Book Review: Ruby's Fire by Catherine Stine

Ruby's Fire by Catherine Stine is a young adult novel. This science fiction story is a companion story to Fireseed, which was published in 2010. I did not read the companion book and felt that Ruby's Fire works just fine as a stand alone novel. Ruby is a resident of the Fireseed desert cult. To escape a ceremonially 'pledging' to a much older man named Stiles, whom Ruby uses her herbal knowledge to drug and flee. All she can carry with her is a change of clothes, a pouch of Oblivion Powder and her mute little brother, Thorn.When she arrives at a school called The Greening Ruby thinks she just might be safe. However, things are not quite what they seem. Personality disputes, territorial posturing, threats to the secret Fireseed crop, and Ruby's dependence of her Oblivion powder for a good nights sleep are only the start of the problems she must face. When George Axiom, wealthy mogul of Vegas-by-the-Sea offers a huge cash prize for the winner of a student contest, the stakes and danger become even greater. Ruby, Thorn, and the rest are all eager to win the grand prize, but attractions and treachery make themselves known as the competition and their struggles to survive take unexpected turns.

Ruby's Fire is a book can be described as a dystopian novel, a coming of age tale, science fiction, a quest, or even a romance. However, to let those that are fed up with the romance blended with their other genres for the young and new adult selections do not worry, the romance is not a large part of this story. The year is 2099 and the world is dry and the sun can burn in mere moments. Fireseed is the main source of food, and one of the few things that can grow. Ruby is a smart girl, her father has taught her how to make medicines and drinks with the ingredients from local animals and plants. Her younger brother Thorn is smart, but does not often speak, instead he often communicates with Ruby via non verbal cues. Their home is a cult that worships the Fireseed plant itself. The young girls are claimed by elder men at a young age and molded to fit their desires, and punished as they see fit, until they are officially given to those men to use. Her escape with Thorn is dangerous and just in time.

When she reaches The Greening Ruby must face new dangers, and not just the struggle to fit in and prove her worth to people that do not seem to want her there. She must protect Thorn, deal with the physical changes she has to face, and deal with the threat of being reclaimed by Stiles when some of her classmates just might sell her out. The addition of the contest for an invention using the Fireseed plant increases the tension and possibilities for everything to go completely wrong. The story is actually much more nuanced and complicated then I layed out here, but half the fun of reading the story is discovering that for yourself.

Ruby's Fire is a science fiction novel that I would recommend to the young and new adult groups. I think it would appeal to readers that enjoy science fiction or fantasy novels, as well as those that enjoy reading about a young person coming into their own and recognizing their own worth. The world and character building are very well done, and I hope to see a book to continue Ruby's story, and that of The Greening, in the near future.
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