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I read these books a while ago, and I've checked them out from the library a few times since because I liked them so much. Upon rereading them recently, I've decided to type out my thoughts, because I'm probably not going to have anyone to say these things to because most of my friends are too old for YA. This is not a review, so much of a list of the things that I liked.



I like both books equally, but in different ways. Graceling is a good old-fashioned adventure story, for me, and I love Katsa, Po, and Bitterblue, and I think Raffin and Bann are totally sleeping together, and it's a very satisfying, feel-good read.

Fire I like for entirely different reasons. My favorite bits of Graceling that I like to reread are the bits where Katsa faces down Randa, when she kills Leck, when she reunites with Po. It's the moments of victory and happiness (and romance).

The bits of Fire I reread are: the scene where Archer reveals to everyone that Fire killed her father, and the scene where she finds out Archer is dead. In short, I reread the scenes that make me cry.

I enjoy Graceling from a plot standpoint. I enjoy Fire because of the characters. To be honest, the plot in Fire kind of bores me, and the plot for me is just vehicle for me to enjoy the characters. So let's talk about characters.

I love the characters in Fire because they are flawed. The more flawed they are, the more I like them. For example, Brigan bores me. I'm obviously a fan of him as Fire's love interest and all, but he's so noble and reasonable and perfect that I don't really care for him. In fact, when it was revealed that he was Brocker's real son, I hated him briefly. (I still really don't like Brocker, but I'll get to that later.)

Fire obviously is flawed, and some of her greatest flaws are her greatest strengths, and her greatest strengths are sometimes her greatest flaws. She is our main character, of course, so I imagine any reader would like her, so I'm not going to go in much detail about her.

My second favorite character, oddly enough, is Cansrel. I don't think he's a good person -- he's obviously a monster in every sense of the word. The only person he ever loved, arguably, was his daughter. (I actually think he also loved Nax, it's just that the love wasn't always expressed in the best of ways, or else why would have been so depressed when Nax died?) His love for his daughter was such that he saw nothing wrong with having her dog killed when it attacked her. I think he was probably more than a little astonished that he could produce something so inherently good (well, not inherently good, but with a moral sense so different from his, certainly).

I love that Fire killed her father, that she was torn up about it, because he truly did love her and was good to her in the best ways he knew how and yet he still had to die and she was the only one to do it. She loved her father and she killed him and possibly the only one who understood, or will ever understand, is Archer (even if he threw it on her face -- but even when he threw it in her face, he knew it would hurt her because he knew how much she cared about her father). I certainly don't think Brocker really understood what he was asking of her, or rather he understood intellectually and he was there for her and everything but I don't think he empathized with her the same way Archer did. (Probably Archer was also hyper-aware that his biological father was also someone that needed to be killed?) And I don't think Brigan will ever understand because Brigan sees Cansrel as an enemy and rightly so, and he can try to understand Fire's love for Cansrel, but it won't be the same. So Fire had to kill someone she loved, and yet nobody (except Archer) will ever understand why the act was so tragic, because they all wanted him to die so badly.

The angst behind that, doing what was best for the world, and the guilt that she lives with, the dreams that she has, these are the reasons I love Cansrel. (I mean, love the idea of Cansrel. I don't like him, I just love the idea of the evil person who's evil to everyone but loves this one person and does good things for them that doesn't make up for his/her evilness; I actually read a story online with a similar character in a grandfather/granddaughter situation that wasn't pulled off anywhere near as well. I just love that we can hate him, but also understand Fire's love for him.) Because he was so absolutely flawed, but he had that one good thing in his life, and that one good thing killed him so absolutely. The trust he had for his daughter, the protectiveness. I wonder how he felt that Brocker, who was undeniably an enemy, had such a large influence on his daughter's life. He obviously didn't seem to mind enough to cut off their contact when eh could have. And how did he feel that the byproduct of the rape he ordered (or well, that Nax ordered but I'm sure he came up with the idea) was such close friends with his daughter? That probably delighted him in an ironic way.

