I’m going a little bit out of order with my book reviews this week – it’s taking me so long to get these reviews done, I start to forget some of the details. So before I forget this one, I wanted to go ahead and knock it out.
This book is the prequel to Graceling, which I read earlier this year for the podcast. Set in the kingdom of the Dells, it tells the story of Fire, the last human monster in the world.
I need to stop and explain the whole monster thing. With all the different animals (humans included), there are normal ones and monsters. The monsters are usually much more brightly colored (there was a kitten that was bright gold and green, for example) and in some cases, they are much more violent. With humans, it gives them certain powers, particularly mind control. They are also so strikingly beautiful, it is hard for them to go anywhere without attracting feelings of extreme envy or lust.
Back to the story. Fire was named for her brilliantly colored hair (it’s red and gold – yeah, basically looks like fire). Her quiet life living with one of the old king’s ex-advisors is shattered when a poacher tries to attack her. There is war brewing on the horizon and somehow this attack is connected to a grander scheme. A host of other events leads Fire to come to the King’s City, where she has to meet the new king, Nash, and his brother, Brigan. She also has to confront her past, which is the part of the book that I enjoyed the most.
Fire’s father, Cansrel, was the closest advisor to Nash’s father, King Nax. The two of them engaged in drugs and debauchery, leading the kingdom to the edge of ruin. Cansrel was the instigator, and at his heart, a very cruel man. Fire thinks that she is probably the only thing that her father ever loved. Cansrel’s legacy leaves the people of King’s City with a bad taste in their mouths in regards to Fire – they expect her to act the same way he did. As Fire gets more and more involved with the plans to protect the city (and uses her powers more than she ever did before), she is constantly afraid that she will become like her father. She loved him, but she doesn’t want to be him. This inner conflict was what made the book for me.
Sure, there’s a love story, a sort of love triangle (or love rectangle, at times). Brigan is a really well-written character – his journey from hating Fire on sight, to falling in love with her, was believable and very well done. Readers of Graceling will recognize another character in this story – Leck, the future king of Monsea. Here, you get to see what his powers really can do and it is terrifying. He is an excellent villian in both books.
This is a very good series. I am definitely going to hunt down Bitterblue, the third book in this trilogy, once I finish with all the Harry Potter books.