A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Author's note explains how book draws from many West Bengal, India, folktales and children's stories. It explains how the conflict in this story was inspired by the Indian revolution and extraordinary revolutionaries who fought against Britain for independence, including members of her own family. Author also pays tribute to children around the world at various times in history who were forced to abandon their native language by the government; she acknowledges the loss they suffered. Readers also learn origins of a song sung in the story that was written by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.
Hilarious name of chapter 20 says it all: "Teamwork Makes the Dream Work, Blah, Blah, Rainbows and Unicorn Farts and All That Sappy Stuff." So yes, teamwork is very important, as is friendship. Also, don't be afraid of your own power, express it. Our native languages and cultures are vital parts of who we are, and those as well as freedom from oppression are worth fighting for.
Positive Role Models
Pinki is a rakkhosh demon who starts out selfish and angry, a loner who's afraid of her own magical power to wield fire. She thinks she needs to do everything alone -- until she needs the help of others to save her cousins and discovers the power of teamwork. She also thinks that she needs to reign in her power and control it, until she learns how empowering it is to express it as a vital part of who she is. She also becomes a leader who fights for higher causes. Note that rakkhosh demons are supposed to like thievery and eating humans, and there are plenty of jokes about it, but no humans are eaten here, not even their delicious toes.
Violence & Scariness
Lots of magical fighting with bolts of lighting; raging fire, wind, and water; and earthquakes. Main good guys suffer pain and worse but are magically healed, while a lot of snake soldiers are killed and some ghosts are wiped out of existence. Tense flying scenes on horses and chariots where characters almost fall to their death. Children are kidnapped, their voices stolen, held in cages. A father hits his son; his face bleeds. Some ghosts are on the creepy side and walk around with their severed heads under their arms. Talk of how Pinki's parents were imprisoned when she was young. Her father died in prison and her mother became unstable.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some crushes and innuendo.
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Rakkhosh use colorful, funny potty talk mostly as endearments for each other, like "golden fart bomb," but sometimes it's slightly cruel, like "jerk butt fire face."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Force of Fire is a prequel of sorts to the Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond trilogy featuring the origin story of a rakkhosh fire demon named Pinki, who lives in the Kingdom Beyond. Like the trilogy, Force of Fire is inspired by folk tales and folklore from West Bengal, India. Also like the trilogy, it has plenty of magical fighting with elemental magic (fire, earthquakes, wind, water) and lightning wielded by evil snake beings who rule the Kingdom Beyond. The main good guys suffer pain and worse but are magically healed, while a lot of snake soldiers are killed and some ghosts are wiped out of existence. There are also tense flying scenes on horses and chariots where characters almost fall to their death. Children are kidnapped, their voices are stolen, and they're held in cages, and a father hits his son and makes his face bleed. As for positive messages, the hilarious name of chapter 20 says a lot: "Teamwork Makes the Dream Work, Blah, Blah, Rainbows and Unicorn Farts and All That Sappy Stuff." So yes, teamwork is very important, as is friendship. Pinki learns to rely on others, to trust her own power, and to fight for freedom against the snakes who want to strip away their language and heritage. Note that rakkhosh demons like Pinki, her classmates, and cousins are supposed to enjoy thievery and eating humans. There are plenty of jokes about it, but no humans are eaten here, not even their delicious toes.
Is It Any Good?
With high adventure, humor, and lots of fiery magic, this story inspired by West Bengal folklore will have you rooting for a truly unique demon-girl hero. As Force of Fire begins, you may not be so inclined to root for Pinki -- in fact, you may be a little confused. I mean, she enjoys classes on thievery, talks about how much she hates humans, and is an angry loner willing to make a deal with someone even more despised, the snake prince Sesha. Also, she tries to trick her mom, the goofy Ai-Ma, whom so many readers will fondly remember from the Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond trilogy.
But the way Pinki protects her cousins says a lot about what's behind those horns and fangs. She's willing to team up with a whole host of frenemies to save them and even -- gah -- dress up and attend a garden party with human royals and not eat their toes as appetizers. Through her love for her cousins, she finds closeness to others and her true fire power. She also comes to love the cause of freedom more than herself. It's the deep touches mixed with some wacky characters that keep this story surprising and worthwhile. The only real disappointment is a pat ending. It feels more like a summary of what could have been an exciting new series. And now that we're all warmed up to a certain fiery demon, it's sad to see her gone so soon.
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