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108 of 116 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even better than Graceling!
Fire is an outcast in her society, her vibrant and unnatural hair color an indicator of her monster status and her dangerous powers of mind control. She's the only one left of her kind, and she resides far out in the country where she is safe from those who fear her and would harm her.

Meanwhile, King Nash is struggling to hold on to his kingdom as enemies from...
Published on October 5, 2009 by The Compulsive Reader

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95 of 121 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fire left me a little cold
While our protagonist Fire is fairly diffrent from Kasta in Graceling, her storyline felt a bit recycled. Both heroines leave home on perilous journeys, both grossly misinterpret and underestimate their powers/talents, and both fall in love with princes despite the other men in their lives who are, of course, madly in love with them (and there's never any doubt in the...
Published on January 1, 2010 by H. Fontenot


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108 of 116 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even better than Graceling!, October 5, 2009
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This review is from: Fire (Graceling) (Hardcover)
Fire is an outcast in her society, her vibrant and unnatural hair color an indicator of her monster status and her dangerous powers of mind control. She's the only one left of her kind, and she resides far out in the country where she is safe from those who fear her and would harm her.

Meanwhile, King Nash is struggling to hold on to his kingdom as enemies from the north and south threaten to overthrow him. Both Nash and his brother Brigan distrust Fire for the havoc her father wreaked on the kingdom before his death, and Brigan would like nothing more than for Fire to be killed. But now, unless they find a way to resolve their differences and work together, they'll never win the impending war.

In this prequel to Graceling, Kristin Cashore has woven an intricate and brilliant tale that reveals a whole new world beyond Katsa's seven lands, full of fantastic creatures, strange powers, and a land teeming with political tension. For the most part, the characters in Fire are made more mature than Graceling's protagonists by the complexities of their past. Fire is a strong heroine, tough and fiercely independent, but loyal and kind through and through. She is genuinely thoughtful, and her concern for others stands out, especially as she struggles to reconcile her own nature and her father's actions with who she wishes to be.

The beginning of the book is slightly slow, but in no time at all it speeds up as Fire is launched out of her comfortable world and into an unknown and dangerous one. Cashore's plot is wonderfully complex and elaborate, but tight and solid. Fire also deals with many emotions--guilt, regret, fear, love, and empathy--in a very affecting way. Cashore is a master at using all of these elements to create a suspenseful, surprising, and totally engaging read. Though Fire is not a happy, warm book all of the time--it deals with death and violence and life's cruelties, but in a sensitive and optimistic manner, it has its moments of humor and romance. Cashore's talent for pulling off such an epic and engrossing read makes her one of the best YA fantasy writers since Tamora Pierce first introduced her character Alanna to the world. If readers weren't already in love with Cashore after reading Graceling, they will be after reading Fire.
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76 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If Kristin Cashore released a book every day I'd never leave my house., October 5, 2009
This review is from: Fire (Graceling) (Hardcover)
Gosh, FIRE is a fantastic. Before I read it, I would have insisted that anyone who thought FIRE was better than GRACELING had to be crazy, because how do you improve on perfection? So instead I will say that FIRE is equally good, while being a very different book.

FIRE takes place in the same world as GRACELING, but there is little crossover. It's a prequel, set at least a decade before GRACELING, and only one character appears in both books. The two can be read in any order.

The story takes place in the Dells, where there are monsters but no gracelings. Monster horses, monster mice, monster leopards, monster versions of every species - including people. The monsters are identified by their vivid coloring - "A dappled grey horse in the Dells was a horse. A sunset orange horse was a monster." - and they are so beautiful that onlookers, mesmerized, simply offer themselves up as prey. Mesmerizing beauty is a dangerous enough quality in a predatory animal - in a monster person, it is inevitably wedded to powers of mind control. Two years before FIRE begins, the Dells were nearly destroyed by a monster human, Cansrel, who used his political influence to bring the country to the brink of war.

