Hey there folks! Glad you could make it to the third week of our celebration of indie books, this time featuring Fire Sower by Callie Kanno. While the first two books were good, they were also both toned in a way that was meant to examine and play with genres and the expectations therein. I decided it was time for a more straightforward book, one that tried to be true to its genre rather than deconstruct it. In Fire Sower, I found a story set in a seemingly simple fantasy world with a big emphasis on characters, and that was exactly what I was looking for.
Where It Shines
As I said before, the book does a good job of making the tale about its characters, specifically the MC Idris. You’ve got a classic premise of a simple farmer chosen for greatness by forces beyond his control, so the premise isn’t trying to be ground-breaking, but that’s okay because it’s not really about that. The real story is Idris having to adjust to the new world where he finds himself, trying to find a balance between embracing the new and remembering his roots, as well as figuring out if this is even the life he truly wants to live. A big emphasis is put on relationships through the tale, and I don’t mean the romantic kind. Idris has to find familiar ground with his fellow Royal Guards, the higher-ups, and even his own weapon. None of which come easily, either. This isn't a “one good talk and we’re fine now” kind of tale, it’s about small steps, some of which go backward, and building trust a little at a time.
Also worth a mention: the plot keeps you guessing. I mentioned above that the premise is fantasy-standard, and really that’s true for most of the elements in the story as a whole. Yet the way they’re used and mixed about is often surprising. There were several times I thought I knew which direction the tale would unfold based on how these things usually went, only to find myself surprised as it went a whole other way. And those new directions never felt unnatural, they were well-grounded in the thoughts and personalities of the characters that had been established.
Where it Could Improve
Despite the twists and turns, the overall plot still does feel a little too familiar in a lot of places. It stays true to the fantasy roots, and while adding a lot in terms of character and relationships, does very little unique with the world as a whole. Maybe the author is playing a long game here, planning for a series and intending to expand the setting slowly, revealing its own gems a piece at a time, but for their first outing the world as a whole felt generic. There were a few tidbits with potential, however they came later and were packed against more interesting plot points so it was easy to miss them.
Additionally, while the character work on the main cast was excellent, the side characters weren’t nearly as well developed. It’s a bit strange to go from dealing with complex, well-rounded characters to ones that may as well have their roles written across their forehead. Had the author not done such a good job on the prime cast it may not have stood out so glaringly, but the difference between the quality of characterization was wide enough to be jarring on some occasions. This is especially true in terms of the antagonists, who were more plot props than people. We saw nothing compelling, redeeming, or interesting in them, they’re just assholes who are clearly meant to be evil. It didn’t weaken this book tremendously, but if Fire Sower goes for a full series I hope it finds a more compelling villain to pull things along.
If you want a classic fantasy with a big emphasis on characters and a plot where you won’t see every turn coming, Fire Sower is a good fit for you. It also does an excellent job of properly ending the book while still leaving room for a series rather than cutting off without warning, an issue you’ve all heard me rant about at length. Thankfully, this one had a satisfying conclusion that really brought with it a sense of closure, along with curiosity of what else awaited the characters.
You can read Fire Sower for yourself here, or check out the author’s website. It seems there will be more books in the series to come, so if you really like it don’t forget to check back for the sequel. And I look forward to seeing you all next week for the final book in our month of indie celebration!