Fire by Kristin Cashore

Summary from Goodreads:

It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash clings to his throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men.

This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own.

Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, The royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there's more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom.

If only she weren't afraid of becoming the monster her father was.

Fire is the second book in Kristin Cashore's Graceling Series. It acts as a prequel of sorts, with a story that dates back years from the time of Katsa and Po's adventures in the first book entitled Graceling. It features a whole slew of new characters and in a totally different world not among the 7 kingdoms in Graceling.

I love the world created by Cashore in this book. It's this foreign land inhibited by both humans and monsters. Monsters that are of different brilliant colors that has the power to mesmerize you and eat you after. There are human monsters too, having the appearance of a human and possessing mind control powers, which is what Fire is and have, as well as her Grandfather and Father before her. But their infamy does not stem from who and what they possess rather it's because of what they have done with such powers. Particularly her father, Cansrel. 

Being what they are, they are an asset and a power ally to any King thus their family lineage have long served as advisers to the Throne. But when it was Cansrel and King Nax, the two proved to be a bad combination. Cansrel controlled him and Nax proved to be too weak to resist, that or he was enjoying himself too much. All the philandering, the sex, the women, and the drugs. Soon enough, the Dells were in ruins. Civil Wars were breaking out. Supporters were withdrawing. 

Cansrel seemed to be having too much fun watching the destruction around him that he overlooked a woman he impregnated, up until she gave birth to Fire. Fire was so mesmerizing that even Cansrel was under the baby's spell and could not possibly bring himself to kill her. She then grew up to be as beautiful and powerful as could be and in her wake is the cloud of being the daughter of a most cruel and hated father. And then there is still that mind control power, a power that is a huge barrier to a necessary value in life, Trust. But the new King needs her powers and she is then whisked away to the King's home and city to aid him just as her predecessors did (or should). But Fire is not like her father or is she? Thus, ensues a game of who to trust and who not to trust.   

The story moves in a straight line. There are no surprises or any unexpected revelations or events. It's not the kind where I am urged to read on so as I can unravel some sort of answer to a question or mystery. I also found certain parts and certain characters to be quite dramatic and a little bit soap opera-ish. The Winter Ball for one I found, too theatrical. Fire had too many emotional moments of crying and pining, for my taste, at least. And don't get me started on Archer. For some reason, he seems to remind me of something like the fantasy version of Fabio.

But on the upside, I found that the world building is still excellent. The colorful monsters and the rolling hills of The Dells is other worldly. Fire, sans her crying and pining, is still a kick ass character. How she was able to fight through her past and her dad's shadow and come to her own and find that acceptance of who she is and to finally focus on the present. Oh, and I did enjoy Leck's (a recurring character from Graceling) background story of how he came to be and how he figures in both Katsa and Fire's world, for Graceling fans, this is a nice treat.  

I didn't like this installment as much as I thought I would. (having read Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief and Queen of Attolia, I seem to be more picky with fantasy nowadays.) 
But in the end, Fire is still a satisfying fantasy read and definitely still worth picking up for a chance to see the wonderful world of The Dells and to revisit Cashore's brilliant writing.        

Award Winning Books Reading Challenge Entry hosted by Gathering Books, Entry # 2

Awards Received: A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year (2009), Cybils Award for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2009), Booklist Top Ten Science Fiction/Fantasy Novels for Youth (2010), ALA Teens' Top Ten (2010), Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award (ALAN/NCTE) (2010)


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