Fire, the heroine, is Cansrel's daughter. The only living monster human in the Dells, at seventeen she is burdened by a terrible fear that she is evil like her father, and profound guilt because of his misdeeds. She hides her beauty, which drives other humans insane with desire, lives in an isolated corner of the kingdom, and uses her powers of mind-control as rarely as possible. Fire's closest friend and sometime lover, Archer, thinks she is only safe when alone in a room, behind stone walls. But Fire doesn't think that's much of a life, and when Prince Brigan arrives at her homestead with a request for aid, Fire agrees to journey to the capital to interview a spy caught in the palace. Brigan is deeply suspicious of Fire - he knew Cansrel, and is sure the apple cannot have fallen far from the tree - and Fire soon discovers that any aid she might offer to the King will probably violate the careful ethics she has cultivated her whole life. To do good, she must do harm.

It's a complicated, layered plot and I won't say any more about it. The characters are amazing, in their complexity and intensity and believability, and the writing is gorgeous. FIRE (and GRACELING) are fantastic books - they will satisfy young readers and adult readers alike, they will satisfy picky readers and readers just looking to be swept away into a marvelous fantasy. They will satisfy readers who like adventure, intrigue, and romance. The characters - even the villains - are interesting, intelligent people; and the twists and turns of the plot are unpredictable.

Highly, highly recommended - read this book!
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Such a different book from Graceling, November 28, 2009
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This review is from: Fire (Graceling) (Hardcover)
After reading "Fire", I will never let anybody say that Kristen Cashore is not an ambitious or talented writer. Although this book is supposed to be a prequel to "Graceling," it has so little in common with "Graceling" that it really should be considered a totally different book in a totally different world.

Others have attempted to describe this story but they have failed badly. "Graceling" was about survival against all odds, this is a familiar type of story for most fantasy readers and it was easy for us to fall in love with it.

"Fire" is about wounds, both emotional and physical, and how people deal with them. This is a highly unusual and demanding story both for the writer and the reader. Cashore handles the subject with impressive grace and wit but perhaps drives the characters (and the readers) too far which explains most of the negative comments. Many reviewers, for example, comment on excessive sex in the story, excessive sex is just one of the many ways that people wound themselves and each other and so it is altogether appropriate to this story.

I was equally impressed by the size and depth of both the story and the required body of knowledge to support it. For example, she is required to write knowledgeably and entertainingly about:
- The why's and wherefore's of military organization and logistics (keeping this entertaining can be a particular challenge)
- The true nature of horse love (lots of drool is frequently involved)
- The strengths and weaknesses of the human spirit (a topic so broad that many authors spend the rest of their lives trapped in it)
- The politics and tactics of civil war in a medieval society (always entertaining, rarely pleasant)

There were some unexplained plot holes (such as why monsters prefer to eat each other) that weakened the story but overall this book is an amazing accomplishment and I'm impressed with the talent and audacity of the author in even attempting to tell such a story, much less getting it published. This showed great dedication by both the author and the publisher.

In summation, I was deeply impressed by "Fire" and enjoyed it quite a bit but it was just too hard and painful a story to read to earn a 5 star rating. However I still look forward to her next story with great anticipation.

Addendum: My two teenage boys have both finished the book and given in glowing reviews. They particularly liked Fire's maturity and felt that the book was better than Graceling so I'm bumping the book up to a 5 star review. Congratulations, they are a tough audience!
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95 of 121 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fire left me a little cold, January 1, 2010
This review is from: Fire (Graceling) (Hardcover)
While our protagonist Fire is fairly diffrent from Kasta in Graceling, her storyline felt a bit recycled. Both heroines leave home on perilous journeys, both grossly misinterpret and underestimate their powers/talents, and both fall in love with princes despite the other men in their lives who are, of course, madly in love with them (and there's never any doubt in the readers mind who the girls will end up with). Another similarity that waxed on my nerves throughout this story was the author's apparent hate for any kind of conventional relationship, i.e. marriage and children born to married people. It seemed that every character in Fire was either illegitimate or a product of rape.

