Over the summer I read Graceling by Kristin Cashore, and I just finished the companion novel, Fire. I love book series, but I frequently don’t read them back to back. I enjoy variety in my reading life.
Fire takes place in The Dells, the neighboring country to the seven kingdoms of the Graceling novel. In The Dells there are humans and various monsters in different forms – humans, bugs etc. The story follows Fire, a human monster whose monster father was an advisor to the previous king. Fire lives with her friend Archer and his father, Brocker, who acted as a surrogate father to Fire as well. Monsters have the special power of entering into other people’s minds. Fire’s father, Casrel used this power for evil, so for most of her life Fire has purposefully ignored her powers, and works to live as a normal human being. However, when people start trying to attack Fire, she is forced to go to the King’s city to help them identify the perpetrator.
The kingdom is also on the verge of two wars that Fire could be a huge help with. Cashore really gets into what she calls a “palace intrigue” story. Fire finds her place in the palace and really becomes friends with the different members of the royal family. Cashore also fulfills the “coming of age” aspect of the novel by having Fire figure out how to use her powers for the good of the kingdom without becoming a clone of the man her father was.
This novel, which is considered to be a companion novel to Graceling, as opposed to a sequel, has a distinctly darker tone to it than Cashore’s previous book. Fire has had a very dark and complicated past, between having two distinctly father figures, and the fear of her power. This, combined with the rush of an oncoming war from both the north and south of the kingdom gives the novel a darker more adult feel to the novel.
Over the course of the novel Fire makes decisions that ultimately change her character in major ways, as is with many coming of age and young adult novels. Some of these decisions however, I thought, could have have been done with more of a build up. Some of them just pop into her head. One way of looking at it could be that this is more realistic, that many are decisions are made without a big hoop-la, but I thought for the sake of the layout of the novel, there could have been more of a build up for the plot reversals.
Despite this fact, I really did enjoy this novel. Kirstin Cashore has done an excellent job yet again of creating a strong female lead without making it overly done or cliched. I definitely recommend it.