Fire by Kristin Cashore, my first DNF

This is a very strange article to write, but in a way it feels inevitable. It’s impossible to like each and every story you come across as a reviewer. However there are certain principles in stories that make for good storytelling. Even these can be rather subjective but to ignore this feels pretty disingenuous. I feel like this is worth discussing now that I’ve come across a book where I just could not bring myself to finish it.

Fire by Kristin Cashore was a book that I had rather high expectations for. I had read Graceling by Kristin Cashore as well and I had loved that book. It was a story about a teenage girl with a curse/gift known as a Grace and it’s a really cool concept that is explored indepth throughout the story. It’s kind of like X-Men but in a fantasy world. When I picked up Fire from my local library, the synopsis gave me hope for another exciting story around a driven and interesting character with a curse and a haunted past.

I think that was the part that disappointed me most.

Fire, the protagonist, did not interest me at all after reading about 120 pages in. Now normally when I read a book and I don’t feel fond of the main character, I still push through to finish. Shadow and Bone is an example of this as I really didn’t end up caring for Alina. However I started out liking her but slowly grew to despise her as a character. This was not the case with Fire. Fire is part monster but not in the traditional sense. It’s weird but I wish it was closer to the traditional sense. Monster, in this world, is something discolored. Rabbits that have strange colors like violet or neon green are called monsters despite still being rabbits. For fire, it appeared to be only her hair that had a radiant color palette to it. The difference here, however, is that monsters are irresistible to people and especially other monsters and this is Fire’s problem in the story. All the men want her and all the women are jealous of her. Even though it’s a bit more complex, it’s hard not to see Fire’s dilemma as being too attractive. 120 pages in and I went from curious how this would turn out to rather bored with the concept.

Fire feels very much a passive character and this isn’t necessarily a bad concept. Passive characters where the story happens to them can make for an interesting story to see how they react. But I think early on the main character(s) need to have a kind of call to action just as in a Hero’s Journey. There has to be something driving them and to me it felt like Fire wasn’t aiming for anything other than to be left alone. It’s hard to be invested in a character that feels rather lackluster.  Again this is a very subjective thing and I think other people may not see this as an issue. But for me this is too big of an issue for me to look past.

There were other issues that I felt stopped me from finishing this book. The slow paced plot, the rather uninteresting supporting cast, and the rather large amount of exposition in the story all served to push me away. But I think the fact that I just could not find myself interested in the protagonist was the biggest roadblock for me. I think it’s important to note though that I don’t necessarily think this is a poorly written book. I haven’t finished it which is why I’m not giving it a rating as I normally would. I don’t feel like it would be appropriate to review a book I haven’t finished. However I also realize my time is important and forcing myself to read a book I’m not interested in would bias my opinion towards it.

I may try to read the book again at another time when I have a bit more patience to push through a book with a character I don’t feel invested in. My views on storytelling may change later down the road and a book like this might really appeal to me, however at the moment I just don’t see it. I’m hoping I don’t run into any more situations of “DNF” as I don’t like the idea of not finishing a book. I do believe every story is worth reading, however not every book is appropriate for every reader and with my first DNF, I think I finally realized that.

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