You know all the crazy people? What if instead of classifying them as “crazy” or “mentally ill” we just admitted that none of us make a whole lot of sense? What if instead of trying to “normalize” people who have delusions or hallucinations, we went along with it?
I saw the movie Lars and the Real Girl last night (warning, spoilers ahead!). Lars is a young man who has a delusion that a life-sized doll named Bianca is a real person–his girlfriend. And his entire community (of Canadians; I’ve always suspected Canadians were innately superior) understands that he’s decompensating for something. They understand that his relationship with Bianca is a thing that needs to play out, so that Lars can work through some deep and tough crap he’s got buried inside him. The town rallies around Bianca. They take her on outings. They get her volunteering at the hospital. They elect her to the school board. They pretend Bianca is real and they let Lars be crazy.
Yeah, I know this isn’t a realistic approach to mental illness in our society. Lars doesn’t hurt himself or other people, and that’s not the case with all mentally ill people. Lars has a loving brother and sister-in-law to keep an eye on him, and not all people do. Lars is functional in his life– he eats, bathes, goes to work, is productive, and not all people are. BUT. It was such a relief for two hours to watch Lars’ community simply let Lars be. I have always hated the concept of “normal.” It gets into your head and you start beating yourself up for not living up to the standard. Wouldn’t it be awesome if there were just a little more compassion in our society for strangeness? A little bit less expectation that we all turn out a certain way? A recognizition that we all have monsters inside? GO LARS!
Anyway, that’s my simplistic blathering for today. I just added my current foreign publishers to my Contacts and Credits page– check it out if you’re curious. I’ll update the list as new deals occur. 🙂
So, I went to a lovely performance of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake by the Russian National Ballet Theatre this weekend. (In case you don’t know the story: the Evil Dude Rotbart has turned a bunch of Lovely Girls into swans. One night Prince Siegfried goes hunting with his buddies, sees the swans, falls for the Most Beautiful Swan, and professes his undying love. His promise of eternal love breaks Evil Dude Rotbart’s spell and the Most Beautiful Swan and her friends are free to be girls again. But shortly thereafter in a moment of male forgetfulness Prince Siegfried swears his love to Random Girl [who, in his defense, does look an awful lot like the Most Beautiful Swan]. M.B. Swan’s heart is broken and Evil Dude Rotbart’s spell descends back upon her. Then the Prince realizes what he’s done! He fights Evil Dude Rotbart! He wins, killing E.D. Rotbart and freeing M.B. Swan forever! They all live happily ever after!)
Anyway, the scene in which Prince Siegfried goes crossbow hunting with his buddies was really helpful, because now I have a visual of what it looks like when my own uncles, Salvie, Alfio, and Michael, go hunting with their bows. I knew all that stuff about boots and orange vests and flannel-lined jeans was a load of baloney. Next time they go I’ll ask if I can join them, and I’ll wow them with my professionalism by showing up in white tights and a ruffly shirt and pointing my bow randomly at the sky with excellent extension and a soulful expression on my face.
The performance was beautiful; the swans in particular took me into this pleasant otherwordly place. It made me think of the movie “Billy Elliot,” and I remembered that at the end of that movie (don’t worry, not really a spoiler), Billy is all grown up and dancing in a production of Swan Lake that has reversed the sex roles– am I remembering it right? Isn’t Billy playing the role of the Most Beautiful Swan?
And that got me thinking about how neat it would be to write a retelling of Swan Lake that reversed the genders roles. I adore retellings of traditional tales– Robin McKinley, Donna Jo Napoli, Gregory Maguire, I’m about to start A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Dunce– help me out, who else, do any of you have favorites? And, can any of you think of retellings where the gender roles are reversed or played with in some wonderful way?
Food for thought… maybe I can plan to rewrite Swan Lake with reversed gender roles in the year 2019…..
