans, monsters are as despised for their bloodthirstiness and mind control abilities as they are in demand for their beautiful pelts and feathers, which are used as decorations in the homes and clothing of the wealthy. Fire is proof positive that fantasy isn’t all vampires and zombies—unconventional races make for unforgettable world-building. For more on races, please check out Joshua’s post on this topic.

Conflict. Conflict is the core of any story, and a great story will contain not just one conflict, but rather a series of conflicts that play off each other like ripples in a pond, driving the plot forward. Kristin Cashore weaves an intricate web of conflict in Fire. Fire is the last of her kind and her father taught her to hate herself and fear her powers, so the human side of her is constantly at war with her monstrous nature. As civil unrest grows in the Dells, however, the King demands Fire’s services, forcing her to use the powers she so despises. Further conflict arises when Fire begins to fall for the commander of the Army, Prince Brigan, who may die in the looming war.

Setting and Culture. Physical description of setting is important, but for world-building to be solid, cultural norms within a fantasy world must also be explained. Kristin Cashore fully explores the culture of the Dells. Culture is a vital part of Dellian life. Fire is revered for her skill with the violin, and the reader learns that medicine in the Dells is highly advanced. Other cultural norms such as funeral customs are also established, and the frontispiece of the book contains a Dellian mourning poem. Descriptions of culture help to establish the setting, but also allow the reader to be fully immersed in the lives of the characters.

Rating:


Conclusion:
Kristin Cashore continues spectacular world-building in Fire, adding unforgettable characters and expanding her setting. Though it does not continue the story as started in Graceling in a conventional sense, Fire is a welcome addition to the trilogy and leaves the reader eager to return to the world of the Seven Kingdoms.


Happy Reading and Happy Scribing,


***Fire (2009), by Kristin Cashore, is published by and copyright Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. It is available in stores, online, and from your local public library.
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