Hardback, published 2009, 461 pages. Library copy.
I picked up this book after reading Graceling and enjoying it. I read bits and pieces of the beginning, then read nearly 300 pages last night, and finished it today.
Fire is a monster in the Dells. She has bright red hair and looks that make monsters and men attracted to her, sometimes dangerously so. Fire becomes involved in the political moves of the royal family of the Dells when they realize her mental capabilities to get information she needs. Honestly, the book doesn't have one single plot but rather a collection of subplots, all intriguing.
The main difference between Fire and Graceling is the pace. Though both are fairly slow-paced compared to most YA fantasy I've read, Fire has a slower pace than its counterpart. It has more focus on the politics of the Dells: the king who left behind a messy kingdom and the two Lords rebelling against him. Fire also has much of the shame that Katsa had from her ability and also from her father, who ruled the past king with cruelty. Fire feels like an object and refuses to be used for malicious means. Unlike Katsa, however, Fire rarely physically defends herself. She relies on her mind and her control over other people's minds. It would have been nice to actually see her not get rescued, but she kept getting into pretty horrific situations and she was not physically strong aside from her bow and arrow.
Fire goes through a lot in the book. In the beginning of the book, she's very solitary with about as many friends as she has fingers on one hand. Later when she travels to the King's City, she's faced with the reality of her blood. Monsters hunt her, some men want to overpower her, others want to marry her. She slowly rises above this shame to help the royal court with the spies and forms special relationships. Ultimately, it's a story of her development as she uses her powers for good, comes to accept who she is, and forgives herself for things she's done in the past.
Overall, I really liked Fire, but I wished more could have happened. The romance was so underplayed compared to Katsa and Po, and I kept thinking, "When are they going to get together??" I can't deny the politics were very interesting, but I'm left hoping more could happen with the characters I've grown to love.
Note: I read the hardback with the above cover, but isn't this one beautiful??