I could handle it in Graceling. I thought, okay, okay, that's just Kasta's character. But in Fire the totally irrisponsible bed-hopping and random pregnancies ceased being annoying and entered the realm of disturbing. Girl power is a clear theme in both novels, but the immature and hormone-driven behavior of the females in Fire is the exact opposite of that. And speaking of gratuitous sex...while the scenes aren't graphic, they felt irrelvent to the plot, especially considering that Fire isn't nearly as romantic as Graceling. One of the things that kept me engaged in Graceling was Po, Kasta's love interest. He's unique for a heartthrob, and we end up falling for him right along with Kasta. In this story, however, I really wanted to like Prince Brigan, but felt I was hardly given the chance. His and Fire's interactions were always infuriatingly short and failed to get to the heart of anything. I understand that Fire is supposed to be a balance between and adventure and romance--I appricate that, even. But the adventure was so bogged down with politics and the romance so lacking of, well, romance, that I couldn't fully enjoy either aspect.

On a positive end note, Cashore can spin a good tale; Graceling, her debut novel, is a good read. I gave Fire three stars because Cashore is a talented writer and a fresh voice in a world of predictable YA fiction. Kudos for that. But while I will most likely buy her next book, it will be because of the potential I saw in Grancling, not Fire, which just didn't live up to it's name for me.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Loved Graceling, Fire, not so much, October 31, 2009
This review is from: Fire (Graceling) (Hardcover)
I loved the heroine and all the action of Graceling. This story however was missing a plot.
Here is what worked: The heroine, the set up, and the world were interesting and the author can certainly write. There was a lot of potential here.

What didn't work: The pacing was completely off. I thought the book was just slow to start but by page 178 I was wondering where the story was going. The action picks up later but by then I didn't really care. The plot, too, was missing. Graceling was an excellent quest story. This was part coming-of-age, day in the life, court politics type of story. It just didn't have a clear focus to it. I started off liking Fire but her waffling about whether or not to use her powers became old fast.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written, wonderful supporting characters and fascinating new world, May 1, 2012
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Because today the third book Bitterblue has come out, I knew I only had a small bit of time to get through Fire by Kristin Cashore. I loved Graceling and so I was excited to return to this world.

Fire is about a world of monsters and mixes of humans and monsters. This is a different world then we were introduced to in Graceling, and I believe that is why this prequel is more successful than most-- this is a completely different story, with different conflicts, and an outcome that is uncertain (rather than preordained in the first book). We meet Fire, the product of a monster Cansrel and a maid who works in the castle. We immediately realize that part of the heart of this book is about discrimination against these monsters. Things are slightly more difficult to ascertain here-- Fire has the power to read and alter minds; more than that, she has a "monster" beauty that entrances most. To make matters worse, they are in the middle of a war, and no one seems to trust her (albeit for understandable reasons), although her powers may be the thing to save them all.

There are many things to love about this book. I loved the descriptions of the monsters and this new world. I was surprised by that and I think that is very difficult to do in a "second" book (quotes because I guess this is technically a prequel). I fell in love with Brigand-- he was an amazing character. I love what Cashore does with her male characters. I also was delighted to see that a character I was fascinated by in Graceling makes an appearance here. I absolutely loved the other side characters... in particular Brock, Roen, and Clara. Even Nash won me over in the end. One of Cashore's great strengths is developing her characters.

I had a few issues with this book, mostly just personal. I overall enjoyed most of Fire's character, but her bemoaning herself got old, especially at the end. She took a really long time to grow up and this is a very long book. I also lost sense of a plot arc. While it was extremely crystal clear in Graceling, I felt myself plodding along and lost for a large part of it. I knew there was a conspiracy but I wasn't captivated enough for it to take as long as it did. I also was not surprised by any moves in the book. Fire's big secret was pretty apparent after the first 20% of the book. Also a big event happens at the end that was very predictable. I wanted to be surprised a little. And also, I was a little disappointed that the "climax" of the book was rather similar to Graceling's, but less satisfying. Finally, it's hard to end a book. I thought the way Graceling's was done made sense. Fire, I felt just went on for another chapter and an epilogue because it was uncertain where it would make sense to end.