Last summer, when I was struggling quite desperately to complete Fire (a writing lesson learned the hard way: think hard about the lives of your main characters before committing yourself to living inside their heads for two years. If their lives are sad/scary/strange? You’re in for a rough two years), I asked a couple friends for mystery recommendations, because I needed to read books that had no relation whatsoever to what I was writing. I desperately needed distraction. A friend recommended the Brother Cadfael mysteries by Ellis Peters– and I got hooked, fast. What is more comforting than a Benedictine monk in the 1140s who keeps an herb garden, brews medicinal concoctions over a brazier, goes to Compline, Matins and Lauds every day, and solves murder mysteries? I’ll tell you what: nothing. Nothing is more comforting!
Here’s a passage from the one I’m currently reading (tiny bit of background: a married man has just been found murdered in the abbey infirmary; Hugh is the sheriff):
“And I,” said Hugh ruefully, “must go break the news to his widow and daughter, and make report to the lord abbot, and a sorry errand that will be. Murder in his own enclave!”(from DeadMan’s Ransom)
Hee hee ho ho! Come on, Hugh. Do you really think the lord abbot is going to be fazed by a murder in his enclave? This is, like, the twelfth murder in two years! (You’d be amazed at how often people are murdered in and around Benedictine abbeys. But don’t try it when Brother Cadfael is around. Nothing gets past him.)
Anyway, so, the idea behind reading mysteries, as I said, was to distract me from my writing. But that never works for long, and so now, of course, the mysteries are working on my writer’s brain and I’ve come up with an idea to write a mystery series with a YA protagonist in a magical realism world. Like Nancy Drew, except awesome, and magical realism. And NOT 450 PAGES LONG THESE F#%$ING FANTASIES ARE KILLING ME.
I don’t actually know if I would like writing mysteries. They require a lot of detail-control, and detail-control stresses me out sometimes. We’ll see. I have three other books I want to work on (I mean, besides my current revision of Fire and the writing of Book 3) before I get to this, so I guess I’ll just wait until, umm, the year 2016 and see if I’m still interested in the mystery idea then….
Yeah, whatever, Yoda. If you can show me the use of trying to control anything in my life now that I’m getting a book published, I’ll knit you a little hat with two ear holes to keep your fuzzy little head warm on cold nights in Dagobah.
You know that feeling of being out of control? Your life is spinning around you and battering you back and forth and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, you can do to stop what is happening? The only thing you can do is accept it, give in, let go?
Yeah. Well, I’m not very good at letting go. Lately, I’ve been reacting to the lack of control in my life by trying to control whatever I can. And I’ve just realized it’s part of what’s screwing up my revision of Fire.
A couple days ago my stupendous editor reminded me to stop looking at the revision so mathematically, and instead feel it emotionally. And yikes, she is so right: I’ve been approaching my revision mathematically, trying to build it like a brick house with every brick at the perfect straight angle to the others, no cracks, everything perfectly controlled. Instead of feeling it, and feeding it, and letting it breathe. And the reason I’ve been doing this is that everything in the life of a debut writer is out of control, so I’m trying to control whatever I can, even the words on the page. But I can’t control my writing. It doesn’t thrive that way. If I’m going to figure out this revision, I need to let it go. I need to release it into the universe.
I”m starting to feel like I’m writing about the Force, with all this talk of feeling and releasing things into the universe. Okay, so maybe I was being unfair to Yoda before… he’s basically a little green buddha, after all, and buddhas are all about letting go. And he was talking to Luke at the time, anyway, who was basically a whiny brat. And there was that whole Anakin-loses-control incident that was maybe weighing on his mind…
Maybe I need to learn to control my impulse to control things.
I just spent two weeks writing a new first chapter for Fire, the prequel to Graceling. It was an agonizing process, one of the hardest bits of writing I’ve ever done. Today I gave it to my sister (always my first reader) for feedback. Here’s what she said after reading: “It’s not bad.”
Yeah. So, I bawled for about 15 minutes.
Now, two hours later, I’m feeling much better, because I see that she’s right. It is “not bad.” The whole concept of the new first chapter is “not bad.” And that’s not good enough; it’s the first chapter, for crying out loud; it has to be good; it has to be more than good.
