Fire lives in a land where monsters roam. They are as deadly as they are beautiful, luring their prey with their looks then happily devouring them. Fire, herself, is a monster, more beautiful than any could imagine with hair the color of flames. She is the last of her kind, the only remaining human monster. Fire’s father was also a monster and he was evil, enjoying the pain he could inflict and the power he reaped from his ability to compel others. Fire is afraid of becoming like her father and chooses to hide away in the country side, far away from the capital city where memories of her father’s viciousness still linger. After the treacherous reign of the past king, whose close adviser was Fire’s father, Fire’s country is unstable. As civil war threatens, the new rulers of the country need Fire’s help if they are ever going to be able to bring peace to the kingdom, but is Fire willing to allow herself to use her monster powers, even for good, if she risks becoming a true monster like her father?
Reaction: I LOVED Fire. I will go as far as to say that I liked it more than Graceling. With Graceling, I had read so much hype about the book it couldn’t possibly live up. This time, I refused to read any reviews of Fire until I read it myself, which turned out to be a good move. No one else’s opinion colored my reading and I fell into the story, completely hooked. I loved Fire as a character. I found that I could really empathize with what she was feeling. She is so beautiful that it is hard for to make friends — some hate her for her beauty and others love her too much because of it — and so she keeps herself closed off from others. Her small world in the northern part of the country keeps her safe but also extremely sheltered. Fire also fears herself and her own abilities. It is almost as if every time she uses her ability to enter someone’s mind and compel them, even if it is for a good cause such as keeping a person from harming her or others, she fears she will become her father. As the story progresses and Fire’s world begins to open, it is great to see how new friends and an ever broadening view of the world help reshape how Fire sees herself and her abilities. I loved many of the supporting characters, like Brigan, Archer, and Nash among others, and their different reactions to Fire. I also really enjoyed how good and evil was not black and white. Fire’s father was evil but he loved her and she couldn’t help but love him, so did that make him not completely evil? In war, good people are forced to do horrible things, like kill other humans, does that make them not entirely good? Good people make bad choices; bad people do good things. I was impressed with how completely Cashore covered this point.
The one part of the book that I did not enjoy was the sections involving Lech, the evil graceling that causes so much trouble in the first book. Fire begins with a prologue about Lech’s beginnings, his father and how he came to be in a different world from the one of Graceling. The prologue lead me to believe that Lech was going to play a major part in the book’s main conflict. Not so. Lech makes an appearance but it has nothing to do with the civil war and is really just one more, I would say unnecessary, obstacle for Fire to go through. Fire’s dealings with Lech seem tangential and could easily have been removed.
One final thought: sex. It happens. A lot. Freely and casually and between many different characters. It was never explicit, only implied, and it worked for me in the fabric of the story but be careful to whom you recommend this book.