This review is also posted on my blog at Thoughts and Pens
. And at Amazon.com
After I finished reading this book, I was inert for 10-15 minutes. I was thinking hard. I’m not quite sure whether to dish out my coveted 4 stars or my regular 3 stars. I was amazed that I enjoyed this book immensely. David Estes surely knows what he’s doing. And I must admit that this has been a real breather after reading a lot of fails for the past 5 consecutive days. Whew!
So Fire Country can basically be considered as a standalone dystopian novel that tells the story of 15 year old Siena. The first thing that caught my attention with this book was the slang. It took me around 10-15 pages to get used to it. Once I was comfortable with the slang usage, I started to enjoy the unfolding of Siena’s story. Perhaps, one of the strongest points of this book was how David developed and narrated the culture of the Heaters (the people of Fire Country). It was definitely excellent touching a lot of sensitive realistic subjects. It was gradually revealed giving me time to contemplate and envision the Heaters way of life without overloading me with a lot of info.
The Heaters culture was a mixture of intrigue, harshness, pain and sadness. If I had been a Heater, I would have killed myself as soon as I’m aware of the world. I can’t bear the thought of women being treated that way. At the same time, it makes me question again whether morality is subjective or not. Fire Country is definitely an eye opener when we speak of culture diversity. The Heater’s way of life is somewhat a perfect depiction of some real cultures out there. It was totally thought provoking and a great reminder that each and every one of us is different not just because of our genes but also because of our way of living.
The world building was generally alright. I managed to be immersed in Siena’s world. There were things though that I wished were explained more. For example, it’s only in the synopsis that it was clearly stated that Fire Country’s air is toxic thereby shortening the Heaters’ lifespan. But in the story, it was simply assumed. My mind is also wondering about the Fire disease. How it came? Where it started? Does the toxic air have anything to do with it? And is Fire Country on Earth? If it is, is it the world after the apocalypse? Other than these, I enjoyed exploring Siena’s village.
Another good thing that I love about this book was the romance. It wasn’t overdone and was generally maintained as an important sub-plot. I love how David gave the smallest of hints that there’s something going on between Siena and Circ until it was finally revealed that the two Younglings were inlove with each other after all.
In addition to that, I love the fight scenes. Not too short, not too long either. It was enough to keep your blood pumping and circulating with excitement.
The things that made me think twice about giving this book a four-star were; 1. Siena, 2. The inconsistency of the tone, 3. The slangs that seemed childish, 4. Some sentimental moments weren’t given the highlight it deserves and 5. The vaguely resolved conflict. Let’s talk first about Siena and the characters.
I love Fire Country’s characters. They were developed and totally relatable. I can feel their pain, their struggles to rise from the misery they’re in. I love Circ even if he wasn’t present for around 50 pages of the book. He is not only gorgeous but he has that easy personality which is so adorable. And Siena’s mother, she’s just WOW! I love her strength and I admire her love. Meanwhile, Siena’s father, Roan, was a great villain. He seemed believable and I can feel my revulsion whenever I think about the things that he’s done. All the other characters have pretty much played their roles well and I can’t find fault.
What I want to discuss exhaustingly is Siena’s character. Until now, I am torn between liking and hating her. There were times that I admire her unrelenting courage at the face of adversity but there were times that I just want to give her a nice, cracking slap. There was a moment in the book wherein she insensibly ran towards a fray of fighting Hunters and Killers to save Circ. I was kind of stumped after reading that. Lack of preservation skills, girl? Are you trying to compete with Bella Swan and the other Mary Sues who unfortunately been populating a lot of our YA stories these days? Further to that, she always subjects herself to endless self-pity. For Pete’s sake, I don’t need telling bajillion of times that you’re scrawny, skinny, runty, klutzy and all that crap. Pull yourself together, girl. As what Circ have said, “Don’t think about it…Don’t even joke about it” because most of the time it makes me sick. There’s also the thing with Perry the Prickler. Really? If it’s done one time, I’m okay with it. But if you’re thinking about the damn Prickler even on highly momentous moments, I’m just going to
And you know what, Sie, I hated it when you think more of Circ than your dead mother. True, you were grieving for both of them but most of the time, you think of Circ. I can’t just understand it because surely you value your mother more than your fallen Circ, wouldn’t you?
Moving forward, let’s discuss the inconsistency of the tone of the moment. There were times that I came across really serious scenes where your heart is already thudding with restlessness and automatically gets disrupted because a joke or a-what ruined it. And the whole thing was transformed into something that’s worthy of a middle grade book scene. *sighs* Have you ever experienced that?
Are you bored now? Just hang on. So we also have the slangs of this book. While I got used to them, it doesn’t mean that I enjoyed them. Wooloo is a funny word, I admit that. But if I read that in a conversation between 2 sixteen years old or adults in a dystopian setting, I can’t help but look at those individuals as Totters. Or worst, I would think that the book was for Midders. This is perhaps another factor that ruined the tone of the moment. I just think that slangs should be inserted in appropriate moments and not loosely used whenever the author feels like it.
Fourth, Siena and Roan’s relationship was a very sensitive one. I hated that it was abruptly remedied at the end. I was expecting that the author would explore the relationship more and didn’t solve it with something really immediate.
And finally, I wasn’t quite convinced with one of conflicts in this book. And how it was resolved. It was somewhat ambiguous but I maybe dense on this one. So, Siena’s father framed up a lot of Heaters to be jailed and eventually, be forced to do some shady work involving the Icers. Apparently, the Icers give wood and other construction materials to the Heaters in exchange for tug meat that is hunted by the latter. But the Icers don’t want to get too much involved with the Heaters because of the Fire disease or something deeper than that. What makes me wonder is that, what’s the connection of risking too many prisoners’ life? They don’t even hunt to increase tug meat production, they just chop wood. So what in the blazes they get imprisoned for? The book explained that the Icers want more Heaters to chop wood but they don’t need wood. What they need is tug meat. And there’s one other thing, why in the world did the Icers give Roan a cure to the Fire disease? Do they get something in return that can be done solely by those prisoners? See, I probably sound like I am not making sense anymore. Even the good ending didn’t manage to satisfyingly answer all these.
Okay. Enough. I am getting myself too worked up with this post. Let me wrap up this review. So besides all my issues with Fire Country, it was an engrossing read with a fresh premise that totally left me impressed to a certain extent.
Note: A free copy was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.