After finishing the book Graceling by author Kristin Cashore, I learned that she had written a companion book entitled Fire. Fire is actually a prequel to Graceling, taking place some three decades before the narrative of the first book, in a vast kingdom well to the east of the setting in Graceling. The land is inhabited by the Dells, but they are constantly having to deal with aggressions from Lord Mydogg and his loyalists in the north and Lord Gentian and his growing ranks in the south. This, coupled with bands of raiders and general lawlessness away from the cities, makes skills in survival critical.
In this land are wonderous creatures, termed monsters, who look like ordinary dogs, leopards, birds, and bugs, but they are adorned in brilliant colors, purples and golds and fuschias. These monsters tend to be much more aggressive than their standard counterparts. Another monster in the Dellian kingdom is unique. Her name is Fire, and she is the last surviving human monster. She possesses a beauty that overwhelms all who witness her, causing unguarded men and women alike to be drawn to her with uncontrollable lust or rage. She also has the ability to control weak or willing minds, as well as the power to sense and understand all those in her immediate surroundings. She can enter minds and understand intents and purpose and thoughts, and if she so choose, she could enslave those same minds.
Fire is a young woman of deep passion and feeling. Her father, Cansrel, also a monster with the ability to control and manipulate others, used his abilities to accumulate wealth and power. Ultimately his cruelty led to madness, a path that Fire was determined never to follow. The story of Fire is really a tale of choices and consequences from Fire's long-time beau Archer and their tempestuous relationship, to her separation from him to find peace and follow her heart, and ultimately to her journey to make amends for the tortorous and wicked legacy of her father. At numerous junctures along the way, she could have so easily slipped away and become a mirror of her father. However, her strength and determination to be a positive force are uplifting and empowering. The undercurrent love story between Fire and the King's brother Brigan and Fire's relationship with his young daughter, also builds through shared pain and triumph.
Fire was not really related to Graceling save for one interesting graceling boy who plays a critical role in that later tale. However, it gave Cashore a world and a period that had already been established on which she could paint a different portion of the canvas. She has a strength in developing characters (especially strong female leads) and pulling you into them, even when they are deeply flawed. Cashore has crafted an adventure that really just let me escape from my world for a time, and I absolutely loved my time with this book. She plans on releasing a third installment in this line that is tentatively titled "Bitterblue". I look forward to diving into that one when it comes out.