When Lynn and Cindy reviewed Fire on Bookends, I got super excited - I had known that a prequel to Graceling was in the works, but hadn't realized it was published! Of course, thanks to my inability to keep track of publishing dates, that meant there were already half a dozen people on the library's waiting list. I lamented that this meant I probably wasn't going to get to read the book before February.
Not long after that, Cindy sent me a cryptic e-mail, asking for my mailing address so she could send me a book. A few days later, imagine my excitement when my very own galley of Fire arrived in the mail! And just a little bit before my birthday, too.
The same day, The Ask and the Answer also finally made it to me via the library. Deciding which to read first was a very tough decision.
(I decided on Fire - The Ask and the Answer will be reviewed on Friday)
Fire is set 35 years before Graceling - but isn't set anywhere that is entirely familiar to Graceling fans. Graceling was filled with gracelings - people who had unusual abilities. Fire is filled with monsters: bug monsters, bird monsters...even human monsters, all with an unnatural beauty, the ability to force people and animals to act as the monster desires, and with a thirst for blood. Fire (the main character that the novel is named after) is the daughter of a monster and a human. She has a mane of fiery red/orange/green/pink hair that inspired her name, and shares her father's beauty and mental abilities, which makes Fire both feared and coveted.
In the kingdom of the Dells, King Nash is barely holding his kingdom together, as rival lords seem to be plotting together to overthrow him. A series of mysterious deaths have been plaguing the kingdom: committed by expert archers who seem able to assassinate someone against impossible odds. Nash and his brother Brigan know of Fire, as her father was their father's closest adviser. Fire prefers to live in a tiny rural settlement, far away from the center of the kingdom, but when her king asks for her, she chooses to help him as much as she can.
If you enjoyed Graceling, you're going to enjoy Fire - it has the same action/adventure/romance feeling of Graceling, as Fire spends almost as much time mildly angsting over her feelings for the male lead(s) as she does kicking ass and taking names. In some ways, I think Fire may actually be a more impressive protagonist than Katsa: Katsa threw herself into battle knowing that she had superior fighting skills; Fire is a well-trained archer, but she has no super-human ability to help her fighting (at least, she never seems to use her ability to control human minds as a battle tactic. I suppose theoretically she could).
One similarity between the books I found extremely interesting: both Katsa and Fire spend a lot of time thinking about babies and how they really don't want them. They don't necessarily dislike children, they just don't want to pass on potentially dangerous traits to their children. I think this sticks out for me because I'm not used to seeing issues that I currently deal with in young adult books - usually my connection with YA characters is a little more removed, as in "I remember feeling that way, back in the day." Or with fantasy/sci-fi characters, the connection is on the emotional, not literal, level.