So what to do? I’m going to scrap it and go back to my old first chapter, which was good to begin with. And start the whole frakking revision over again. And try to wrap my head around what really needs to be done here.
You’d think I’d be more upset about all that wasted time. Oddly, I’m not; I’m just relieved it’s over. Sometimes in life you have to do things, do them whole hog, in order to figure out that they’re the wrong things to do. And that makes them the right things. Right?
This site is a work in progress. You’re certainly welcome to read the posts I wrote prior to this one, but what you’ll find is that these are the posts meant to link up with the “quick links” on the side. Some of them are incomplete. Others, you may have linked to already. Continue at your own peril!
The following is my acceptance of the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award for Fire. I presented these remarks on November 22, 2010 at NCTE-ALAN’s annual conference in Orlando, Florida.
One thing I’ve learned from this experience is that it isn’t just that I get to have the joy and pride of winning this award—I also get the joy of sharing it. My parents are here today, as is my sister Catherine. My favorite part of this process was the moment when I got to call my family members and tell them that that Fire had won this award. So I want to thank with all my heart the members of the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award committee for giving me this gift of an opportunity not only to be proud myself but to make my family proud.
I wanted to talk a little about where Fire came from, but I think it’s essentially an impossible thing to do very well—because Fire, like most books, came from too many places to name, it’s wasn’t linear, and also, when you’re writing a book, you’re busy writing it. You’re not stopping to record your process just in case there’s an award acceptance speech in your future; you’re not asking yourself, “Oh, but where did I get that idea?” And so, the truth is that I don’t particularly know or remember how I wrote Fire… But I have isolated six unrelated places Fire came from, and I’m going to share them with all of you today.
NUMBER ONE. On the most practical level, Fire, which was my second book, came from a line in my first book, Graceling. My character Po is telling my character Katsa the story of where a third character, Leck, came from, and Po says to Katsa, “One day, a boy came to court, begging and telling stories in return for food and money. The servants took him in, for he told such wonderful stories—wild stories about a place beyond the seven kingdoms, where monsters come out of the sea and air, and armies burst out of holes in the mountains, and the people are different from anyone we’ve ever known.”
Now, when I wrote that line about the place beyond the seven kingdoms with the monsters and the armies, it was kind of a throwaway line. I needed Leck’s stories to be about something, so why not monsters and armies. But then, for some reason, as I continued to write Graceling, that line stuck with me, and I started asking myself questions. What does that mean, monsters coming out of the sea and air, what are these monsters? How can an army burst out of a mountain? Leck—the character of Leck—is sort of a pathological liar, so it would be normal to assume that he made up those stories—but I started to ask myself, what if he didn’t? What if this is the one thing he was telling the truth about? What if this place really exists, and thirty-some years ago, Leck was there as a boy? I knew I didn’t want to write a book with Leck as a main character, because that would make for the most disturbing year of my life… but I already had this other person in my head, this young woman who was kind of knocking on the door of my mind and trying to get my attention… and when I combined this woman with the notion of this other land, she fit there. She fit in that land. And that’s one of the ways Fire started to grow.
NUMBER TWO. Fire came from—or, at least, a little corner of Fire came from—a scene in the third Lord of the Rings movie, Return of the King. It’s that scene where Gandalf is riding his horse across a plain at the head of Faramir’s army, his robes and his white hair are flying, and he’s holding his staff before him in the air—and light is coming from his staff, shining into the sky—and that light fends off these terrifying winged creatures that are the mounts of the Nazgul who are trying to kill Gandalf and Faramir’s army. I saw that scene, with the flowing hair and the staff of light and the flying monsters, and the beauty and the power of it imprinted itself in my brain, and I said to myself, “My girl could do that. She could be that person on that horse, defending an army.” I didn’t know how to make that happen, or when, or where, or how to make it unique. But I knew I wanted to try it. If you’ve read Fire, then maybe you remember the scene in which Fire protects her enemies, essentially, from raptor monsters, by riding out on her horse and drawing the monsters to herself with the sight of her hair. That was my Gandalf moment.