Anyway, Cansrel-as-a-favorite-character is more a result of his relationship with Fire than the result of his own actions.

My other favorite character is Archer (as you may have guessed from some gushing earlier). Archer is not a great person, but he tries hard. I love that as a child, he understood how much Fire loved her father and tried to argue that she not do it. I love that he is such a good friend to Fire and is there for her and has sex with her to comfort her. Obviously, he is not a very good lover and he and Fire have a very dysfunctional relationship and he was way jealous and way over-protective and way crazy, and I am SO not a fan of him-as-boyfriend (he makes a lot of dick choices and sleeps with the wrong people willy-nilly), but I like that he has Fire's best interests at heart (even if he goes about it in entirely the wrong way and tries to control Fire's life and keep her locked up and safe).

I am obviously not as much a fan of his poor treatment of Fire and his attempts to control her life, but I am a fan of what I'm sure is his daily angst, that Brocker is not his father and that I'm sure he's always wondering about Brocker's love for him (even though Brocker does indeed obviously love him). He's so insecure, and cares so much, and when I think about the way he punched that prisoner and how he probably realized the man who was trying to kill Fire was his biological father ... the only real friend he's had his whole life is Fire, and he ruined that over long years of sleeping with her and so he has to go off and fix things on his own and then the way he DIES ... Fire's grief when she realizes that he died because she taught him to be to strong-minded, that if he'd never met her he would have fallen under Leck's spell and been allowed to live ... it makes me cry each time.

Another flawed character I have a fondness for is Nash. I didn't like him very much the first time I read the book, but you know, he tries really hard. He's aware that he's not a strong-willed man, and he must know that everyone thinks his brother would be a better king. He tries, though. He tries to get Fire to teach him self-control, he eventually learns to get over her, and I imagine he probably also hates Nax, and spends so much of his life wondering whether he'll turn out like Nax, watching or signs of weakness like that in himself. He's how I think Gregor (from LMB's Vorkosiverse) might have turned out in different circumstances, without the right upbringing.


Characters I am NOT fond of:

As I mentioned, I don't like Brigan. It's not that I dislike him, I just find him boring. He has virtually no flaws, he's a great love interest, the end. I mean, Hanna is amazingly awesomely cute and adorable. Brigan's nice. Whatever.

I don't like Brocker. In fact, I dislike him. I mean, he's decent guy and I like him for most of the novel, but I hate the revelation. I hate that he is Brigan's father and these are the reasons why.

First, I don't like infidelity. And he cheated on his wife. But you know, that I can kind of be okay with because this is pseudo-feudal so he and his wife might not have had a loving relationship anyway and possibly they were okay with each other fooling around (although I wouldn't imagine this is so if Fire is so offended on Aliss's behalf).

But second, he was stupid about his infidelity. If you're going to cheat on your wife, don't do it with the Queen when you KNOW the King is notoriously bad/insane/evil/weak and you know that if he finds out the consequences are dire. I mean, if I were Aliss, I would be SO pissed. My husband cheated on me, by sleeping with the Queen, to the point where he loses his livelihood and I get raped as punishment. Brocker really should have known better than to do what he did, and his wife paid the price for it. (Well, also he did too because they smashed his legs and everything.)

And third, I hate that he is Brigan's father because Brigan is better than Archer, and given that Brigan is his true son and Archer is not even his son, I know that he will have compared them in his head, whether he wants to or not. I don't like that Brigan is a better man than Archer, and that Brigan is his blood-son where Archer is not. And I am always grateful that Archer never knew, because while Fire thinks he would have benefited from the calming influence of an older brother, she's only seen the royal siblings, who have a surprisingly functional relationship considering their varied parentage. If Archer had known, given his natural insecurities, he would have eternally measured himself up to Brigan and come up short and would have spent the rest of his life miserable.


I can't wait until Bitterblue comes out!
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