Author: Kristin Cashore
Series: Graceling|Fire (you are here)|Bitterblue
Review Summary: A little too similar to Graceling and not quite as good, but still an enjoyable read.
Although written second, Fire is actually a prequel to Graceling with only one character in common between the two books. Like Graceling, Fire is the story of a young woman coming to terms with her own power, in this case the power to control the minds of others. Known as “monsters” people with such powers are feared more than respected and Fire (our protagonist) has to decide whether she is willing to use her powers to help prevent the overthrow of the king by rebel lords.
As you may already have gathered, this book is extremely similar to Graceling. Both involve a girl with frightening powers but who is actually really nice. In both cases, the girls have to decide what is a good use of their power and prevent others from abusing their powers. And in both cases, the girls meet a prince who has an abnormal level of resistance to their power who they eventually come to love. This isn’t entirely a bad thing. I like that in both cases we had a strong female lead with a supportive guy as a secondary hero who doesn’t steal all the glory. The powers of each girl are creatively described and integrated into the world Cashore creates. Unfortunately, despite liking some of the similarities, these books just felt too similar to me. In fact, a general description of the two books would be basically the same.
The similarity would be more acceptable if Fire has felt like an improved version of Graceling, but I didn’t like it quite as well. First of all, I like happy endings. And while this book has a generally happy ending, it felt more bittersweet than Graceling. Second, the ending was also less climactic. There was no one really evil bad guy to be defeated, just a war. The main difference between the two sides was just that one side happened to have inherited the throne, not that they were necessarily much better rulers than the other side might be. For me, that made the final showdown feel like less of a big deal.
Despite my complaints, this is definitely only a negative review because I didn’t feel Fire compared well to Graceling and that’s partially because some of Graceling‘s appeal was it’s uniqueness. Fire is still really well written, with interesting characters and set in an interesting world. It’s still a good, fun fantasy novel with a strong female lead. And it’s still a good book, with a different enough plot to be enjoyable.