Review: Fire (Graceling Realm #2) by Kristin Cashore

Before gracelings came monsters.

Fire has vibrant, flaming red hair. She is able to influence, control, and read peoples minds. Everyone who comes near her is attracted to her in a savage way. Monsters crave her blood. But she too is a monster….a special human monster….the only one left in the Dells.

Outside of the Seven Kingdoms are the Dells, a wild countryside full of monsters. Monsters are variations of a regular animals but their fur, claws, feathers etc, come in a unique pallet of colors (magenta, gold, silver etc). But above all, they are savage creatures motivated by blood and they all posses the ability to control the minds of others.

Since she was a young girl, Fire has been under the care and protection of Archer and his father, Brocker. Their duty is to protect the last human monster. But when a would-be assassin posing as a poacher is found on Archer’s grounds, everyone is uneasy for Fire’s safety.

The Dells and the poachers who live just outside The Dells have had a uneasy peace, but now the strain on their peace is escalating. Archer is determined to find out why.

Fire is sent to King’s City where she is to investigate the source of the poachers and what else is disturbing the peace. She is escorted to King’s City by the Commander, Brigan, who is King Nash’s brother and leader of his army.

Brigan and Fire develop a tedious relationship. He is cruel to her because of what she is….monsters are not to be trusted. But slowly their relationship takes on a new understanding.

With war coming, Brigan does not stay in King’s City long and leaves Fire under the care of the royal family. Fire begins to unravel a dark rouse. Deception lurks in every corner, something–or someone–is creating a fog of lies and Fire is the only one who can see through the smoke to find the instigator.

This second book of the Graceling series is much different than the first. The most notable difference is that it takes place outside the Seven Kingdoms and does not feature any of the original characters in the series really. This book could easily be a stand alone book though it does contain events and history pertinent to future books.

For me, Fire was a solid female protagonist. I liked that she wasn’t as ‘vicious’ as Katsa from the first book. She was sensitive and compassionate in her own unique way. She cared deeply for her friends and her animals, but I didn’t think she was as bold or romantic as Katsa.

While I did feel Fire’s heart, I didn’t feel her inner struggle with the monster identity in the way I hoped. Being a monster sounds like a passionate, colorful, fierce, and tormenting thing….a large burden to shoulder by one’s self. It seemed like Fire just accepted what she was and that was that. I thought the reader could have felt her inner torment more, the potential was certainly there.

I also struggled with the romance between Fire and Brigan. Because Brigan was always gone on war missions, I didn’t feel like the reader really got a chance to know him. I felt the chemistry between Archer and Fire much more than with Brigan. Even though Archer was a womanizing man whore, I felt that he was a better match for Fire. I bought into his passion, brooding, and tormented jealousy and in many ways, complimented Fire’s ‘monster’ side nicely.

The potential for Brigan and Fire to have a passionate affair was there but Cashore just didn’t take it to the same level as the relationship between Katsa and Po in the first book which I felt was a little disappointing.

I liked the use of flashback in the story. It was helpful to have the history of Fire, the Gracelings, and monsters. I really enjoyed getting to know the complexity of the villains. I did feel Fire’s inner struggle with her monster identity when I was reading the flashbacks but it didn’t always carry over into the present.

I enjoyed the complexity of the plot and the character backstories. There were a lot of twists, turns, and secrets that I simply did not see coming. I enjoy being surprised and the secrets and twists were just what I needed to keep my hooks in this story.

I also liked that Cashore continues to address the sex issue in YA lit. I won’t go into too much detail to keep this post more or less spoiler free. I like that Cashore doesn’t shy away from the taboo topic and isn’t afraid to explore how sex can change everything between two people. Bold, refreshing, and well done!

Overall it’s a solid prequel to the Graceling series but could also be a stand alone book. Fire is full of wondrous characters, beautiful settings, action, and of course….romance. If you are looking for something that sizzles, then Fire is the book for you.

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: Fire (Graceling Realm #2) by Kristin Cashore

  • Kindle Edition, 492 pages
  • Published October 9th 2009 by Firebird (first published September 24th 2009)

This book counts toward: NA

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 4 out of 5 (thrilling, edgy YA high fantasy)

Genre: YA, fantasy, high fantasy

Memorable lines/quotes: 

I must stop wishing for things to happen. Because something will happen eventually, and when it does, I’ll be bound to wish it hadn’t. (115)

‘I think that sometimes we don’t feel the things that we are. But others can feel them. I feel your strength.’ (433)

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