Fire, the main character of Fire, grows up in the Dells, a country torn apart by political instability and characterized by the monsters that inhabit it. Monsters can be of any type of species: mice, cats, birds, deer, cows, or even humans. All monsters share the same characteristics: unbelievable beauty and the ability to control the thoughts of others, both of which they use to ensnare their prey. Fire is the only, the last, human monster. Her father was a monster who used his beauty and mental power to control the previous King of the Dells, encouraging him to wallow in base pleasures and maliciousness while the kingdom fell into ruins. Fire is a gentler sort of monster. Taught harsh lessons by her father’s cruel example, she never uses her mental powers, and hides her beauty as much as possible to avoid accidentally ensnaring the people she meets. When the new King requests her help in protecting the kingdom from civil war, Fire fears that she will not be able to stop the kingdom from falling again into the control of another monster: herself.
Fire is a prequel to Graceling, last summer’s hit novel about a girl with the power to kill, but it has very little to do with the other book. Fire and Graceling take place in the same world, but in very different countries. Fire is a more mature book than Graceling. Fire must deal with moral questions that go beyond what Katsa experienced, and her powers have the ability to cause more damage than Katsa’s. She experiences hard losses and finds her way in difficult situations. It is a fantastic read, with realistic relationships and a wonderful setting. It’s another can’t-put-it-down book (true story: when I was reading it I had the audio book in the car, and the book for my lunch break and home.)