Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
This prequel to Graceling, Cashore's smashing debut, may initially frustrate readers wanting more about Katsa and Po. Fire takes place long before Katsa's birth in an adjacent kingdom called the Dells and shares only one character. But its themes-embracing your talents and moving out of your parents' shadow-are similar, as is the absorbing quality of Cashore's prose. The Dells do not have gracelings; they have beautiful creatures called monsters that are like normal animals except for their exquisite coloration. Seventeen-year-old Fire, who can read and control minds, is the last human monster. Her father, a corrupt adviser to a debased king, recognizes the dangers of her powers and exiles her to the hills, where she is raised by an out-of-favor military commander and befriended by his son, Archer. Many twists propel the action, and although astute readers will suspect who the eventual lovers will be from their first hateful meeting, the buildup to their romance provides tension that keeps the pages turning. Cashore's conclusion satisfies, but readers will clamor for a sequel to the prequel-a book bridging the gap between this one and Graceling. Ages 14-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal Review
Gr 9 Up-This fantasy, shot through with romance and suspense, is set in the same world as Graceling (Dial, 2008), but on the far side of the mountain barrier in the kingdom of the Dells. Here there are monsters, enhanced and exceptionally beautiful versions of various animal species. Fire is a human monster, so beautiful that she has to hide her hair for fear of attack by both raptor monsters and human men. She is able to enter other people's minds and exert power over them. It is a tumultuous time in the kingdom, as various lords are preparing to overthrow the king, and Fire is drawn into the fray. With a larger cast and a more complex canvas than Graceling, the story begins slowly and takes its time establishing itself. Fire's path is not immediately clear, and although full of action, her quest is largely internal. While the plotting is well done, there are a few quibbles about Cashore's world-building and about the role of a major character from Graceling, Leck. But, this is Fire's story, and readers will fall in love with her as she struggles with her pivotal role in the war effort as well as her complex relationships with her oldest friend and lover, Archer; with Prince Brigan, whose mind is closed to her and who becomes central to her life; and with her monster father's fearsome legacy. More adult in tone than Graceling, this marvelous prequel will appeal to older teens, who will not only devour it, but will also love talking about it.-Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* This prequel to Graceling (2008) introduces Fire, a monster-woman with the fundamental elements of her kind: a breathtaking beauty that inspires nearly irresistible sexual attraction and the dual powers of reading thoughts and bending another's will to her purposes. Though her father used his monster powers to control the kingdom for his own evil purposes, Fire struggles to use hers only for good. Her growing regard for the king, his brothers, and his sister leads to some uncomfortable dilemmas and decisions as well as, eventually, the revelation of old secrets. Drawn in to tip the delicate balance of forces struggling over the realm, she begins to trust herself to act on behalf of the royal family, though in doing so she violates a long-held principle that has held her considerable powers in check. Like its predecessor, this novel focuses on a young woman who thinks for herself, wields considerable powers, and acts courageously. While the two stories take place in adjoining lands and one character appears in both books, readers can enjoy this novel without having read Graceling. And enjoy it they will, with its vivid storytelling, strongly realized alternate world, well-drawn characters, convincing fantasy elements, gripping adventure scenes, and memorable love story.--Phelan, Carolyn Copyright 2009 Booklist
Horn Book Review
(High School) In the Dells, across the mountains from the Seven Kingdoms (Graceling, rev. 11/08), there are no preternaturally gifted Gracelings, but there are monsters -- magical, often dangerous versions of real creatures. The most dangerous of all are the human monsters, of which Fire is one. Raised by her guardian Lord Brocker to have a conscience, she shrinks from attention and covers the inhumanly red hair that marks her heritage. When Fire accompanies Brocker's son Archer to court, she is recruited, with her ability to read and cajole minds, to aid in royal intelligence missions: King Nash and his brother Brigan are attempting to quell rivals in a kingdom Fire's monster father brought to the edge of ruin. Cashore's prose has matured, growing piercing and elegant, and her descriptions of the beautiful, treacherous landscape of the Dells include some lovely turns of phrase: "The Winged River was so named because before its waters reached their journey's end, they took flight." The romance between Fire and Brigan (both more believable characters than Graceling's Katsa and Po) is tenderly drawn and satisfyingly slow to develop; along with Fire's complicated more-than-friendship with Archer and the teased-out history of her relationship with her volatile father, it gives the story an emotional drive to match the political machinations, physical peril, and inventive world-building that Cashore provides in abundance. Rounded out by the chilling backstory of Graceling's villain, this stand-alone prequel surpasses Cashore's debut and paves the way for further exploration of a world in which readers will happily immerse themselves. From HORN BOOK, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Book Review
A jewel-toned companion to Graceling (2008) inverts the trope of the exotic, gifted, irresistible fantasy heroine. Every species in the Dells has its impossibly attractive "monster" counterpart. Fire, last of the human monsters, must constantly use her mind-altering abilities to protect herself from the frenzied desire and resentful distrust of man and beast alike. Though her father used his powers to corrupt the kingdom, political tumult leads the ruling family to seek her aid, dispatching the one member strong enough to shield his thoughts. But the subtle intrigues of palace plots and even the sickening horrors of open warfare are vehicles to total immersion into Fire's character, and her experiences of crippling pain, guilt, fear, grief andeven more devastatingthe fragile unfurling of trust, friendship and love. For this is a love story, not just a romance (although that as well, surpassingly sweet). As Fire journeys from her isolated home to slowly integrate herself into a wider community, she tentatively, tenderly, passionately falls in love with a family, a city, a kingdom, with the very contradictions that make them humanand, at the last, with her own place among them. Fresh, hopeful, tragic and glorious. (Fantasy. YA) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.