Yes, okay, I know I already made a suggestion for Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, but I figure a lot of people read the book and want something to read after, so here’s another (completely different) suggestion. No, Fire by Kristin Cashore is not dystopian. It’s one of those kings-and-castles books set in a vague medieval-ish time on a different world. But Fire is very much like the world we live in, except they have monsters.
Let’s back up, though. What exactly are the reasons The Hunger Games is so appealing? It should be appalling. The idea of children being forced to kill one and other should not generate interest or support. Yet we like it because we like Katniss, we like Peeta, we want them to win.
I have a pet theory that books are about characters and books that are not about characters are much, much, much harder to get into. Just like tv shows. If you don’t have a favorite character you care enough about to tune in every week, you’re going to drop the show. But if there’s even one person you like…well, that’s what makes even Glee get picked up for a fifth season.
So this recommendation, unlike Stephen King’s The Long Walk, isn’t about the setting or the plot. There’s no dystopia in fire, no strange competition to be taken part in. But if you boil everything down, the characters that made you want to keep reading The Hunger Games are all present and accounted for.
Archer vs. Archer
Why are we so fascinated by bows-and-arrows? From Robin Hood to Legolas to Hawkeye in Avengers, everyone seems to need their own archer in order to be a legitamate team. The Hunger Games had Katniss. Fire actually has a character named Archer, he’s that good with a bow. And our protagonist, Fire, isn’t too shabby either, though she prefers to save her plucking for the violin.
But that’s what you get in Fire. Fire is not Katniss. She’s no one’s idea of a badass. She’s a monster, which here means someone born incredibly beautiful and incredibly deadly. She can read minds, influence thoughts, and she hates it. Her father, also a monster, was the badass in the family, and he drove the kingdom to ruin.
Even though Fire isn’t angsty Katniss, she has her own…well…fire. Archer, her childhood friend and sometimes-lover, is getting more and more jealous by the day, and asks for Fire’s hand in marriage weekly. But she doesn’t chose her friend, who she does love, and the life she knows int he secluded mountains. Even though Fire is afraid of becoming her father, she shows her own badass-ness when she agrees to go to the heart of the kingdom to help the royal family stay the royal family.
So the main similarity here is the strong female protagonist. And where Katniss is so frickin strong that you kind of want her to shut up about it all ready, Fire has a quiet inner strength that makes her impossible not to like. And I hate female characters, as a rule.
But Wait! There’s More!
Your favorite character in The Hunger Games (that reason you tuned in every week) might have been Katniss, but Peeta and Gale and Prim and Finnick were all great too. Personally, I loved Haymitch. Fire has those great side characters, too. There’s Archer, the jealous but good-hearted childhood friend. There’s Brigan, the dark, intelligent, loyal prince. There’s Nash, the king who can’t stop himself from falling in love with Fire over and over again. There’s the royal twins and Fire’s two father’s and a kingdom of intrigue. Basically, if you’re here for the great relationships, you won’t be disappointed.
And did I mention the writing? I don’t usually notice prose, especially in a YA-fantasy book. But every time I real Fire I’m impressed by the quality of writing, which is sad without being melodramatic and beautiful without detracting from the plot.
Here’s the last thing I have to say about this book: I’ve bought it for my two best friends for their birthdays, because if I give it to them they’ll usually read it, and I want the whole world to read this book so we can all talk about it together.