First, I’d like to say that I absolutely devoured this book. For some reason, this one captured me in a way Graceling didn’t. Fire is the second book in the Graceling Realm series, but not a sequel to Graceling. The synopsis from Goodreads:
It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash clings to his throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men.
This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own.
Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, The royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there’s more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom.
If only she weren’t afraid of becoming the monster her father was.
For this book review, I’m not going to give a summary of the story. I’d like to get away from that since I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys YA Fantasy (and what fun would reading it be if you already knew the story!). What I will do is share what I liked and what I disliked about this novel.
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD
What I Liked:
• Fire – I absolutely loved Fire. Other than Tris Prior (from the Divergent series), I haven’t come across a YA heroine that I could relate to because she was so wonderfully flawed. Fire is everything a girl wants to be: beautiful, talented, admired, wanted. But, as most women know, to be wanted isn’t always a good thing. Most of the time, it’s downright terrifying. Fire has to cover her hair every time she goes outside because she knows something is bound to attack her, be it monsters or people. She has to have a guard around her during her “monthly bleedings” because her blood is irresistible to the other monsters. Fire lives in a fantasy realm, but her struggles are all too real for many women.
• Fire & Archer’s relationship – When I say I “liked” this, I really mean that I like what it represents. In the beginning of the novel, I thought they were going to be a rare, healthy relationship. This was before Archer’s jealousy and possessiveness showed itself. Their relationship is a great example of a toxic relationship; friends turned lovers, Archer cannot imagine Fire being with anyone but himself, and lashes out at her because of it. He is constantly trying to hold her back, “keep her safe”, and then becomes furious if she does not listen to him. When two people have been friends for so long, it’s hard to step away from a harmful relationship. You love that person, and sometimes it’s hard to realize when having them in your life may not be the best decision.
• Brigan – Possible one of the few YA male characters who isn’t written as an overly-dramatic romantic, Brigan was a wonderful character. His growth throughout the novel was so well done, without the usual rush that comes with YA novels. His immediate hatred for Fire is very akin to racism; he hates her because of what she is. She’s a monster, as was her father. The only reason I’d argue against it being racism is because Brigan’s hatred is mainly because of Fire’s father. Had her father not done what he’d done to Brigan’s family (read the book!), Brigan’s opinion of monsters may have turned out different.
His character growth really surprised me. I thought him and Archer’s roles were going to be flipped; that Archer would be the soul mate and Brigan would be the spurned lover. When it turned out to be the complete opposite, I was a little skeptical. Brigan had been so hostile towards Fire before, I wasn’t sure how he could redeem himself. Their wonderfully slow relationship was such a break from the usual “I’ve-just-met-you-and-I-love-you” relationships that seem to plague YA novels.
• The “People-Aren’t-Black-and-White” Theme: All throughout the book, there is a recurring theme of characters being not good, and not bad, but simply people. It felt like each character had their own deep, terrible secret. Sometimes it felt like overkill, but it served its purpose: to show that nobody is a fairy princess, incapable of every screwing up, and nobody is a dark overlord forged in the fires of Mt. Doom. There so many different layers to people, and they are constantly changing. Cansrel, Fire’s father, was known for his cruelty towards the royal family, but Fire knows the caring side of him. She loved him, even knowing what he had done, because he was her father, and he was kind to her.
What I Didn’t Like:
• The Pace: I did find the book to be a little slow at times. Considering the actual storyline, it could have easily fit in 200 pages or less. A lot of the time, it felt like the storyline was just there so Fire could re-think her feelings for everyone. The story of the Dells and the war just felt superficial. I never felt the fear or hopelessness that war brings; instead, I just felt bored.
• Leck: His addition to the story felt forced and awkward. And his sudden disappearance didn’t make it any better. I was actually very excited when I first started this book. I was looking forward to reading about Leck’s past, not just his quickly-advanced childhood. It felt very Twilight to me.
• The Ending: It felt a little rushed. After the war “ended”, it was almost like “Well, I guess that’s it, let’s wrap this up fast.” It was so unmemorable, I can only remember bits and pieces of it. It all just seemed to fizzle away.
What did you think? What did or didn’t you like? Which did you like more, Graceling or Fire?