If this column has taught you anything, it’s probably that I read a lot of contemporary novels. It’s just what I enjoy the most and find the most comfort in. But sometimes, I’ll make a foray into fantasy and be absolutely blown away, and Rosiee Thor’s “Fire Becomes Her” has done that so spectacularly.
In the fictional world of Candesce, people drink flare to create fire magic. Ingrid Ellis grew up poor — no flare, no magic. But she has a plan to greatness: marry Linden Holt, the son of one of Candesce’s most high-ranking, cruelest politicians, Senator Holt. When Holt announces his campaign for president, Ingrid manages to join his campaign, and in order to win his approval, she agrees to spy on the opposition.
There’s just a few problems standing in her way. One: the idea of actually marrying Linden makes Ingrid sick to her stomach. Two: Senator Holt’s opponent just might have the ideas that Ingrid actually agrees with. And three: a group of rebels against the government might ruin things for everyone.
And maybe it’s just because I’m a contemporary reader at heart, but while the magic in Thor’s world is absolutely showstopping and the 1920s-inspired setting lush and beautiful, the real magic of this novel comes from its exploration of identity and its political intrigue, with plenty of metaphors to the real world.
It’s not difficult to see how Candesce relates to the United States, what with the blatant economic inequality and the literal usage of the word “trickle-down” to describe Senator Holt’s philosophy on the supply of flare. Thor has personally said multiple times that this book is a manifestation of a desire to light Mitch McConnell on fire, and I absolutely approve of that message.
But in addition to being a story meant to dunk on Republican politicians, “Fire Becomes Her” is also a queer story at heart. In modern language, Ingrid is somewhere on the aromantic spectrum; Thor has described her in at least one tweet as demiromantic and bisexual. A number of other characters in this book are also queer, and I personally don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that Ingrid ends up in a queerplatonic relationship.
I don’t know if I’m making it clear how huge that is, so let me say this: a-spec representation in YA literature has improved drastically over the last few years, and I’m ridiculously thankful and excited about this. I went from reading no books about people like me to having almost too many to choose from. I, and many of my writer friends, will be contributing to this canon in the coming years if everything goes well. That is no small feat.
I don’t even know what else to say. Just read this book. Oh my god.
“Fire Becomes Her” is set to release on Feb. 1, 2022. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Scholastic, in exchange for an honest review. (Actually, I received two copies, one on Edelweiss and one in a holiday gift box from IReadYA.)