Fire by Kristin Cashore

FireA review by Rebecca Muir

Fire is a prequel to Graceling, but can be read as a stand-alone novel by anyone who hasn’t read Graceling (if you plan to read them both, it would be recommended to read Graceling first). Although it is as well written and as interesting a story line as Graceling, the tone is darker and grittier. This didn’t appeal to me as much, but will probably appeal to some readers more. It may be less suitable for younger readers.

The story is set in a land over a mountain range from the seven kingdoms of Graceling – mountains so high that there is little or no interaction between the two sides. On this side of the range there are creatures called monsters, like ordinary creatures except for their brilliant colours, their exceptional beauty giving them powers of allurement and control – and their hunger for the flesh of other monsters. There are monster birds, monster lions, monster bears, even monster bugs, and monster people. The book follows a young monster woman, Fire.

Fire has always been in danger from other monster creatures who hunger for her flesh. Fire is also in danger from humans who are scared of her and hate her for who she is, for the power she can wield over them and even for their own attraction to her. As the book unfolds, however, Fire and those close to her realise that there is a new threat – even greater because they do not know the true nature of it. There is also the constant threat to the land from two feuding lords who both seek to overthrow the young king.

Fire must come to terms with who she is and what she can do. She must learn to trust other people and to face up to the reactions she elicits from people all around her. She must also come to terms with the lurking nightmares of her past. It is a book about friendship and love, but primarily it is a book about identity, and what it is that shapes who we are – our past, our parents, our experiences, our abilities and our relationships with those around us.

Previously published in Dark Matter issue 5, September 2011.  This blog has been pre-dated to reflect the date of original publication.