Fire is a human monster with the ability to control the minds of others. Men can’t help but be captured by her beauty, something that drives them to lust, or to violence. She despises who she is and the impact it has had on her life. Then, things change forever when she is called to the King’s City to use her powers of persuasion on a prisoner. Fire has sworn never to use her abilities for anything beyond self-defense, but in a country that it preparing for war will she make an exception?
Fire is the prequel to Cashore’s fantastic Graceling, one of my top fifteen reads of 2009. Since it involves almost a complete new cast of characters, I would consider it more a companion book. As I was reading it, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to Graceling. Like Graceling, it starts a strong female lead, who’s sad past has been overshadowed by the force of a powerful and evil man. Like Kasta, who must come to terms with her identity as a Graceling, Fire must learn to accept her monster self. The story is filled with fantastic world building, and its biggest strength is in the wonderfully complex characters we get to meet. There is also a love story element. It’s here that I found that the similarities between the two books end.
Unlike Graceling, Fire is less of an action packed book. Although it has its scenes of suspense and combat, the emphasis here is really more Fire’s personal journey, politics, and to a lesser extent, intrigue. As a result, the book has a slower pace that may turn off some readers, but I found myself quite comfortable. Although Fire has a similar back-story to Kasta, she is a much different heroine, less gruff and more vulnerable. The romance this time around is more understated, which I found I enjoyed just as much as Kasta and Po’s more physical relationship. I also liked the amount of positive female friendships included in the book.
One of the things that impressed me the most about Fire was the fact that under the hand of a lesser writer, this story would have been such a mess. I have to admit; I raised my eyebrow at the idea of the tragically beautiful heroine that was irresistible to men. I am very amazed that instead of giving us the typical Mary Sue, Cashore was able to create a complex heroine that was easy to sympathize with. The plot is multi-layered, and filled with tons of characters, and it never feels uneven or overcrowded.
I am very impressed with Cashore’s sophomore outing. I found that I enjoyed Fire just as much as Graceling and I look forward to her next book (Bitterblue- a sequel to Graceling) with baited breath.
Rating: five stars
Length: 461 pages
Source: The University of Rhode Island Library
Challenge: This book is part of the Young Adult Reading Challenge and Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge
Similar Books: For similar works of YA fantasy, check out Terrier by Tamora Pierce, Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith, and works by Robin McKinley.
Other books I've read by this author: Graceling
The Five on the Fifth Column will be coming up tonight, once my eyes rest a bit. The topic this month should appeal to fans of YA literature.
xposted to bookish and temporaryworlds