Although there are some issues that I personally had with certain moves of the author, I thought overall this was an engaging, beautifully written read that is worth reading. I highly look forward to delving into Bitterblue (one of my favorite characters from Graceling) later today!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's an OK book, but teachers take note, August 15, 2010
This review is from: Fire (Graceling) (Hardcover)
This book was a disappointment, especially after reading Graceling. Cashore seems to be going from an adventure writer to a soap opera writer. The book is listed by the ALA as a Young Adult book (young adult according to the ALA is 12 to 18 years). Teachers take note...this book is NOT appropriate for young teens due to the constant sexual nature of the book. Four of us read this novel and Graceling to debate future classroom novels and Reccomendation Lists and these will NOT be on our list (6th to 8th grade) because of the constant sex issue. (Parents don't mind violence in books, but sex and cursing always cause a problem and we don't get paid enough to deal with the controversy). We were all joking how Cashore went from a little sex (Graceling) to more sex (Fire) and we joked that her 3rd book will only be allowed to be sold in adult book stores! LOL I know sex sells on TV, but does it sell books?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Make that 4.5, October 16, 2009
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Kara Nicole (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fire (Graceling) (Hardcover)
I definitely enjoyed this book. Cashore seems like a strong writer and I would expect that I will like all of her books. She has a knack with character development. I don't think I have met one "stock" character in either of her books. I feel like I know who her characters are without the aide of the archetypical attributes, to which some authors fall prey. I also enjoy her brand of storytelling. Though a bit laborious in parts as a previous commenter mentioned, I like the balance of focus between the plot and the characters in the book. Some authors let twists and turns bog down a story so much that it is hard to see the characters for the plot (the forest for the trees). Cashore has taken care to write a compelling story with compelling characters. The premise is creative and it does not remind me of other books as I am reading, it is rather unique. This is refreshing as we are seeing a lot of recycling in the Young Adult genre of late with vampires, werewolves, wizards, and the like. Not that vamps, weres and Harry Potter are bad, quite the opposite actually ;), it is just that I am glad to see that the Young Adult fantasy genre is not being pigeonholed into a description of "popular Halloween costumes."

Now, praise out of the way, there are some issues that some readers might find tiresome. There are definite morals to Cashore's stories and at times I felt like I was getting beaten over the head with them. I caught myself on several occasions thinking, "I get it, ok! Can we move along?" Then at other times there were elements of the story that felt incongruous with the rest of the book or maybe just over or under played to the point of confusion.

My last critique may be seen as a positive to some readers. Cashore likes tidy little bows at the end of her stories. This is a good thing for most people. The problem is that she makes sure to tie up all lose ends to a point of exhaustion. I feel like she either needs to take care of dangling plot points along the way more often or she needs to just leave some plot points hanging at the end of the book. We are readers, we can make something up! What happens is that the climax of the tale is over and done; however, there is so much book left you find yourself anticipating another twist in the plot. Alas, there is none, only housekeeping. If she stopped the story proper early and included the last 30-50 pages as a Prologue, I probably would not feel this way.

I have given this book a 4-star rating and it would have been a 4.5 if I had the option. Some books are so average or terrible that there is no room to critique them at all. I feel like I have been hard on Cashore in this review but it is only because I think her books are so good that they can handle a healthy critique.

Read it. Read Graceling too. Good stuff.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Angieville: FIRE, October 9, 2009
This review is from: Fire (Graceling) (Hardcover)
Graceling was one of my very favorite reads of 2008 and the year's best YA I would venture to say. And before you get all up in arms, let me assure you I enjoyed The Hunger Games as much as the next person. But Graceling was just the one, you know? And I have this feeling that Kristin Cashore is something special. I was positively thrumming with anticipation when I heard she had a second book to follow. And it's the one I chose to take home with me on the plane ride home from BEA. FIRE is, in point of fact, a prequel/companion novel to Graceling and takes place 30 years or so prior to Katsa and Poe's story. It is also set in an entirely different land, though definitely in the same world, and (as I am sure you have already heard) a certain terrifyingly familiar character from Graceling makes an appearance in FIRE. Otherwise, it is its own story and it stands completely on its own feet.

