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Fire by Kristin Cashore

Published October 5, 2009 by Dial Books

Series: Graceling Realm, #2

Pages: 461

Genre: Fantasy

Blurb: It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash clings to his throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men.

This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own.

Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, The royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there’s more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom.

If only she weren’t afraid of becoming the monster her father was.

The moment I began to love you was the moment when you saw your fiddle smashed on the ground, and you turned away from me and cried against your horse. Your sadness is one of the things that makes you beautiful to me. Don’t you see that? I understand it. It makes my own sadness less frightening.

 

Fire is the last human monster in the land of the Dells, a land where there are beautiful, brightly colored monsters (think green cats or midnight-blue leopards) that crave human flesh and Fire’s own flesh. Fire herself is beautiful, with green eyes and brilliant hair in shades of red, pink, and orange. Fire has the gift of being able to control others with just her mind. She can change their thoughts and will completely. Because of this, most people either want to fall in love with her or want to kill her. It’s an amazing and terrifying gift.

But Fire’s afraid of becoming like her father, Cansrel, who was also a monster and used his gift for his own purposes. He manipulated the last Dellian king, until the kingdom was in shambles and the king died. And then two years later Cansrel died, killed by his own menagerie of monsters. Fire was left alone with her teacher, Brocker, and her friend and sometimes lover, Archer.

Fire leads a simple life. She teaches music and mind-guarding to the children in the village. She enjoys walking through the forest. She wishes she had children of her own to care for, but she’s decided that the world does not need more human monsters.

Then strange men start turning up in the forest around Fire’s home. Every single one of them is then killed by a mysterious archer, who flees or is somehow killed himself. It’s bizarre. Archer decides to go to the queen Roen and ask for more soldiers. Fire goes with him.

There she meets the last king’s two sons, the very sons of the man her father destroyed with his manipulation. The two have very different opinions of Fire. Nash, the new king, is overcome with “love” for Fire and wants to make her his Queen. Brigan, who commands the army, would like to see Fire dead.

Then a stranger is discovered inside the king’s rooms and is captured. Nash orders Fire to come and identify the stranger. But when she gets to King’s City, things take a turn for the worst.

I am in love with Fire. I’ve reread it twice and every time I do I wish I could write as well as Cashore does. It’s beautiful writing. All the characters are well-formed and memorable. Fire is even better than Graceling and Bitterblue, in my opinion. Fire is not a badass heroine. Fire is kinder and more fragile. While Katsa’s struggle in Graceling was more about surviving physically, Fire’s struggle is more about surviving internally, emotionally. There aren’t as many action scenes. Fire’s not much of a fighter.

Fire’s world is completely different from Katsa’s, which I appreciated. I enjoyed learning about a world so different and yet secretly connected. The Dellians have no idea what a Graceling is. (That’s unfortunate- there’s a certain gray-and-red-eyed boy named Leck!)

You should absolutely read this book. If you read any one YA fantasy book this year, I’d say read either this one or Graceling. Fire isn’t just about a girl who’s beautiful. It’s about a girl struggling with what the world perceives her as (a monster) and the person she knows she is.

Rating: 5 stars

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