I just finished reading Fire by Kristin Cashore, the sequel to Graceling and I loved it.

I found upon first starting the book that I had a fear I was unaware of. I was afraid Cashore would write Fire as a carbon copy of Katsa. I could even see where the appeal would be. Katsa was a strong young woman determined to take control of her life. Who wouldn’t want to write about a character like that?

But I, thankfully, found Fire to be very different from Katsa. She already was in control of her life, or as much of it as she could be, as much as anyone is in control of their lives. And her struggle wasn’t about being strong, and surviving. Fire’s struggle was much more about trust and friendship. About opening herself up to people.

The book starts out with Fire living on an estate she inherited from her father in a kingdom called the Dells. Her father was a monster. Literally. In the Dells creatures and humans are sometimes born with extraordinary beauty. Their hair or feathers glinting in vibrant colours and the very sight of them causing people to stop and stare in wonder. These creatures are called monsters. Fire’s father was one, and so is Fire.

Her beauty is such that she has hidden away every mirror in her home because she thinks it is ridiculous that she herself is made breathless by the vision of her beauty. Men and woman follow her around, or attack her, or attack each other with her beauty as motivation.

Soon into the story we meet the King of the Dells and his brother, Prince Brigan who is also commander of the Dellian armies. And Fire is whisked away to the capitol for she can provide a service no one else can. As a monster she has the ability to reach out to the minds of others and manipulate them. And as the country is on the brink of war, her skills are greatly needed.

I really liked that Fire grappled with this decision and wouldn’t be bullied into manipulating minds. Her father, who relished causing pain in others and enjoyed using his ability, had taught her to be cautious and careful with her powers. She did not want to be corrupted by them. And as the story goes on and Fire begins to trust more and more people, she also begins to trust herself.

Her journey of self-discovery was fluid and enjoyable. Nothing about Fire felt out of place for her character and I ached for some of the sacrifices she made. Her relationships with Archer and Prince Brigan worked well as foils, as did the characters themselves, and I, once again, appreciated the against the norm take on romance Kristin takes in her books. There are many royal and noble characters who have sex outside of being married and are not censured for it more than anyone would be today. That is, they are expected to be responsible about it. And nothing bad happens to anyone in response to having sex to young, as a lot of entertainment aimed at teenagers likes to do. Although, it is arguable that one character was offed after having too much irresponsibly sex. But I really don’t think that is why that character died.

The one thing I thought was weird about the book was the inclusion of Leck. It wasn’t necessarily a bad inclusion, in fact I enjoyed the seeing into his mind as much as we did, but he seemed out of place in the story. Leck’s presence would only really matter to someone who had read Graceling and Fire is being marketed as a book that can stand on its own. One can tell Leck has the makings of a main villain and to only be used as a distraction and an out of place threat feels weird in the story.

But, as I said, I was glad to learn more of him. He was creepy and evil from his first moments and truly sent a shiver down my spine.

All in all, a fantastic book. I’m always so glad when sequels (or prequels as the case may be) live up to the original books. And Fire certainly did.

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