NUMBER THREE. Fire came from my experience as a woman navigating a world in which women are so often, and so instantly sometimes, objectified, their personhood dismissed, and their value measured against some sort of weird, messed-up, unhealthy standard of attractiveness. Fire came from a lot of questions I and maybe some of you have. Like, for example, why can’t a woman walk down the street wearing tight pants and a low-cut top with her cleavage hanging out, why can’t she do this with no shame, no apology, no embarrassment, no need to hide herself—and have no men disrespect her, and no women back-stab or trash-talk her? Why can’t she do that if she wants to? And on the other extreme, why can’t a woman walk down the street in a burqa, completely covered except for her eyes, without being told that she’s repressed, or victimized, or hiding from the world? What if she’s wearing it because she wants to, because she prefers to be judged by what she says and does, not by what she looks like, and her dress is a statement of that? Couldn’t that be just as strong an expression of self-esteem as the woman who dresses like a street walker and doesn’t apologize for it? Why do we expect women to be all things at once, but only if they follow very specific societal rules about how to do that, and when and where, and operate within very particular margins? There was a line in the Los Angeles Times’s review of Fire that read, “Having created an exaggeration of female experience in Fire’s monster form, Cashore can be brutally honest about the realities of girls’ lives.” That line made me so happy, because my desire to do just that is one of the places Fire came from.
NUMBER FOUR. Fire came from a ratty piece of paper that I referred to fairly often as I was writing. The title at the top of this piece of paper read, “Page of Important Points,” and it was basically a list of feelings that I wanted this book to convey. I’m a big one for throwing things away once I no longer need them, but luckily, I hung onto this piece of paper, so I can tell you some of the words that are written on it. It says: “Monsters are ruthless… weather and terrain are wild. Insomnia. Trust and mistrust. Lies. Loss, desolation, waste, the bleakness of the future, death, childlessness, loneliness, solitude, the burden of guilt, the damage of humiliation.”
Now, I hope those of you who haven’t read Fire and were considering doing so haven’t changed your minds now on the grounds that it’s apparently the most depressing book ever written, and this strikes me as an appropriate moment to remind you that one of the criteria for the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award is that it be a book that offers hope. I am particularly touched and gratified that the award committee found the hope in my dark tale. I think there’s humor in it, too, and lightness—I hope my readers are able to find those things in there.
NUMBER FIVE. Fire came from an evening my sister Catherine and I spent once piling tinsel on top of our heads and then admiring the beeeyootiful effect in the mirror. My sister Catherine is my best friend. Fire is dedicated to her. And she and I have very different… taste… in Christmas decorations. My taste in Christmas decorations pretty much runs to no decorations at all, whereas I think that if Catherine had the time and resources, she would turn her house into a big, house-sized glitter Santa Claus and you’d have to, like, walk through his mouth to get inside, and as you walked in you’d hear him saying HO-HO-HO! all around you, and inside the house there would be shiny things everywhere. Stars and icicles and jingle bells and tinsel. I think, ideally, that’s how it would be… it would be pretty spectacular.
So. One day, I went to Catherine, and I said, “Catherine, do you have any tinsel?” So Catherine went away for a few minutes, and then she came back with, like, mountains of tinsel in red, green, blue, gold, silver, et cetera, which was just what I was hoping she would do. So, I took one of them, let’s say it was the green, and I piled it on top of my head, and I stood in front of the mirror. And then I was like, “Catherine, do you mind trying one?” and I piled the blue tinsel on top of her head, and we admired that for a while, and then we piled the blue on me and the green on her and the silver on me and the gold on her and so on… because the thing is, I was having a really hard time picturing the way the colors would work together with my monsters in Fire. I didn’t know what color hair and eyes to give to my two human monsters, Fire and Cansrel. And Catherine and I have different colored eyes from each other, so we did this tinsel thing because I was trying to see how various bizarre colors of hair look with various colors of eyes. I was trying to make something that was just an idea more solid, so that I could get to an answer. And my sister is a lovely person, but I still think it’s a testament to the powers of my imagination that when we piled red tinsel on her head, I was able to look at my green-eyed sister with her red-tinsel turban and say, Huh. Fire, the most beeeyootiful woman in the Dells, clearly has blood red hair and green eyes.
