Graceling was Kristin Cashore’s first novel, published in 2008, and it received quite a bit of acclaim. (Semicolon thoughts on Graceling.)The follow-up to that book is Fire, not a sequel but a “companion to Graceling.” Fire takes place in the same world as Graceling, but in a separate and distinct country, the Dells, that has little or no communication with or knowledge of the seven kingdoms of the first book. Instead of gracelings, people with special talents and abilities, the Dells has monsters, people who are especially attractive and have special abilities. Actually, our heroine, the eponymous Fire, is the last of the monsters, and she’s determined to keep it that way. No monster, or half-monster, babies for her even though she longs for a child to love and nurture. However, not only are Fire’s abilities to influence and read thoughts much too dangerous to pass on to another generation, Fire is much too busy saving the kingdom from monster raptors and assorted rebels and bad guys to get married or care for a child.
If that last sentence sounds condescending or scornful, I didn’t mean it to be. Fire is a fantasy romance, and it’s a good one. Even though it was obvious who ends up with whom from the beginning of the novel, I found myself rooting for Fire and her romantic interest even as the age old boy-meets-girl, boy-and-girl-misunderstand-each-other, true-love-wins-out, plot wound its way through the fantastical elements of princes and powers and magical thinking and monster kittens and giant raptors.
In fact, I liked Fire even better than I liked Graceling. Fire was a more intriguing character than Katsa, whose main issue is figuring out how to use her grace without being controlled by other people. Fire’s focus is self-control and how and when to use her special mind control abilities for good without taking away the freedom of others. I was glad to see that Fire, unlike Katsa, wasn’t afraid of love and commitment, only worried that she might not be able to live with the man she loved and communicate freely and openly.
If you liked Graceling, read Fire. If you haven’t read Graceling, read Fire first. It’s the better book. If you didn’t like Graceling, you might enjoy Fire anyway.
What other bloggers are saying:
Steph Su Reads: “When an authorâ€™s second novel far surpasses her already critically acclaimed debut novel, you know thereâ€™s something special going on. Kristin Cashore is such an author, and FIRE is such a book. Not since Robin McKinley has an author written so convincingly of a politically charged fantasy world.”
Persnickety Snark: “Fire could quite easily become an unsympathetic character as she’s irresistibly attractive, princes and lords falling over themselves in love with her and the power of persuasion. Instead Cashore has created a character who’s consistently struggling with the direction of her moral compass in terms of her ability to manipulate others whether with good intentions or not.”
S. Krishna’s Books: “Kristin Cashore has really matured as a writer in this book. Though the world has already been established in Graceling, Cashore doesnâ€™t assume her readers have read that book. Additionally, the parts of the world the two books take place in are extremely different â€“ even readers of Graceling will be introduced to something completely new.”