Fire is a monster. A human monster. And the last of her kind. In her homeland, the Dells, there are all manner of monsters from lizards and mosquitoes to leopards and raptors. But they all have one thing in common--their incomparable beauty. These creatures come in a gorgeous riot of color and texture and are so beautiful they literally impede rational thought in the humans they come into contact with. With the ability to control the minds of those around them, they inspire an uncomfortable (at times deadly) mixture of fear, hatred, and absolute longing in the people of the Dells. And no one is more hated or sought after than Fire. Her father was King Nax's most trusted advisor and closest friend. He was also the one responsible for the king's untimely death and for the current chaotic state of the realm. When Fire's service is requested on behalf of the young King Nash and his brother and war commander Brigan, Fire is thrust out of her quiet life and into a mounting war. Forced to reconcile her questionable abilites with her own demanding conscience, she is immediately caught between right and wrong, a dark past and uncertain present, and a pair of brothers determined to win at all costs.

This book made short work of me. There was just so much hope inside me wrapped around how good it would be and when it turned out to be approximately ten times better than all that wrapped up hope....well....I was a goner. I looked forward all day long to the moment I could crawl back in bed and read more about the Dells and Fire and Brigan and Archer. And the list goes on. These characters are breathtakingly real and the way the gorgeous, understated writing tugs and pulls and builds a complex and lovely world around them makes the whole package irresistable. Best of all, Fire herself struck a chord deep within me and I held my breath as I watched her move through her world, worried she wouldn't meet with enough care, hoping someone in the messy throng of plotting, planning, warring kings and soldiers would recognize her for what she was. Like Katsa before her, she is so very strong, an outcast her entire life, and yet she never turns her back on those who need her. Even when they have no idea how desperately they do. Even when she herself is afraid. FIRE is, wait for it, even better than its predecessor. It's subtle and thoughtful and throbbing with genuine emotion--three qualities I often find lacking in my reading. It is, without a doubt, the most difficult of combinations to achieve, but when the right note is struck....magic.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Amazing!, October 5, 2009
This review is from: Fire (Graceling) (Hardcover)
Fire is heralded as the prequel to Kristin Cashore's debut novel Graceling but the events in Fire occur about 50 - 80 years prior to Graceling and only one character carries over into that novel. This book takes place outside the seven kingdoms in a land called The Dells. Its inhabitants have never heard of those who are "graced" instead they contend with the lawlessness that characterized the rule of its last king and his corrupt advisor who are both now dead. Monsters also exist in this land, beings with a spectacular, bewitching beauty that have the power to enchant all those who look on them.

Fire, daughter of the king's late advisor, is the only living human monster in the Dells. She is conflicted about her monster existence but has a moral bearing. Those who knew her father, blatantly mistreat Fire or are so wary of her abilities that they avoid her at all costs. She herself is initially timid and unassuming for fear of becoming the evil, degenerate being that was her father. She is also in danger from other monsters who desire to consume her. In addition to her natural beauty, Fire wields the power to control the minds of most everything around her, but does so reluctantly and only to protect herself. She wishes to live a quiet, unremarkable existence surrounded by her few friends. However, with her ties to the crown, her unique powers could be used to aid the new king as he steers the land toward a more peaceful existence.

Initially, I found the main concept of this book uninteresting, who wants to read about another beautiful girl with problems? I gave it a shot because I loved Graceling and think Cashore's writing is phenomenal. Once I started reading, I found myself instantly hooked on this new land, the idea of monsters, the creepy character from Graceling, and on Fire herself. The characterization of Fire is absolutely brilliant. I enjoyed watching her overcome her struggles and blossom into a spectacularly realized character by the end. Even though this book is very much about Fire, supporting characters generate interest as well and are far more complex than what one finds in the traditional fantasy novel. The romance was obvious from the beginning but I found that it played out in a very satisfying, if not surprising, way. Since the Dells is a warring, contentious land, the suspense really builds in this book and it has some great action sequences from the middle to the end. I honestly enjoyed every second I spent reading this book and I will be in impatient anticipation for the next!

If you liked Graceling, you will enjoy Fire, but give it a shot either way. The story is imaginative, creative, and enthralling. For me, I loved it just as much as Graceling. Recommend it to teens and adults who enjoy fantasy, action, and a little romance.
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Fire (Graceling)
Fire (Graceling) by Kristin Cashore (Hardcover - October 5, 2009)
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