Fire (Graceling Realm #2) by Kristin Cashore
It took me two tries to finish this book, and I am actually really glad that I gave it a second shot.
Fire is the sequel to, but not not about the same characters. Instead of just being graced with a special skill, there are monster creatures in the Dells. Monster cats, monster bugs, and even monster humans. The monster element makes each creature more than it’s original. In Fire’s case, she is more beautiful and enrapturing. She can control people who are unguarded with her mind, speak to them in their heads, understand their feelings, and more. The entire story is basically wrapped around the fact that her father was in fact a true monster in spirit and she does not want to use her powers in the same evil manner that he does. Circumstances change, and her skills are needed by the king, thus thrusting her into a life that she did not expect to step into, let alone like.
It is a little slow. It held a steady pace of not much happening, even when people were being shot at by arrows. I luckily was just listening to an audiobook on 1.5x speed so I was able to get through it rather quickly, I am not sure I would have gotten through with just reading the book. I think the strength in the story was mostly in the diverse characters and beautiful world building.
The World Building
I love the idea of beautiful monster creatures and even how they are extra attracted towards Fire and are more inclined to eat her just as she in inclined to eat them. The sprawling kingdom of the Dells and the conflict that was slowly building gave depth to the story of these monster creatures. The background history is interwoven well and not dumped all at once. I am assuming this is actually a prequel to before King Leck came to weasel his throne, so as a timeline with the second book, it is a little backwards.
The complex characters were by far the best part. I loved Fire and her independence and strength, but still seeing that she wasn’t some all powerful creature. She needed help from time to time. Especially, apparently when she got her period. I have never read any book that wrote so much about a girl’s period. WTF. It didn’t even add any significant value to the story at all beside a few brief awkward encounters/conversations. Every time she had to have extra guards because she was on her period and the creatures smelled her easier just made me think of the jumbo tampon scene in Mean Girls:
Anyway, the rest of the characters were well developed and added to the issues that Fire had to face. And like the first book, Cashore writes about a society where a woman can have a baby out of wedlock without shame and still being able to live independently.