Fire, Graceling's prequel-ish companion book, takes place across the mountains to the east of the seven kingdoms, in a rocky, war-torn land called the Dells. Beautiful creatures called monsters live in the Dells. Monsters have the shape of normal animals: mountain lions, dragonflies, horses, fish. But the hair or scales or feathers of monsters are gorgeously colored-- fuchsia, turquoise, sparkly bronze, iridescent green-- and their minds have the power to control the minds of humans. Seventeen-year-old Fire is the last remaining human-shaped monster in the Dells. Gorgeously monstrous in body and mind but with a human appreciation of right and wrong, she is hated and mistrusted by just about everyone, and this book is her story.Ever since I read that Kristin Cashore was writing two companion novels to Graceling, I couldn't wait to read them. Graceling was a great novel (that I couldn't put down), so I set my hopes very high for Fire.
This story focuses on the character, Fire, a half-human, half-monster. She's able to control the minds of people around her, but she's very cautious about using this power unless it's absolutely necessary. Similar to Katsa, Fire is an extremely strong female character, but she's conflicted about her gifts. She's extremely beautiful, due to her half-monster lineage. This may sound like a blessing, but she is forced to hide her dazzling hair under a scarf, because it attracts people to her. To Fire, her monster powers are more of a curse than a gift. It's also because of these powers that she's constantly reminded of her father. He was fiercely protective of her, but cruel to everyone else he encountered.
I really enjoyed Fire's story. It seemed like the book delved a lot deeper into who she was. Particularly, what it meant to be part-monster, but feel as humans do. I enjoyed reading Fire's memories of her father, Cansrel. He was a full monster, and had no qualms with manipulating the minds of people around him to do his bidding. Fire's memories seemed to emphasize that, while she hadn't always made the best choices, she had a conscience. She never manipulated the minds of people when it wasn't completely necessary. The romance was very subtle, and built up very nicely over the course of the story. It didn't feel rushed, or forced, and really affirmed the humanity in Fire.
We also got to see the origins of a character from Graceling. I won't give away the name, even though he's introduced in the very early pages of the book. I'll just say this, I hated the character in this book, too!
Is it wrong that I want a sequel about Fire? I absolutely loved this book, and can't wait for Bitterblue, Cashore's next book.
By Kristin Cashore
Published by Penguin Group (USA)
Happy release day, Fire!