Catherine, incidentally, didn’t ask me once why we were doing this. I think this is partly because it didn’t matter. It was fun, it was Christmas in June, so who cares. But I’m guessing she also suspected that, like most of my weirder behavior, this had something to do with some book I was thinking about, and she knew, in her wonderful, supportive-without-being-nosy way, not to pry. She knew I’d tell her if I wanted to. I didn’t tell her. I didn’t tell anyone a thing about Fire until it was pretty much done. She put the tinsel away once we’d tried it all, and went back to whatever she’d been doing before, and that was that. I don’t know if she even remembers it, but it’s one of my favorite Fire-related memories.
NUMBER SIX. Fire came from a hard time in my life. It’s hard sometimes to know whether your life becomes dark because the book you’re writing is dark—Fire’s head was not a particularly comfortable head to be stuck in for a year and a half while I was drafting—or whether the book you’re writing becomes dark because your life is dark, but either way, while I was writing Fire, my life was changing in a lot of ways that were beyond my control and that were overwhelming to me, and I was a little bit lost in my own life. Fire was lost in hers, too. I’m not anymore. I’m not lost in my life. And I don’t think Fire is either. I think Fire has found her place. But it’s a very human condition, you know? Every one of us knows what it’s like to be lost.
When I found out that I’d won this award and that there was a cash prize, I consulted my sister Catherine about what I should do with this money. Catherine is a therapist for children in the Jacksonville, Florida school district. She helps children who are lost, of which there are many in many different ways, and in addition to her job, she volunteers at a camp that operates in association with Northeast Florida Community Hospice. It’s a weekend-long camp for young people between the ages of 7 and 17 who are bereaved. Kids who’ve lost a parent or a sibling or loved one of some kind go to this camp and take part in activities to help them remember those they’ve lost, acknowledge their own grief, and take steps toward healing. This camp has the coolest name ever: Camp Healing Powers. It is a program that is about loss but also about hope. With Fire, I was trying to say something about loss and being lost, about grief, and about hope and finding yourself, and choosing life, and that’s why I’ve decided to donate the money I’m receiving today to Camp Healing Powers.
I want to close today with a heartfelt thank you to a few people without whom my book would have been nothing and gone nowhere: my wonderful editor at Dial Books for Young Readers, Kathy Dawson; my wonderful agent, Faye Bender; and my team at Penguin who did such a beautiful job getting this book out into the world and who’ve shown me so much support. I’d also like to thank a few people without whom I would be nothing: my sisters Catherine and Dorothy, and my mother and father, Nedda and Mike Cashore. I’ve had the opportunity to say this before in Q&As and in interviews, but I’ve never had the opportunity, before today, to say it while my parents are present: when I’m feeling discouraged with my writing and just want to give up because it’s too hard, I channel my mother. And when I’m terrified, I channel my father. I believe that if it weren’t for the example of my mother’s particular brand of strength, I never would have finished a book and I never would have tried to get it published. And if it weren’t for the example of my father’s particular brand of strength, I never would have been able to handle the tumult when getting that first book deal took my life and shook it around and turned it upside down. I am so very lucky to have them.
One more big thank you to the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Committee. And finally, thank you to all of you in the audience for being here today to celebrate my book with me!
Happy news from Sweden: Bitterblue is a bestseller there. Many thanks to my devoted Swedish readers! (4/4/13)
Fire has been named a YALSA 2013 Popular Paperback for Young Adults, on the “Boarding Schools to Summer Camps: Leaving Home to Find Yourself” list. I knew that scene where I sent Fire to summer camp would pay off someday. (2/7/13)
Bitterblue has been named to the 2013 Rainbow List, which is a joint project of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table and the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association. Thank you, GLBTRT, for this honor! (1/30/13)
The New York Times has mysteriously changed its mind and decided my books are a series after all; they can now be found on the series bestseller list.
