It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash clings to his throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men.
This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own.
Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, The royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there’s more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom.
If only she weren’t afraid of becoming the monster her father was.
Fire seems less “I hate being a girl,” than Katsa from Graceling, which I appreciate. She wants to have kids, is relatively feminine, and when it’s the right person she’s not so anti-marriage (though it wasn’t explicitly talked about, there were innuendoes). Her friends-with-benefits relationship with Archer in the beginning is a bit weird, I get that she’s lonely, but I didn’t understand why they had to be lovers, especially since she doesn’t love him that way.
Anyway, this story is pretty slow. And I didn’t really start to like Fire until the last third of the book. She spends most of the beginning fearing herself because she’s a monster – which, this whole idea is interesting since we are moving away from gracelings in this book – she so beautiful she even dazzles herself, and she has this crazy power that can be easily twisted into something evil. I understand why she’s so scared of her power, and turing into her father, but I also don’t think she’s being fair to herself. Once she separates herself from Archer – who she accuses of trying to control her, yet she hides behind him and his father, she starts to embrace her powers and use them in a way to separate herself from her father’s legacy.
I like Birgan. I like how independent he is, how loving and responsible he is to his family and soldiers, and after he learns more about Fire he encourages her to be her own person – but lets Fire reach her own conclusions about things. Basically, they are set up to be an awesome power couple, but it takes forever for that to happen – like everything else in this book.
And the underlying element of Leck is really interesting – the whole series centers around this one character, and this book give us the most insight about him, and how deeply demented and evil he is. Unlike the rest of the characters in this series, whose gifts could easily let them dominate people, they all resist – it’s only Leck who succumbs to manipulating people for his own needs.
It was slow, and I’ll always have issues with Cashore’s anti-marriage/lose morals when it comes to relationships (though it’s much more toned down from Graceling), but it was enjoyable and the writing is an interesting style, but always enjoyable. The character development is what stands out the most about this book.