Reading Group Guide
In Wildfire, the incredible journey of Firethorn, the loving, reckless and irresistible narrator of the Firethorn trilogy, continues.
In this second novel of the trilogy, Firethorn disobeys the orders of her lover and master Sire Galan and follows him to war, choosing to face hardships with him rather than safety alone. She follows the army of Corymb across the sea to the land of Incus, but during the crossing there is a terrible storm and Firethorn is struck by lightning. When she regains consciousness, she is haunted by shades and visions, her speech is garbled, her memory is in tatters, and her destiny has been altered.
Priests and soldiers search her nonsensical utterances for hidden prophecies, but it is not until Firethorn is captured by the defeated king of Incus that she is forced to trust in her purported power of foresight. King Corvus takes refuge in the kingdom where Firethorn was born, a place she remembers only in dreams. There, a world away from Galan, she discovers not only the land and language she was born to, but a life of unexpected luxury and power. However, this privilege has a high cost that Firethorn may not be able to bear.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
- ‘“It’s unnatural for a woman to be so ambitious,’ Sire Edecon says, quoting the old saying: ‘If you let a woman wear the spurs, she’ll ride you to ruin.'" Discuss the various attitudes towards women demonstrated by the characters in the novel. How do gender roles differ and how are they the same in the societies depicted in Wildfire? Powerful women are depicted in the story. How do they wield their power? How do others see Firethorn’s power? Do any modern stereotypes about men and women appear in Wildfire?
- How is war depicted in the book? Is war routine for the soldiers and camp followers? Are enemies and allies easy to distinguish? Why do you think conflict so often exists between family members in Wildfire? Is Galan portrayed as a hero in this novel? What other kinds of violence are depicted in the book, and who are its victims?
- Firethorn’s life revolves around a number of dualities: hot vs. cold, left vs. right, mud vs. Blood, the living vs. the dead, duty vs. desire. How do these contradictions define her character and inform her actions? What other important dualities exist for the other characters and their way of life in Wildfire? What is the importance of trinities in the cosmology of the clans?
- Compare the caste distinctions in the societies of the clans and Lambanein. Firethorn has spent her life as an inferior, a servant. Does she believe in her inferiority? How does servitude shape her relationships with Galan and King Corvus and other people she encounters? In what ways are subservience enforced in these societies? How do Firethorn and other servants subvert their masters’ rules, their masters’ wills? How does Firethorn behave when she has servants?
- How do the effects of the lightning strike – including her speech impediment, the presence of shades, and visions of the future – become advantageous to Firethorn? What is the meaning of the haunting by Sire Rodela? How do her attitudes toward the dead change over the course of the book?
- Song is often featured in Wildfire. What are its various purposes and meanings? In what ways are the rumors spread among the clans beneficial to the characters of Wildfire? In what ways are they harmful? What is the importance of poetry in the court life of Lambanein?
- What cultural differences does Firethorn encounter during her time in Lambanein? How does she cope with discovering that the Lambaneish worship different gods than she does?
- There are many descriptions of illnesses and healings throughout the book. How do Firethorn’s ideas about sickness and health differ from modern ones? What are the purposes of divination and ceremony in the healings she devises or participates in? Do her cures work? How are causes of illnesses explained in the different cultures? How is Firethorn herself healed?
- How vital is the divining compass to Firethorn’s survival? How does her use of the compass (and the meaning of it) change over the course of the book? Does she become addicted to divination? What do the bones of Dame and Na symbolize? How does Firethorn’s life change after they are taken from her?
- Do Firethorn’s attitudes towards sex change over the course of the book? Discuss differences in roles of sheath, whore, and celebrant. How responsible is Firethorn for her own actions (maybe could say downfall, but not demise!)in Lambanein? (I’d cut that question, because suffering as absolution isn’t part of her worldview) Firethorn has carried her own ideas of right and wrong to Lambanein, only to find they have quite different conceptions. How does she behave badly according to Lambaneish beliefs? What is she ashamed of in her own behavior? Should she be ashamed?
- Do Firethorn’s “true dreams” prove to be a gift or a burden throughout her journey? What do the dreams of the house on the mountain mean? Is Aghazal to blame for not giving Firethorn a more serious warning about the potential dangers of Moonflower and Moonflower visions? Why does she risk taking the drug?
- Throughout Wildfire, Firethorn survives one near-death experience after another. From the lightning strike at sea to the black drink and the perils of battle, to her contraction of the “shiver and shake” and her initiation into the Serpent Cult, how does Firethorn react to her various trials? What role do the gods play in each hardship? Who are Firethorn’s true allies and protectors?
- After learning the many nuances of the Lambanein taxonomies, Firethorn ponders her feelings towards Galan: “I’d searched for the name of what lay between Galan and me, exhilarated to lay claim to love in any form. I had found Lightning Passion, and Lust for a Contemptible Inferior, and Adoration of a Superior, and none exactly to the purpose. How could love be named when it was first one thing then another, as mutable as fire and shadow?” How would you classify the love between Firethorn and Galan? Why does Firethorn hesitate to leave King Corvus when given the opportunity? Make your own taxonomy of various kinds of love.
- Is King Corvus a sympathetic character? How, if at all, did your opinion of him change throughout the second half of the novel?
- Wildfire is the second book in Sarah Micklem’s fantasy trilogy. What do you think is in store for Firethorn in the next chapter of her tale? What of Mai and Mouse? Discuss what you hope Firethorn may learn about her mysterious childhood. Do you believe that she and Galan will be reunited, or do you think she has a future with Corvus?
Tips to Enhance Your Book Club:
If you have not already, read the first book in Sarah Micklem’s trilogy, Firethorn.
Read other fantasy literature from authors such as Ursula Le Guin and Diana Gabaldon. Compare and contrast with Sarah Micklem’s novels.
Visit author Sarah Micklem’s website to learn more about Firethorn’s world:
Create your own divining compass to choose your next book selection. Copy the format from the compass shown in the front of the book, and replace the clan names with the names of your book club members. Replace the three attributes beneath the clan names with each member’s book suggestions. Role two dice to replace Dame and Na. If they land on book titles, those are your next reads. If they land on member names, allow those members to make any selection they wish.