Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Fire by Kristin Cashore

A very creepy opening for this story. It features a child born with a type of magical mutation, a graceling ability that's condemned by the society. The father should turn the child over to the royal authorities but is unable to, raised his son, and runs off with the boy when he's old enough to start to manifest openly. Over the first ten pages it becomes increasingly clear that his adoration for the child is driven by the child's grace that allows him to manipulate emotions. Fifteen pages in the son, more grown, coldly murders his father when he starts to show signs of resisting his control; growing up with that type of power meant he never had to learn restraint or respect for others' feelings making him an overgrown child, which is to say a sociopath.

The larger book doesn't follow up on this tone very much. The plot connects eventually, with the evil magic child shown grown as a villain in decline, but overall it's a much different style for the book. I don't know that I would have liked the book if it kept in the style that seemed promised by the opening--that degree of power leveled with a lack of conscience could easily turn disgusting and overly alienating. Still, I have to say that the larger story we are given isn't too my taste either, it being strangely lacking in force and far less vividly written than the lead-in. There's some effective character work and vivid moral debates given, but the book turned increasingly to what seemed an overly routine nuts and bolts establishment of the fantasy story. Political intrigue, growth of characters into emotional and magical maturity, assassination threats as part of the general menace to the realm.

The book had a lot of engaging and productive elements, but in the end I struggled a bit to finish the last two hundred pages, and several months after reading it I have to struggle even more to recall main elements of the plot. That constitutes a significant double strike against this work as an effective book, although it has enough compelling moments and potential that I may seek out the author again.

Better than: The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Worse than: The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan

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