Fire is a monster. In the Dells, monster creatures — immensely beautiful, irresistible to humans, and with the ability to control human minds — are a part of life, and Fire is the last of the human monsters. She has the ability to make people do her will — an ability her father, Cansrel, used frequently before he died — but she doesn’t use it, instead preferring to hide away in her northern home. That is, until people start mysteriously attempting to kidnap her and then mysteriously dying once they are captured. The events make her curious, and restless, and so when Prince Bergin shows up, at the king’s request, to escort her to King City in order to use her powers to aid in the preparations for the upcoming war, she goes.
It’s obviously more complex than that, mostly because Cashore is a brilliant storyteller and world weaver. There’s scores of new characters to know and love: complex, fascinating, amazing. There’s a new world to discover, full of interesting, and dangerous, creatures. But, in the inevitable comparisons, it’s a much more reflective book than Graceling is. While Fire and Katsa are vastly different heroines, they’re both strong, intelligent, amazing, and willing to do much for those (people and country) that they love. While the romance doesn’t as sparkle and sizzle as much as it does in Graceling, it’s there and amazing in its own mature, lasting way. We meet Leck, Graceling‘s creepy evildoer, as a boy, and even though he didn’t play the role that I was hoping he would, he was still evil enough to give me chills. In fact, the weakest link in the book that is Fire is the “bad guys”; they are there, but they tend to lurk and make polital maneuvers rather than actively confronting the main characters.
That said, Cashore keeps the pace moving, the pages turning, and the reader engrossed to the very last page.