Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Fire by Kristin Cashore

Fire by Kristin Cashore is a reread for me -- this time, I listened to the audiobook.

In the kingdom of the Dells, there are normal creatures, and there are monsters. These monsters are lovely things, rainbow-hued versions of normal animals, but they have a horrifying ability to control the minds of others. Fire is the last human monster. She is determined to be the last, because her father was a true horror, nearly destroying the kingdom with his manipulations of the king. Even now, two years after his death, his legacy lives on in a splintered kingdom that could fall apart at any moment. Fire is not like her father, and she will never have children because she fears the power they could wield. In an attempt to help mend the country, Fire leaves her secluded country home and travels to the king's city. The voyage is perilous, and the city even more so. Fire finds herself caught between the king, who is extremely susceptible to her power, and his brother Brigan, who holds her in distrust because of her father's deeds. Warlords in various parts of the country are threatening attack, and Fire's powers can be useful in spying and interrogation, but she must decide what her limits are, and then hold fast to them even when others disapprove. Into this fraught situation comes a boy, one with strange powers and mismatched eyes. Is he a threat? Fire must find out the truth.

This book is a prequel to Graceling, but stands on its own well enough that I did not feel the need to go back and reread that book either before or after reading Fire. I don't like Fire quite as much as I like Graceling, but I found myself liking it better than I did after this reread. Part of that may be due to a skilled narrator -- I thought the narration in this audiobook was particularly well done -- and part may be due to balanced expectations this time around. The first time, I think I was always wishing for it to be a sequel to Graceling, rather than a companion work. I do think there are some pacing issues, particularly in the second half of the book, and Fire is not as compelling a character as Katsa in my opinion. However, the book's strengths far outweigh those few weaknesses, making it an enjoyable read for fantasy fans.

(Reviewed from an e-audiobook borrowed through my library system.)

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