Young adult, fantasy
I read both Graceling and Fire last year. I read Graceling in September and Fire in November. I loved them both, and I’m totally bummed that I didn’t get a chance to review them until now, not the least of which is because these reviews will just be a thumbnail sketch of the plot and then me gushing. I know, you’re like And how is that different from your regular reviews? I dunno. Just is.
Anywhoodle, in Katsa’s world, some people are born with a crazy good skill, called a Grace, and those graced with a Grace are generally exploited and sometimes killed. Katsa has the Grace of being an awesome killer, which is totally exploited by the King, and she ends up being his minion, which she hates. She secretly tries to counterbalance the bad stuff she has to do for the King (who is also her uncle), and she hopes one day she won’t have to be the King’s minion and can just do good stuff. Then Katsa meets this guy, Prince Po, who is graced with combat skills, and well, he’s as bad ass as Katsa, and she totally meets her match in him.
I was totally into this book and couldn’t put it down. I loved the world that Cashore created. I’m certifiably cynical, and will sniff out a ridiculous romance and talk about how dumb it is. Sometimes, though, an author can get around my cynicism by, oh, I don’t know, having a love story that doesn’t feel fake and contrived (I know, weird, huh?), and Cashore did this fantastically. Not perfectly, but even my heart of stone got a little weepy at the love story in Graceling.
Rating: 93 out of 100
Young adult, fantasy
I was stoked to finish Graceling and then start on Fire shortly thereafter because Cashore creates amazing worlds that suck me right in. I don’t normally use other summaries, but I really want you to read this book, and I think this summary from School Library Journal is great:
This fantasy, shot through with romance and suspense, is set in the same world as Graceling (Dial, 2008), but on the far side of the mountain barrier in the kingdom of the Dells. Here there are monsters, enhanced and exceptionally beautiful versions of various animal species. Fire is a human monster, so beautiful that she has to hide her hair for fear of attack by both raptor monsters and human men. She is able to enter other people’s minds and exert power over them. It is a tumultuous time in the kingdom, as various lords are preparing to overthrow the king, and Fire is drawn into the fray. With a larger cast and a more complex canvas than Graceling, the story begins slowly and takes its time establishing itself. Fire’s path is not immediately clear, and although full of action, her quest is largely internal. While the plotting is well done, there are a few quibbles about Cashore’s world-building and about the role of a major character from Graceling, Leck. But, this is Fire’s story, and readers will fall in love with her as she struggles with her pivotal role in the war effort as well as her complex relationships with her oldest friend and lover, Archer; with Prince Brigan, whose mind is closed to her and who becomes central to her life; and with her monster father’s fearsome legacy.
I really loved Fire. I loved going back in the world that Cashore created, and I loved that Fire isn’t exactly a prequel to Graceling, but, as the cover suggest, it’s more of a companion book, with one common character in each book. I was happy that Cashore followed up Graceling with such a fantastic book. Sometimes authors nail their first book, but lose a little of their je ne sais quoi for the second book.
I didn’t like Fire as much as I liked Graceling, though I seem to be in the minority for that. Don’t get me wrong, I totally loved both books, but if I had to choose one to take on a deserted island, I would choose Graceling over Fire.
I’m eagerly awaiting Cashore’s third book, which appears to be about Bitterblue, one of the characters from Graceling. Whenever the book comes out, I’ll be reading it right away, probably in one sitting.
Rating: 90 out of 100
(There’s many, many more reviews, but in the interest of time (mine, of course), I just gave you a sampling.)
Book source: I bought Graceling myself, but I picked up Fire at BEA 2009…I think.
And one more thing? If you click on one of the Graceling or Fire links and buy something from Powell’s, I’ll make a commission! But no one ever does that, so this disclosure is kind of pointless.