Fire Country (The Country Saga, #1)

Fire Country - David Estes (Book provided by the author through ARR #118 in the We ♥ YA Books! group, in exchange for an honest review.)

A solid 3.5 stars for this one.

It took me a few pages to get used to Siena's voice; however, it quickly grew on me, and soon I found myself quite appreciating it. She sounds authentic, with a unique voice, and her own way of viewing the world, even though she's struggling here against beliefs hammered into her since childhood.

The world depicted by David Estes is frightening in itself. It immediately conjured in my mind pictures of a burning sun, of deserts, of tribes trying to scrape a living with few resources in the little time they had (thirty, thirty-five years, maybe fourty at the very most?). In that regard, the role of women as Bearers—or, rather, as "breeders"—totally made sense, although it's a concept that scares me personnally. I really wouldn't want to find myself in such a situation, having to face such prospects.

The plot is woven progressively, from day-to-day life to discoveries and challenges, in a coming-of-age story interspersed with hints of darker secrets. I also appreciated that there was no love triangle here—those are becoming so common, and for no reason except "it sells", in way too many YA novels these days! The budding love between Siena and Circ, growing from "childhood friends" to "souls calling to each other, but forbidden to meet", felt completely natural, and this was great.

On the other hand, it may be because the book is the only first one in the series, and more will be explained later on, but I kept having a feeling of "pocket universe". I admit I'm still not sure whether the Fire Country is made up of several tribes scattered in several villages, or of one, big village that, considering the amount of people involved, would actually be more of a large town. This was a bit confusing, as if there were at once too many people and not enough.

I was a bit perplexed at the overall picture, too. Why did Roan act the way he did? We may never know if it was out of selfish desire, or if he had other schemes in mind, but couldn't bear them to fruition nor tell anyone about them. I wondered also what was the whole deal with the Ice Country as well as the Glassies. The Fire Country people were described as quite backwards, like a tribe with very basic tools and weapons, and I didn't understand what kind of interest the Glassies may have in them. (Having read the Dwellers saga, I feel safe in my knowledge of who *they* are, and perhaps this is why I couldn't really understand?) Knowing the author's skills in weaving his stories over several volumes, I suspect answers will be brought sooner or later. Yet I still think this may be perceived as a weakness by other readers.

Conclusion: Definitely a good beginning to a series, but I hope the following books bring more answers.