Just popping in on May 12, 2012 to confess that I’ve been terrible at updating the news. There’s just been too much of it, and I’ve been busy with other things. Bitterblue is premiering on the New York Times bestseller list at #2 and the Indie bestseller list at #1; there are lots of reviews I haven’t gotten around to adding to my review page yet; check out the cool site Penguin created for my books, http://gracelingrealm.com/. Now that the tour is over, I’ll hope to start updating a few newsy things on the blog. Thanks for your patience! (5/12/12)
The publisher Čarobna Knjiga in Serbia will publish my books — and make for my 30th foreign language. Yay! (2/18/11)
In Japan, Graceling will be published by Hayakawa. I’m thrilled. :o) (2/2/11)
The news page has been quiet for a while, but here’s a nice addition: in Germany, Fire (Die Flammende) has debuted on the Spiegel adult hardcover bestseller list. Thank you so much to my German readers! (1/20/11)
25 is a nice number. Graceling is in its 25th week on the New York TimesBest Sellers List! (5/1/10)
Fire is a YALSA 2010 Teens’ Top Ten Nomination. Readers across the country, ages twelve to eighteen, will vote online for their favorite titles between August 23 and September 17; the winners will be announced in a webcast featuring WWE Superstars and Divas during Teen Read Week. Thanks, YALSA! (4/17/10)
Fire has been named one of Booklist‘s “Top 10 SF/Fantasy Titles for Youth” (featured in the May 15 issue). (4/17/10)
In Croatia, I will be published by Algoritam. (4/3/10)
Fire has been selected as one of the Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best Books of 2009. Thanks, CPL! (1/8/10)
The latest Horn Book is out and includes my article, “Hot Dog, Katsa!”, which was adapted from the speech I gave at the 2009 Summer Institute at the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College (my grad school alma mater). The article is in the print magazine, of course, but it’s also online. It’s about the (frustrating) rules the writer encounters when writing fantasy. (1/4/10)
Both Fire and Graceling have been hanging out together on the Publishers Weeklybestseller list for the past couple of months. (1/1/10)
Fire is a Cybils finalist in the YA Fantasy/SF category! Thanks, Cybils judges, and congratulations to all the nominees! (1/1/10)
Fire is a Booklist Editors’ Choice for 2009. (11/18/09)
I’ve reorganized my Contacts, Info, and Credits page in an attempt to make it easier for you to find what you’re looking for; info about foreign release dates and purchasing signed copies is now closer to the top. (11/18/09)
Check out the radio show The Author Hour on VoiceAmerica on Thursday, October 22, at 12pm Eastern/9am Pacific, to hear interviews with Diana Gabaldon, Shannon Hale, Meg Cabot, and me. Go here to listen! (The interview will be available online after the show airs.) (10/21/09)
Both Fire and Graceling are on the Indie Bestsellers list at indiebound.org for the week ending October 11, 2009. Thank you, indies, and all those who buy indie! :o) (10/20/09)
I’ve set up an arrangement with my new local indie, Harvard Bookstore, for anyone who wants to purchase signed/personalized copies of the books online. Please see my Contacts, Info, and Credits page for instructions (about half-way down). (10/18/09)
Fire has premiered on the New York Times children’s best seller list at #4 for the week ending October 10, and Graceling is back on the paperback list at #4. Thank you to my fans! (10/14/09)
Fire releases today in the USA and Canada and my tour begins. (10/5/09)
I now have a Vietnamese publisher. Thank you, Nhã Nam! (9/28/09)
My October ’09 tour schedule for the release of Fire is now finalized. See my Appearance Schedule page. Please note that most of my appearances will be school events, not open to the public. Public events are in red. (9/22/09)
I now have a Turkish publisher. Thank you to Pegasus Publishment for taking on my books and for making Turkey my twentieth foreign territory! (9/22/09)
In an attempt to keep my blog posts uncluttered, I began this News page on 9/22/09. All book news from 9/22/09 on is announced here. All book news prior to 9/22/09 is incorporated into blog posts.
