A few months ago I read Kristin Cashore’ Graceling. I loved the fantasy world Cashore created, the strong characters, the danger that bubbles below (and above) the surface. Graceling enchanted me, whole and complete from beginning to end, so much so that after I read the last word, I knew I was not yet ready to revisit its world. All around me, however, readers were raving about Cashore’s second novel, Fire, and so finally, expecting to plunge back into the world of Graceling, I began to read.
I had a harder time empathizing with Fire, the heroine of Fire. She appeared to me a passive heroine, floating through the novel, experiencing rather than causing the action around her, engaged mostly with her own inner turmoil. With mind reading abilities and the capability of altering people’s behavior and thoughts, Fire ought to have been a powerful character. And yet because she never fully acknowledges her magic, or because she is always surrounded by her bodyguards, I felt she never fulfilled the promise of her potential.
Though Fire deals with war, it is as calmly written and as introspective as a ride down a tranquil river. I think, after Graceling, I imagined something more like a class five white-water rafting trip. I wonder if I read the novel too quickly, with an eye for the action and plot rather than the intricacies of character development and relationships. Perhaps I ought to have taken the time to enjoy the thought process that turns Fire into the heroine she is. Fire, I think, is a novel to read slowly and carefully, not a race to the end.
Maybe my expectations were at fault, but far from feeling discouraged, I plan to approach Bitterblue, Cashore’s third novel, with fewer beliefs, to luxuriate in her poetic prose and enjoy her perfect building of character and world.