Fire by Kristin Cashore

fireSynopsis: 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.

My thoughts: Kristin Cashore has done it again. Seriously, I will bow at this lady’s feet until the day I die.

So let’s talk about Graceling, the first book, for just a second: Graceling was the shocker for me. The book I fell in love with after the first fifty-ish pages because it took a bit to get into it. The book that completely shocked me because I don’t like fantasy and I’d heard iffy things about it. Graceling was one of the best surprise loves ever. So, yes, jumping on Fire was a no-brainer.

Fire didn’t have the same pacing problem I found with Graceling–I was hooked in from page one. Completely and totally sucked into the world that Kristin Cashore has so magnificently created.

Let’s start from the beginning: that prologue. Prologues aren’t always my favorite, but dang, that’s how you do one. Holy crap. And can we take a moment to say how cool it is that the books of this series all take place in the same world but they don’t necessarily follow each other? It’s awesome.

That brings me to our amazing protagonist: Fire. Oh, Fire. How I freaking love Fire. What a compelling character! I mean, seriously. And so well written, I sometimes just sat in awe and stared at the page because it was just so beautiful. Fire is a monster, the offspring of a horrible creature that destroyed countless lives and nearly ruined an entire kingdom. Fire doesn’t want to be a monster. She hides in the mountains with her BFF/boyfriend Archer on his estate, and he protects her fiercely (almost to a fault sometimes) from everyone. After all, Fire may be a monster, but she’s breathtakingly beautiful–everyone either wants to kill her or kiss her or both. Not only is she a skilled archer, but she has incredible power, and a lot of the book and her character focuses on what she should do with that power. She doesn’t want to be her father, but the idea haunts her that she’ll end up a monster no matter what. And that struggle was absolutely brilliant. I loved how she loved her horse, I loved when she saved other people, I loved when she cried (especially over children), I loved when she rose above what she was and became something better. I can’t even say enough about this girl. She was everything I look for in a female character, and she touched me deeply with how much I related to this monster. So amazing.

Let’s talk about the men for a second: Archer and Prince Brigan. Archer was adorable and easy to love, but the friction between him and Fire was so real. They loved each other, but the more Fire got to know herself and become more confident in that, the more she started to question Archer. Not to say that Archer was just a jerk after all–even though he had some moments I just wanted to sock him in the face–but it was fascinating (and tragic, really) to see what of their relationship was real and what had been twisted by their circumstances. And that brings us to Prince Brigan. Loved him. Really, he was such a respectable man, and every time I read about him, I felt better. He’s just such a good person in the face of so much awfulness and he was such a strong character. He brought a real foundation to the story and everything in it. Fire’s relationships to both Archer and Brigan were complex, palpable and heartfelt. Really, her relationships with everyone, whether positive or negative ones, were so intriguing and Kristin Cashore explored them so well. Especially Fire’s relationship to her father, and the shocking revelations that came from that.

Do we even need to talk about the writing? We all know it’s amazing and beautiful and eloquent. End of story.

Oh, speaking of the end…ouch. I don’t know if I can be mad at Kristin Cashore for it, because I was the one that fell so deeply in love with her characters in the first place knowing there was no way they’d all come out unscathed. But what really amazes me about her stories is that they’re all about fantasy kingdoms, far off lands, Gracelings and monsters and creatures, and yet I learn more about being human than in anything else.

Rated 5/5 for continuing Kristin Cashore’s saga of spectacular writing, plot, world-building and characters, and introducing me to a protagonist I will carry with me forever