Fire Country (The Country Saga book 1) by David Estes (book review)

January 24, 2017 | By | Reply More

I fell in love with the cover of ‘Fire Country’ by David Estes nearly four years ago. My first book was about to be published and I had been tasked with putting together ideas for my cover. ‘Fire Country’ turned up in a search within my sub-genre, post-apocalyptic stories with female protagonists, and I listed it as an example of what I wanted: bold and clear typography, bright colours and images that were evocative, but not overly complicated. The cover I eventually got wasn’t the one I wanted but I’m not here to talk about my book, I’m here to talk about another book. This book!

First, I want to tell you how it eventually fell into my hands. Recently I saw an offer on Facebook: sign up for a David Estes’ newsletter and get a starter library of his books. His name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t figure out why until I clicked through and saw my cover. I mean the cover I had wanted. Needless to say, I signed up and waited for my copy of ‘Fire Country’ to arrive. To be honest, I didn’t really remember what it was about, beyond apocalypses and female heroes. Both being my thing, I wasn’t particularly worried until I started reading.

On page one, two thoughts collided. Three if you count the ‘Oh no!’ There was a dialect, quite a strong one, and a young female voice. Like, sixteen years-old young. While apocalypses are quite definitely my thing, strong dialects and young adult fiction really aren’t.

Siena’s voice is strangely seductive, however, and before I realised it, I’d read my way through a somewhat typical setup: the world died, the people survived and, by the time they crawled out of their holes in the ground, they’d forgotten most of what you and I take for granted. So they started again. The adults are all old and tired and if not stupid and/or powerless, then obviously evil. The kids are the future. I kept reading.

The future isn’t looking too bright. Packs of Killers are marauding more often and in greater numbers and the Glassies, another tribe of survivors, are looking to expand their holdings or simply don’t like the Heaters, Siena’s tribe, blocking their view. Then there is the Fire, a deadly and somewhat painful disease that strikes most down by the age of thirty or so. Oh and the conspiracy with the Icies, yet another tribe who live where it’s not hot.

The most imminent of these awful futures is Siena’s upcoming Call. Shortly after her sixteenth birthday she’ll be given to a man for the purposes of Breeding. Her duty to her tribe is to carry three children to term. Then she can wait for the Fire to take her, knowing her tribe will live on.

Half-way through the book I’m still reading and things are getting more interesting. The adults are still mostly evil and the kids are going to set things to rights. The dialect hasn’t bothered me for a while and I haven’t actually had to refer to the glossary to understand what Siena is saying. Not once. I really like some of the other kids, especially Circ, Lara and her neighbour in Confinement. I kinda want to know what happens next. No, I really want to know. So I keep reading.

I’m not going to detail the rest of the plot like how Siena deals with the Call or what’s to be done about the various threats. ‘Fire Country’ is the first of a series, so not all of these questions are going to be answered in this volume. Enough are to make it a satisfying read, however. By the time I finished, I felt hope for the future and a fairly keen urge to read on. It’s a good story. But what inspired me to write a review is the way in which the story is told.

David Estes is a clever writer. The dialect that had me wincing on the first page? It wasn’t the strongest I’ve ever had to struggle with and I soon realised that he’d used it to set a tone. Once the reader understood how Siena spoke, he dropped it, bringing it back in during moments of high tension and emotion. The glossary almost isn’t necessary. Any of the words you might want to look up are clear in context and not so strange they break the rhythm of the prose.

Alongside Siena’s point of view, these elements help build a very thorough picture of the world. I don’t really remember any long passages of description. Instead, I simply understood that people lived in tents and that they ate something called a tug and that it was pretty hot all the time in Fire Country. So hot, in fact, that Siena doesn’t understand the concept of cold. She doesn’t know what ice is or what a gun is. Her world view is extremely limited and it’s through those limitations that we get a very clear picture of the setting for this novel.

So not only does this book have an awesome cover, it’s really well written, too.

All in all, I enjoyed the story. My favourite aspect of the book was definitely the world-building. It was as vibrant as that gorgeous cover. I also enjoyed the emotional highs and lows and the small spots of humour. The romantic elements were well done, sweet and not overly sappy. I liked Siena. I found her to be an extremely relatable heroine, despite her low opinion of herself. I wanted her to succeed and to find a happy ever after. I would have liked to have seen a sympathetic adult or two, someone who wasn’t an outcast or dying. There were a couple times I found it difficult to accept the sheepish nature of the people in Siena’s village. But with the threat of Fire, enemies closing in on all sides and the harsh environment, it wasn’t too much of a stretch. The author made it work and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

Recommended for fans of post-apocalyptic fiction, dystopias and young adult fiction.

Kelly Jensen

January 2017

(pub: Amazon Digital Services, 2014. 402 page paperback and ebook. Paperback price: $12.99 (US), £ 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-48205-598-6. Ebook: Price: $ 2.99 (US), £ 2.30 (UK). ASIN: B00B7VTXFO)

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Category: Books, Scifi

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