Fire Country (The Country Saga #1) by David Estes
Rating: 4.5 Stars
This book started out unpleasant, got much, much worse, and then suddenly got much easier to swallow. It’s a roller coaster, my friends. A big, scary, horrible, post-apocalyptic roller coaster.
I mean, the premise alone is probably enough to discourage some readers from picking it up. It sounds like some terrible mix of Blood Red Road and Wither, which would be a really horrifying combination. Which Fire Country sort of was. Everything about the premise is bad: they live in the middle of the desert. Women are randomly paired with a man (three women to each man) and are forced to have children every three years. Until they die pretty much, which happens at the elderly age of about 30. Fall in love? NOT IN THIS DESERT. YOU HAVE TO HAVE CHILDREN WITH WHO WE TELL YOU TO HAVE CHILDREN WITH. Oh, and surprise! Nightmarish monsters and mysteriously more advanced humans are attacking all the time. Doesn’t life in this village sound fun?
Nothing about that situation sounds good to me. I’m surprised they weren’t all dead, living like that. Of course, there are some who get mysteriously whisked away in the night. Taken by The Wild Ones, a feral band of women who kidnap girls and make them live in the wilderness. Or maybe they are taken by The Marked Ones, wild men with markings covering their bodies who pillage and plunder and are cannibals.
Or so the stories say.
Siena, our main heroine, is completely average. At least, she thinks so. She hates the idea of The Call (the ceremony where she’ll be paired with a man to become a baby-making machine), though she doesn’t know how to get out of it. Her best friend Circ doesn’t seem to be bothered by the future; he continually tells her to stop thinking of herself as skinny and useless, and he keeps her company whenever she gets in trouble and has the most unpleasant detention in the universe. Even when Siena’s father, one of the leaders of the village, sends her to Confinement (a tiny cell in the middle of the desert with no roof and a jailer who barely keeps his prisoners alive) as punishment, Circ stands by her. And then there’s Lara, who keeps whispering in Siena’s ear questions that Siena has no idea how to answer. The whispers involve the Wild Ones, and a life without the Call. Siena can’t even imagine that life, let alone think about leaving the village.
Siena is a great heroine; she grows so much over the course of the story, and much of it happens without anyone’s help. She has to adapt to impossible situations and overcome insurmountable circumstances. Circ is steady, sweet, and adorable, and the perfect optimistic foil for Siena’s low self-esteem.
Their relationship is a breath of fresh air in this novel, and without it, the first half of the book would have been completely unbearable. All of the other relationships in the book are strained: Siena and her father practically hate each other. Siena’s mother wants to fight back against Siena’s father, but she’s too weak. Siena has practically no friends except for Circ, and everyone makes fun of her. The only other friend she has is Veeva, whose only role in Fire Country is to be the comedic relief.
None of that stops Siena from trying to figure out what secrets her father is keeping from the rest of the village. And he’s keeping quite a few unsavory ones.
Full of mystery, danger, and the struggle to survive, Fire Country is an exciting and gripping addition to the Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopia genre. Siena is relatable, dynamic, and far braver than she realizes. A very likable heroine, a nightmarish conflict, and ridiculously high stakes make Fire Country a must-read for fans of the genre.