The Girl Who Played with Fire - IRP - Berg

Josh Berg

Independent Reading Review

The Girl Who Played with Fire was written by Stieg Larsson before his death in 2004. The Girl Who Played with fire is the only novel in the Millennium series that has its title unchanged. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is originally called Män som hatar kvinnor before translation, in English, Men who hate women. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest is called Luftslottet som sprängdes, in English, The air castle that was blown up. A prominent  theme for the series in general, is violence against women. This theme is quite visible and present in the plot of all of the books due to a gang rape that Larsson witnessed at a young age. He felt guilty for years after for not being able to intervene and it would seem that the books in the Millennium series were partially a form of retribution for Larsson. Not only did these books do well for Larsson on a personal level, but sold fantastically as well. The novel I read for this particular Independent reading, The Girl Who Played with Fire, is the first and only translated novel to be number one in the UK hardback chart. It spawned movies as well as graphic novels, which are for the most part still in the works, however I am in the process of trying to acquire The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo graphic novel which is the only one complete at this point.  It is a shame that Larsson never really got to see the impact that these novels he crafted had on people. 


I am trying to not divulge too much information that could potentially spoil this book if you have not read the first one, however you have been warned.

This novel follows the same main characters and introduces many new minor  ones and a few new major ones. Despite how impressively crafted the main characters are, it is really the minor ones that make the book for me. They draw comparisons between themselves and the main characters in interesting ways, as well as provide sometimes quirky personalities, but most of all, they are human. These characters minor and major alike are not black and white. It is the minor characters more often than not that are the glue that holds the book. At the beginning of the book, Lisbeth has cut ties with her beloved journalist Mikael Blomkvist. This is most likely due to her inability to go back to the world where they did not know each other. It is most certainly difficult because Blomkvist has not had as hard of a time with the whole transition and has resumed his relationship with Berger. I am glad that Larsson did not just drop the whole idea of how difficult this is for someone, especially someone who is a bit emotionally imbalanced like Salander. Salander is strong in many ways, but as stated before, she is a human being and is susceptible to certain things which is really what draws her apart from many stereotypical female characters in stories. A fair amount of the time you will usually have a character that is very much a mere archetype. You might have the stereotypical vulnerable female character or a usually noble attempt to make a strong female character that often falls short due to exaggerations and falling into a femme fatal emotionless object. That is really what makes Lisbeth special, the details that do not pertain too much to the main story as they may be eventually resolved. These things make the characters and situations seem real.

Salander has left Sweden for Grenada. She soon establishes a relationship with a young boy named George. The relationship soon becomes a bit questionable and it is unclear if the author had the age in mind too much when writing about their relationship although I imagine he did. I think that this relationship was a bit of reminder about Salander’s disregard for the law for things that she perceives to be OK. Salander soon becomes aware of a scheme involving her neighbor Dr. Forbes. The Dr. wishes to dispose of his wife in order to take her wealth. She attacks Forbes and he is killed in a natural disaster. Salander returns to Sweden and purchases a new apartment with some illegal money. She gives her old apartment to her partner and simply requests that her mail be given to her. Meanwhile her legal guardian, Nils Bjurman, who hates her and vice versa with an perhaps stronger passion, due to events from the last book I shall not disclose, is looking for a certain item damning to him that is in Salander’s possession. Soon enough our protagonists meet again after Mikael manages to help deal with someone assaulting Salander. Who this is, or their affiliation with others will be important later as are many other seemingly small details mentioned here. Despite his efforts to reconcile with her, she wants nothing to do with him. She feels rejected by him, so it is only fair that he have a turn at being the rejected one. Mikael soon comes into contact with journalist Dag Svensson and his girlfriend Mia Johanssen. The pair speaks of research they have done about the sex-trafficking of underage women in Sweden. Interestingly enough, Lisbeth seems extremely intrigued by the repeated mention of the leader of the operation, “Zala”. All this information is made clear to Lisbeth through hacking. Soon the couple Dag and Mia are found murdered and Lisbeth will later find herself in a less than ideal situation. Why could these things have happened? What does it all mean? I suppose you should read the series and find out. Even after finishing this, there is still much that is impossible to understand. You should only read this given that you are interested in a series that from the two I have read, are not beach reads by any means and are dark. When I say dark I mean DARK. Unless you are prepared to read about evil things that are described vividly to a somewhat stomach sickening point. One of the biggest things made more clear at the end would have surprised me except for the fact that I pride myself in guessing twists for a reason. 

My favorite character despite my obvious enjoyment of the more minor characters is probably Lisbeth Salander. I feel like a bit of a plebeian writing that, but so be it. She really does have a lot going for her character that really makes her compelling. The hopelessness that she feels is a theme throughout the book that is only made to feel more real through the other times that she feels strong. She is a real person that could exist, but she still remains interesting in so many ways. 

I did enjoy this book quite a bit, although I think it is only fair to note that although I enjoyed Larsson’s writing style throughout the book, it did lose a lot of its novelty and freshness that made the first book so amazing to me. It still has that complexity yet lack of stuffiness that I really enjoy. These books are the opposite of books that talk down to you in the way they talk to you. I recommend the first book to anyone who thinks they can handle a lot of the themes and the actual writing itself. I recommend the second to those who loved and hated the characters from the first with a passion. 

For my creative piece I drew a book cover. The cover is supposed to have art that resembles the room Salander is in during the prologue as I found this part to be extremely powerful, not to mention well-written and important to the rest of the plot. I omitted many of the details for the sake of artistic interpretation and to make the rest of it pop and not have a lot of jumble. Not to mention I couldn’t draw the details so well and I had already put forth a lot of effort into other areas of the creative piece such as the flaps.