Fire is the Companion to Graceling (see my review here), a kind of prequel, but also a stand alone book. The book takes place in the Dells, a place where monsters live. They are like regular creatures, but have vibrant colours and are more intuitive and aggressive. Fire is the last human monster, she is young, irresistibly beautiful, has fiery hair, and can get into the minds of others to influence them or sense what they are thinking.
The Dells are in a precarious position, with the kingdoms to the North and South both wanting to invade them. One day Prince Brigan asks her to go to King City to help them. She knows that they want to use her power for themselves, to give themselves an advantage against their enemies. Fire, however, is unwilling to use her power, especially against unwilling people.
In amongst all of this, Fire is learning about herself, what it means to be a monster, her love and friendship for Archer, who she has known since she was a toddler, and her feelings for the attractive Prince Brigan.
I had so much fun reading this book! I love how Kristin Cahmore vividly creates rich worlds and characters, then I love watching how the characters develop, how they grow into themselves. Fire is different from Graceling - where Katsa of Graceling has physical dominance over everyone and is kind of like a superhero, Fire has mental dominance and is a little more subdued. This makes these books quite different from one another - I appreciated both the quieter pace of Fire as well as the faster, more explosive pace of Graceling.
Fire is a compelling heroine, who develops and grows a great deal in this book. She has strengths and weaknesses, and she is not always sure which is which. She has to come to terms with who she is, who her father was and learn how to be comfortable with herself. This is where her strength lies, when she can figure this out. Despite the fact that she is a monster, she is very human in her worries, relationships and concerns.
The other characters and political intrigue of Fire kept me quite interested. I am finding it hard to say too much about this book without giving the story away. Maybe I just need to say that for me this story was largely about the relationships Fire has with others and how these grow and change, how as we grow up we see others as fallible when we thought they were not and how we can learn from all of this. Palace life and war seemed to be a way to delve into these relationships.
There were times when the story dragged a little, but overall, I loved the book and read it very quickly. I am looking forward to the third in this series, Bitterblue, when it is released.
By the way, I am always on the lookout for good books with strong female characters. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to comment.
Here is the YouTube book trailer: