This was my fifth (maybe fourth? I’ve lost track) time rereading this book, and the second I finished it, I wanted to start all over and read it again. I freaking love this book.
Note: This book is a companion to Graceling. If you haven’t read Graceling, you can read Fire, but it will spoil a few things if you ever decide to read Graceling, so I suggest reading Fire after. They are both two of my favorite books ever.
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.
This book is just *swoon.*
Fire, the protagonist, is a female monster, the only human monster left in the Dells. Ridiculously gorgeous, she has the ability to enter people’s minds and bend them to her will; however, after her psychopathic father destroyed the Dells with his manipulations, Fire refuses to use her monster powers. She remains sheltered away with an adoptive family at the edge of the kingdom, avoiding the ruling family, which her father tore apart, and the chaos of the nation as it fights off internal rebellions–that is, until the royal family asks for her help.
I empathized with Fire’s character from page one. She loves and hates her father, who was a monster, but who also showed her kindness. She wants to help make up for his wrongs, but she is terrified of becoming the monster he was. She is afraid of getting hurt. Sometimes she acts selfishly, but never without reason. Throughout the entire story, I wanted to give her a hug of support. Though the story is written in third person, you get a clear and effortless window into Fire’s head and the complexities of her growing character.
Fire’s character is something you rarely see in YA: a female character who can shoot a bow and arrow well, and who does badass things, but whose character does not revolve around her physical (or violent) abilities. Don’t get me wrong, I love my badass female MCs (I’m looking at you Celaena) but it is refreshing to read a book that gives a female character physical–as well as emotional–strength.
The plot of this story is multifaceted and complex–but never “too complicated.” If you enjoy books with political intrigue, you HAVE to read this book. The delicate political dance Fire finds herself in the middle of is perfectly woven and subtly surprising. The main plot has lots of offshoots and important tangents, but they all work together to create a gorgeously realistic story. The other characters all add something to the book and none of them are “flat” or one-dimensional.
And then they’re the romance. HOLY CRAP. Fire and Brigan’s slow burn romance is a double edged sword: it is great because they are seriously the cutest couple on earth, and it is awful because you will forever be left wanting more. Though the romance is a major part of the book, it never overpowers the plot; it is never blatant or cheesy. They fall in love slowly and honestly (another thing that is often absent from YA books). Their relationship is just…swoon. Yep, that’s the only word I have for it.
This book also showcases a remarkably stark discussion of female sexuality. Fire starts the book in a very open relationship with Archer, which she slowly grows past as she falls for Brigan. Though I of course like her relationship with Brigan more (see the swooning in the previous paragraph), I really appreciate that she began the book with Archer. Fire is not the typical cluelessly chaste character of YA books (again, I’m not condemning that trope, I just love it when authors go beyond the norm). She’s had sex before, and there’s a lot of sex in this book–though all of it is “fade to black” implied.
With some characters, Fire’s sexuality wouldn’t work for the plot, but since Fire is basically a walking sex icon, it makes since that she’s not chaste. It also lends her character a maturity that makes her interactions with the older royal family more believable. I really appreciate that her character is never condemned for her sexual choices. The frank discussion of Fire’s yearning to have children is also surprisingly unique in the YA world.
Finally, the writing of Fire is gorgeous. Kristen Cashore’s writing style is poetic without distracting from the story. The messages and emotions woven into this book are powerful and heart-breaking. Certain scenes will always make me tear up, others will always make me laugh.
Fire is a powerful YA fantasy that breaks the genre’s stereotypes with complex characters and plots. I doubt I will ever stop rereading it.