“[A] defiantly weird, genre-obliterating book — it all but rewires your brain as you read it. . . . The expansiveness of Cashore’s vision is startling. . . . [Cashore is] a vivid, inclusive writer, and everything serves an empowering subtext: Don’t let anyone tell you who you’re supposed to be, and don’t let anyone tell you what a novel is supposed to be, either.” — The New York Times Book Review
“This excellent, genre-bending title is a great pick for teens looking for something challenging to take them off the well-beaten path of standard YA fare.” — School Library Journal (starred review)
“This is a true tour de force of genre mashups, and it will satisfy a wide range of readers.” — BCCB (starred review)
“Creation, compassion, and choice repeatedly emerge as themes in this ambitious, mind-expanding novel.” — Booklist
“Adventurous readers will find it charming, thought-provoking, and utterly sui generis.” — Kirkus
“Fans will enjoy the worldbuilding in this genre-hopping mystery. . . . [and] imaginative and witty storytelling, along with the novel’s many memorable characters.” — VOYA
“Between the understated richness of the prose and the playfulness of the narrative structure, Jane, Unlimited reminds me of nothing so much as the works of the grande dame of YA fantasy, Diana Wynne Jones. There are few words of higher praise within the genre.” — Vox
“[U]nlike anything I’ve read—mysterious, precise, and possessed of a pure, clear mood that stays intact even through the genre shifts. It’s a wild gift for readers who like books that take them to unexpected places, by unexplored avenues, reminding us of the thrillingly infinite possibilities of story.”—Melissa Albert, B&N Blog, author of Hazelwood
“Some authors can tell a good story; some can write well. Cashore is one of the rare novelists who do both. Thrillingly imagined and beautifully executed, “Bitterblue” stands as a splendid contribution in long literary tradition.” — The New York Times Book Review
“Gorgeous, textured prose is filled with images of strange beauty and restrained horror. It propels an intricate narrative dense with subplots and rich in characters familiar and new. Weaving them together are all the lies: conspiracies and ciphers, fakes and false testimony, spies and thieves, disguises and deceptions, mazes and puzzles. They are lies spun from greed, shame, strategy, fear, duty—even kindness. And it is Bitterblue who, trapped in this net of deceit, must draw upon all her courage, cleverness and ferocious compassion to reveal the truth—and to care for those it shatters. Devastating and heartbreaking… those willing to take the risk will—like Bitterblue—achieve something even more precious: a hopeful beginning.” — Starred, Kirkus Reviews
“A story that transcends the genre with its emotional and philosophical weight.” — Starred, BCCB
“Readers will gallop through [Bitterblue], eager to catch up on beloved characters and hopeful that the Seven Kingdoms can at last find peace. There are astonishing and sometimes heartbreaking discoveries…Buy all three volumes, in multiple copies.” — Starred, VOYA
“Cashore’s imagined world is brilliantly detailed and brimming with vibrant and dynamic characters.” — Starred, School Library Journal
“Fans of…intricate political fantasies will relish this novel of palace intrigue.” — Starred, Publishers Weekly
A New York Times and a Publishers Weekly best seller.
