Fire | Thoughts
I adore this book. I actually can't think of another trilogy where I prefer the second book to the first or last. Usually, YA fantasy trilogies have a problem of the second book being just a lot of filler nonsense. What keeps Cashore's Graceling trilogy far from falling into middle book syndrome is the fact that each book can stand on its own. The greater story is all playing out, but especially with Fire, we're reading a whole new story filled with original characters and scenes. Graceling was "just ok" for me, and I did not enjoy Bitterblue at all except for the hints at seeing characters I fell in love with in Fire.
The Dells are a land across an unpassable mountain range from the lands we saw in Graceling. The people of this land—unaware of civilizations across the mountains—have their own troubles, including all the normal political and power struggles. Oh, and also the pesky problem of the monsters—animals that are the same as any normal species aside from the fact that they are any vibrant color of the rainbow, can read and manipulate minds, and love feasting on nothing more than their own kind.
Nice right? *grins*
Fire is the last of her kind—a human monster. Her father was known throughout the entire Dells, feared for his cruelty and malice. The sight of her usually inspires one of two reactions: maddening love, or blind hatred. This is in part because of the reputation her father gave their kind before he died, and also due to the nature of monsters to influence the minds of those around them—even if she is unintentionally doing so.
So when she is called upon to serve the king in his city—the king who, unfortunately, is one to fall into the maddening love category that pushes all but one desire from his mind when he is in Fire's presence—she goes in an attempt to not only aid in the coming war, but also to try and redeem herself for her father's, and her own, actions.
Fire is a fantastic fantasy for so many reasons—originality, lush writing, emotional impact—but the aspect that stands out the most for me is Fire's internal battle. To come to terms with what she is, to make the hard decisions necessary even at the cost of her own happiness. And the love that develops amidst the pages (yes, have no fear romantics—there's love!), is a subplot to the much larger stakes at hand. Danger, not just within the boundaries of the Dells, is creeping in their midst...and the root of it is one none could ever expect.
Though the trilogy as a whole is not my favorite, I love how Cashore chose to tell these stories. Fire is set before the events of Graceling, and Bitterblue is set in the future of both. She approached the storytelling process from a different way and upturned the timeline, which gave us all the right clues to our main villain at all the right times.
One of my all time favorites, I can't recommend Fire enough—and you'd be fine if you'd prefer to skip the others and just read this as a stand alone novel.
Maybe I'll go read it once again now...
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