I can’t really do a review of a book I’ve read so many times, I’ve lost count. But I can tell you all the moments, both Big and Small (that’s a book reference, see?), that continue to blow me away, moments that I’m always looking forward to reading. Obviously, spoilers abound. This should be fun 🙂
Number 10: “What surprised Fire was that he shot her by accident.” (Pg 19)
I have always considered this to be one of the best openings for a narrative in all YA fantasy. Nothing else could have set the tone or introduced us to the character more cleverly than how Cashore starts Fire. Additionally, Fire’s ability to handle the situation even while losing a lot of blood shows her mettle.
Number 9: “Go safely, go safely…” (Pg 397)
This is the scene where Brigan comes to see her after Fire has been rescued from Leck, and Fire does not wish to see him, yet does not wish him to leave. The conflicted emotions just compounds the aura of grief she was feeling, and the thought is followed by a sharp, bitter understanding: “What a silly, empty thing it was to say to anyone, anywhere.” Especially to a man riding off to war.
Number 8: “[Your sadness] makes my own sadness less frightening.” (Pg 456)
This would not be an easy conversation, but their ability to talk it out is one of the things that made their relationship work so well. As Fire said earlier in the book, she is capable of gruesome things, same as Brigan; hers just looks less ugly. They work well together. And despite the heaviness of the scene, I love that Cashore injects some light-heartedness as Brigan pauses Fire’s train of thought and nearly trips over two cats and a dog just so he can yell at his guards not to interrupt him unless the world was ending, just so that he could give Fire his undivided attention. Twas sweet.
Number 7: “For she had lit a blazing fire for Archer once before, but she had never even lit a candle for Cansrel.” (Pg 461)
This is less sweet, but still a poignant, important moment. Fire has been wrestling with the death of her father for the entire length of the book. He was an evil man, violent and dangerous, but he was still her father. It was a nice moment of closure for her as she mourned him, and only appropriate that it be a small moment, unnoticed by the others in the midst of Archer’s funeral rites, that she say goodbye to her father’s memory in this small, quiet fashion.
Number 6: “We must keep Archer around–he’s quite a useful chap, really, isn’t he?” (Pg 297)
This particular scene comes after the announcement of two pregnancies, both of which where Archer is the father. Fire, wanting dangerously to have a baby of her own but knowing how terrible that is, wound up making it so she could not have kids anymore, and it was something that hurt her deeply. The scene is a lovely one because Brigan had just deciphered that his half-sister was pregnant, was fairly certain that Archer was the father, and had just expressed his annoyance at the whole thing. Yet, upon learning Fire’s decision, he still made light of the Archer situation to make her feel better.
Number 5: “And then, three kindnesses.” (Pg 141)
Ah, the breaking of Fire’s fiddle. Incidentally, this happens not too long after Brocker tells Brigan that Fire killed her own father to save the Dells, a fact she does not yet know. A man came up and smashed Fire’s fiddle, having been provoked by her playing the previous night. Brigan’s kindnesses: his shared concern for her horse, securing a handkerchief for Fire while she cried over the loss of the fiddle–one of the few gifts from Cansrel–and then, she asked him not to hit the man who’d done it, and Brigan did not. That he should be so angry on her behalf in the first place is touching, and that he should respect her enough not to lash out on her behalf when she asks him not to is even more so.
Number 4: “Unfortunately, the company of bandits…[was] led by a man who, if shaved, and dressed at the height of fashion… might bear a resemblance to the king’s steward, Welkley.” (Pg 279)
This is probably one of the more humorous scenes in the entire book, and I think it’s quite obvious Cashore had a lot of fun writing it. Welkley and other men loyal to the crown kidnap the traitor Captain Hart, doing it in a way that Mydogg and Gentian won’t know that their plans have been compromised. The whole staging of Hart’s death was just the best. Welkley is something of an underrated character.
Number 3: “But I’m not Cansrel.” (Pg 222)
It’s really no surprise that Fire has been hesitant to use her powers after seeing the damage the damage her father caused with it. Her character arc, becoming determined to use her abilities in whatever way she saw fit, making sure no one ever pressured her into going against her moral code, is really impressive and inspiring. She stopped letting fear of her father dictate how she lived her own life.
Number 2: “My life is mine to risk, as yours is yours.” (Pg 94)
If Fire‘s opening line introduced us to Fire, this scene defined her. That she put her life in danger to prevent the deaths of Brigan, Nash, and the pitiful number of soldiers they had with them at the time hinted to the reader how far she was willing to go, and had already gone, to protect the future of her kingdom. It’s also doubly ironic, because the story has already established Brigan to have a habit of throwing himself wherever the danger is biggest. They make quite a pair.
Number 1: “Eyes on me, Welkley.” (Pg 168)
Obviously, the nature of Fire’s power means people gape and stare quite often. This is not a particularly important moment in the books, but I can’t help but love the offhand, brisk way Brigan insists that Fire is always treated with respect. He did it in his reactions to his troops when they fought over her on the ride to the capital, he did it here with Welkley (and this is the funnier moment of the two). Better yet, it gets a callback later in the book when a sleepy Brigan snarls the same words to his squire, Ander, who’s come bearing an urgent message. Maybe I’m just biased towards Brigan. I’m not going to apologize. 😉
So there you have it. Obviously, there were many others that couldn’t make it on this list. There’s so many good moments that it was hard to pick and choose. Parents aren’t supposed to pick favorite kids, and that’s what this felt like. Well, regardless of the challenge, I will probably be making similar lists in the future when I reread Graceling and Bitterblue. What can I say? I enjoy making my own life hard from time to time, especially for worthy causes such as this. Fellow Cashore lovers, I’d love to know your own favorite moments from this book in the comments!