Burning Down the House: Five SFF Characters Who Can Control Fire

Fire! It’s the Promethean gift that has allowed us to cook food, heat our homes, and selectively prune overcrowded forests. Although other species have been known to spread fires, humans are (to the best of my knowledge) the only species known to kindle fires. Like many humans, I myself am quite fond of fire. Except when I am ON fire. That is when I wish I could control fire by an act of will or with a suitable sorcerous phrase.

Alas, such things are impossible in the real world. Fiction is another matter…here are five characters who can deliver as much fire as they might want, when they want it.


Charlie McGee (Firestarter, by Steven King)

Of the medical victims duped into letting the Shop dose them with Lot 6, Charlie’s parents were among the fortunate few who emerged healthy, sane, and with psychic powers. Charlies’ mother Vicky gained minor telekinetic abilities, while Charlies’ father Andy has limited powers of mind control. Interesting results, definitely worth monitoring, but nothing world-shaking.

Vicky and Andy’s daughter Charlie, however, is a pyrokinetic of unimaginable potential. The Shop is determined to get their hands on the seven-year-old. If this means killing some middle-class nobodies, the Shop will do it. Capturing and imprisoning Charlie is easy enough. Gaining her trust is more challenging. In the end, however, what the Shop learns is that it is a very bad idea to upset a little girl who can set them all on fire with a glance.


Lina Inverse (Slayers, Hajime Kanzaka and illustrated by Rui Araizumi)

Although she is still a teenager, Lina Inverse is a well-known sorceress. Communities aided by Lina speak of her accomplishments for years to come. At least, the communities blessed with survivors do. She is absurdly powerful and does not see why she should use a minimal amount of force when her famous Dragon Slave spell is crying out to be used. Lina’s casual use of her pyromantic spell of mass destruction is why she is known as “Bandit-Killer,” “Dragon Spooker,” and “Enemy of All Living Things.”

Although towns and villages she helps often require reconstruction, problems solved with Dragon Slave hardly ever reoccur. If they do reappear? Well, Lina also knows Giga Slave, which channels the Lord of Nightmare’s power—effectively serving as the H-Bomb to Dragon Slave’s A-Bomb.


Elinor Pembroke (Burning Bright, by Melissa McShane)

Elinor wakes to find her bed engulfed in flames. She extinguishes them with a thought. The first marks her as a fire-kindling Scorcher, rare enough in 1812. The second reveals she can control fires as well as starting them. This is a rare, precious knack. Her ability elevates Elinor in her father’s eyes from inconsequential middle daughter to valuable commodity.

Elinor’s father offers her two options: agree to the loveless but lucrative marriage her father plans for her or spend the rest of her life as an impoverished, despised dependent. Elinor takes a third option. The Royal Navy will hire a talented Scorcher, man or woman. It’s off to sea for Elinor.


Evie Tanaka (Heroine Complex, by Sarah Kuhn)

Many San Franciscans gained supernatural powers in the wake of a failed demonic invasion of the city. A few of them, like Aveda Jupiter, decided to become superheroes, chasing fame by defending the city from occasional infernal incursions. Evie Tanaka was content to be Aveda’s bestie/dutiful personal assistant—not because Evie lacked powers of her own, but because experience has taught Evie to fear her powerful but poorly controlled pyrokinesis.

When Aveda is sidelined by an injury, Evie reluctantly agrees to pose as Aveda until Aveda recovers. Disguising herself as Aveda is easy enough, thanks to a magic-wielding ally. Successfully fighting demons without accidentally recreating the San Francisco fire of 1906 proves surprisingly doable. But that doesn’t seem to give poor Evie any self-confidence.


Fell-Noon (The Ninth Rain, by Jen Williams)

Fell-Noon can channel other people’s life-force into withering winnow-fire. Her supernaturally incandescent flame could incinerate spirits, given the chance. What it actually does is make her a despised prisoner and valuable asset of the Winnowry, this world’s answer to the Magdalene Laundries. The Winnowry have uses for winnow-fire, uses that require overworking Fell-Noon until she dies.

Haunted by prophetic visions of alien invasions, Fell-Noon manages to escape. Eluding the relentless Winnowry hunters, Fell-Noon’s path crosses that of archaeologist Vintage and her hireling Tormalin the Oathless. Vintage and Tormalin can offer more than mere refuge. They can offer her a role in saving their world.



Everyone likes fire. No doubt you have your own favoured pyrokinetics, pyromancers, and plain old firebugs. Comments are below.

In the words of Wikipedia editor TexasAndroid, prolific book reviewer and perennial Darwin Award nominee James Davis Nicoll is of “questionable notability.” His work has appeared in Publishers Weekly and Romantic Times as well as on his own websites, James Nicoll Reviews and the Aurora finalist Young People Read Old SFF (where he is assisted by editor Karen Lofstrom and web person Adrienne L. Travis). He is a four-time finalist for the Best Fan Writer Hugo Award and is surprisingly flammable.


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