Published: October 5th 2009
Details: Hardcover 461 pages
My grade: 3/5
A prequel to Graceling, also featuring a heroine with paranormal abilities set in the Seven Kingdoms. It is not as good though, as it focuses more on a looming civil war rather than the love story. Still a quick and enjoyable read.
See my full review here:
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.
Wondering what makes it a companion book/prequel? Fire takes place 30-some years before Graceling and has one cross-over character with Graceling, a small boy with strange two-colored eyes who comes from no-one-knows-where, and who has a peculiar ability that Graceling readers will find familiar and disturbing…
This is the second book in The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy by Kristin Cashore. I devoured the first book Graceling, and for that reason was surprised that I didn’t feel as much for Fire.
This book is not continuing the story of Graceling. Instead it is a prequel, and set in another kingdom all together. As mentioned in the synopsis above, there is one character from Graceling that appears in this book, but apart from that, as the environment and the characters are completely new, it does feel like a stand-alone book.
So I’ll try to get at why exactly I wasn’t as fond of this book as I was of Graceling.
Firstly, I think it is because the main character Fire is gorgeous, I mean, she is literally so beautiful that it is a problem to her as everyone she meets gets swept away (one way or another) by her beauty. Cashore does do a good job of portraying how that can actually be a problem, and so I do see her issues with her beauty, and of course the danger she’s constantly under, by being a monster. But it is still hard to relate to someone so breathtaking beautiful. I personally like heroines who have flaws, and more human so to speak.
Another reason is because this book is more political than Graceling. While Graceling is focused on a coming-of age story of the heroine Katsa, this book is more focused on the underlying movements of a kingdom nearing towards war. It does portray Fire getting stronger and more secure of how to use her paranormal abilities, just as in Graceling, but somehow the other elements of a looming war overshadows that. It is interesting to have a looming war provided as a background to the story, but I would have liked that as a mere background, and the story itself to be more focused on character development.
There are quite a few supporting characters in the royal court where Fire spends most of her time in the book, but for some reason they seemed pretty one-dimensional to me, and I really didn’t care what was happening to them.
I did care about the romance though, which is slowly growing throughout the book, and I rooted for the guy. However, I was constantly wishing for them to have more time together. He was far too busy, always going somewhere else, and sometimes I had a hard time not just skipping through the pages to get to the next section of them together.
In saying all this, I still read this book quickly, so it was definitely a good fun read. It just didn’t quite live up to my expectations after having read Graceling, that’s all.