“Cashore’s prose has matured, growing piercing and elegant…. The romance… is tenderly drawn and satisfyingly slow to develop…. political machinations, physical peril, and inventive world-building…. this stand-alone prequel surpasses Cashore’s debut and paves the way for further exploration of a world in which readers will happily immerse themselves.” — Starred, The Horn Book Magazine
“[T]he subtle intrigues of palace plots and even the sickening horrors of open warfare are vehicles to total immersion into Fire’s character…. Fire … tentatively, tenderly, passionately falls in love with a family, a city, a kingdom, with the very contradictions that make them human—and, at the last, with her own place among them. Fresh, hopeful, tragic and glorious.” — Starred, Kirkus Reviews
“[R]eaders can enjoy this novel without having read Graceling…. and enjoy it they will, with its vivid storytelling, strongly realized alternate world, well-drawn characters, convincing fantasy elements, gripping adventure scenes, and memorable love story.” — Starred, Booklist
“[R]eaders will fall in love with [Fire]…. More adult in tone than Graceling, this marvelous prequel will appeal to older teens, who will not only devour it, but will also love talking about it.” — Starred, School Library Journal
“[I]ts themes—embracing your talents and moving out of your parents’ shadow—are similar [to those of Graceling], as is the absorbing quality of Cashore’s prose…. Many twists propel the action…. tension that keeps the pages turning.” — Starred, Publishers Weekly
“Cashore is that rare gifted writer who can give a fantasy novel real depth…. One of the things Cashore does beautifully in Fire is to examine the workings of desire — and not always as it relates to sex…. Having created an exaggeration of female experience in Fire’s monster form, Cashore can be brutally honest about the realities of girls’ lives.” — Los Angeles Times
“There aren’t enough words to describe how awesome this book is.” — Top Pick, Gold Star, Romantic Times
“This elegantly written prequel to the acclaimed “Graceling” blazes with the questions of young adulthood: Who am I? How do I stand in relation to my parents? What choices will define my life? Seeing those concerns played out by Fire… and a host of memorable minor characters proves as compelling as the richly detailed medieval backdrop, the tension between battling lords and the mysterious presence of [a] strange-eyed… character common to both novels.” — The Washington Post
“As a fantasy writer, Cashore sets herself apart with a passionate descriptive style… The book is also commendably realistic –almost cynical — about romance… Cashore can also write action scenes… a good addition to the young adult bookshelf.” — The New York Times Book Review
“The bold adventure, a realistic fantasy world, well-rounded characters, a strong female protagonist, and superb writing make Fire a compelling read and one sure to win many honors.” — Starred, Library Media Connections
On the 2009 Amelia Bloomer List (Recommended Feminist Literature for Birth through 18). On the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books 2009 Blue Ribbon list. A New York Times and a Publishers Weekly best seller.
“[An] eccentric and absorbing first novel…. [Katsa] overturns every biological reality and cultural stereotype of feminine weakness, which is a large part of her charm. She is the girl’s dream of female power unloosed…. Cashore plays with the idea of awkwardness, how at a certain age gifts and talents are burdens, how they make it impossible to feel comfortable in the world…. somehow in all of this struggle and resistance Cashore offers an acute portrayal of sexual awakening: ambivalent, rageful, exhilarating, wistful in turns…. “Graceling”… offers a perfect parable of adolescence, as its characters struggle with turbulent emotions they must learn to control…. The teenage characters in this novel, like some we may know in life, grow into their graces. They realize that their monstrous individuality is not so monstrous after all.” — The New York Times Book Review
“An assured fantasy debut…. Katsa is an ideal adolescent heroine, simultaneously confident of her strengths yet unsure of her place in the world. Every character is crafted with the same meticulous devotion to human comprehensibility…. In a tale filled with graphic violence and subtle heartbreak, gentle passion and savage kindness, matter-of-fact heroics and bleak beauty, no defeat is ever total and no triumph comes without cost. Grace-full, in every sense.” — Starred, Kirkus Reviews
“[The] exquisitely drawn romance… will slake the thirst of Twilight fans, but one measure of this novel’s achievements lies in its broad appeal. Tamora Pierce fans will embrace the take-charge heroine; there’s also enough political intrigue to recommend it to readers of Megan Whalen Turner’s Attolia trilogy. And while adult readers, too, will enjoy the author’s originality, the writing is perfectly pitched at teens struggling to put their own talents to good use. With this riveting debut, Cashore has set the bar exceedingly high.” — Starred, Publisher’s Weekly
“Cashore treats readers to compelling and eminently likable characters and a story that draws them in from the first paragraph…. Cashore’s style is exemplary…. This is gorgeous storytelling: exciting, stirring, and accessible. Fantasy and romance readers will be thrilled.” — Starred, School Library Journal
“Cashore… creates believable characters with enough depth, subtlety, and experience to satisfy older readers…. An impressive first novel. — Starred, Booklist
“With a butt-kicking but emotionally vulnerable heroine, [Graceling] should appeal to fans of recent girl-power urban fantasies as well as readers who’ve graduated from Tamora Pierce’s Tortall series.” — The Horn Book Magazine