Published by Dial Books on January 1st 1970
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.
Warning: Some spoilers for the Graceling series ahead.
I love fantasy, we all know this. As fantasy series go, I have a few special favorites. Bardugo, Maas, Cashore, they’re the top of my lists. That being said, I haven’t reread these books since high school and I was anxious to experience them again as a blogger much more experienced in YA. This book did not disappoint.
As the GRACELING series goes, FIRE is not a direct sequel. It is listed as a companion, but in a way it is more of a prequel to the events that take place during GRACELING and BITTERBLUE. It is not set in the same kingdoms, but an entirely separate place called The Dells, far over the mountains. The tie to these stories is Leck, at this point still a child. Though he does not feature as the main character of the book, his presence is felt and you get to see his evil as he grows. He’s not a particularly deep villain by any means, just a big bad who is born that way, but he does make a good obstacle.
The main character of this story is Fire, a Dellian “Monster” of great power. She is one of my favorite leads in the Graceling Realm universe. She is powerful but understands the consequences of having such power. She has a strong morality and a brave heart, pure Gryffindor through and through. She is definitely the best written character in this book, and perhaps some of the others suffer by comparison, but it is a sacrifice I don’t mind.
Prince Briggan, the love interest intrigues me as well. Like Fire, he is of strong moral fiber. It’s very clear early on that a love triangle really isn’t in the cards and Briggan is going to come out on top. Whether this was intentional or not, the other “love interest” Archer, doesn’t get anywhere near enough love from the author to be a viable match. I hardly think this counts as a spoiler, as I don’t think he’s even particularly pageworthy. It is Briggan’s heart the reader wants, and that is made pretty clear early on.
This kingdom is significantly different from the ones shown in GRACELING. There are no Gracelings in the Dells, instead they have Monsters. Strikingly beautiful and strange, Monsters have ranging abilities over minds and emotions. Human Monsters are rare and most Monsterous creatures are animal. Were it not for the existence of Leck in this book, you could almost consider it a different world entirely. This is where it falters for me, that neither the other kingdoms nor the Dells have any idea that the other exists. The Dells have no idea of the existence of Gracelings and the kingdoms know nothing of Monsters. How is it that these kingdoms are so separate when only mountains stand between them?
This is a book full of a lot of political manuvering as well as action. It is a good bridge between the action focused GRACELING and the mystery/puzzle based BITTERBLUE. Because of this, and the relevant information revealed in this story, I recommend reading it second, after GRACELING but before BITTERBLUE, due to certain characters that pop in and out of both FIRE and BITTERBLUE. To read it first would spoil the suspense of GRACELING, even though that is where it fits chronologically.
When I first read this book in high school, I thought it was the best of the three stories. Even now it does live up to expectations. However, as my tastes have changed I think I actually prefer the more clever and thoughtful puzzle and mystery of BITTERBLUE as my first choice, FIRE as my second, and GRACELING (though still a good story) last.
What are your opinions of FIRE in the Graceling Realm series? Share them in the comments below.
From my shelf to yours,