Title: The Fire’s Stone
Author: Tanya Huff
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Rating: ★★★☆☆ || 3.0
I’ve probably mentioned this here before, but I love a good cliché. Likewise, I love a good quest fantasy story when it has good characters and good writing. It doesn’t matter how many times I read about a small group of people travelling to destroy/rescue/find a [thing]; if it is well written, I’m probably going to love it.
And that’s why I was so excited to read The Fire’s Stone. Here we have a quest fantasy story, but!, with an aroace female main character and two other male characters who eventually fall in love (both are bisexual/pansexual – also, most people of Ischia are of color). As an aroace person who is also transmasculine, this book seemed to have Written To Make Ren Happy all over it. I was 100% sure I would love it… except I didn’t. Not even a little bit. There are, of course, many reasons for that.
First, it’s not that well written. I’m not a native English speaker and sometimes I think it makes me less demanding/picky with stuff written in English (that is, I’ll cringe and refuse to read something poorly written in Portuguese, but I’m mostly okay with reading something native English speakers would consider poorly written in English), but in The Fire’s Stone the writing was just so… lackluster, I guess? It didn’t bring the story or the characters to life, which is a pity because the characters had a lot of potential.
Second, I’m a firm believer that you can’t divorce the characters from the writing (good writing usually – but not always – comes with good characters & bad writing comes with bad characters, basically) and that’s why I say that the characters in The Fire’s Stone had a lot of potential. They seemed to be well developed & multidimensional, but the writing never gave them the space they needed to become really good characters. The same goes for their relationships, especially the one between Darvish and Aaron – the foundations for something nice are there, but the writing doesn’t do anything with it. It was frustrating.
Finally, there is the issue of the representation. I’m conflicted about Chandra’s aroaceness. I went into this book with the certainty that she was aroace – I found The Fire’s Stone in lists of books with aro/ace characters – but now I’m not even sure if it was the author’s intention to make her aroace. And that changes everything, doesn’t it? But let me explain: Chandra is very vocal about not wanting sex/romance, which obviously can be read as sign that she is asexual and aromantic, but later in the story her lack of interest in relationships/sex is tied with her desire to be a Wizard of the Nine (really powerful wizards that apparently need to be celibate to preserve their powers) and not, you know, with what she really wants.
She can be read as aroace, I guess, especially because she doesn’t seem to be conflicted over the idea of never having sex/a relationship, but I would not recommend this book as a book with an aroace main character. It is not canon and, as far as I know, there is a possibility that she wasn’t even written as aroace (if someone knows if the author has said anything about this, I would love to know).
Needless to say, I was disappointed. About Chandra’s supposed aroaceness & the writing, mainly.
It is a fun & fast book, though. Like I said, the characters have potential and some Chandria-Darvish-Aaron bonding moments were really cute. Plus, the ending was great, so I’d say it’s still worth a read.