What the blurb said:
Set in a world of stunningly beautiful, exceptionally dangerous monsters, Fire is one of the most dangerous monsters of all - a human one. Marked out by her vivid red hair, she's more than attractive. Fire is mesmerising. But with this extraordinary beauty comes influence and power. People who are susceptible to her appeal will do anything for her attention, and for her affection. They will turn away from their families, their work, and their duties for her. They will forget their responsibilities to please her ...and worse, crush nations, neglect kingdoms and abuse their power. Aware of her power, and afraid of it, Fire lives in a corner of the world away from people, and away from temptation. Until the day comes when she is needed - a day when, for her king, she has to take a stand not only against his enemies, but also against herself ...
What I would say:
I loved Graceling so I was really looking forward to reading this and I wasn’t disappointed!
The book starts by re-introducing the delightfully creepy Leck from Graceling. The reader follows Leck and his unfortunate father from the Seven Kingdoms to the Dells - a land where humans are pitted against monsters and Lords are pitted against each other. The Dells is as vast as the Seven Kingdoms were and both novels are rich in their scope.
I’ve seen this book criticised for making Fire’s “power” being unimaginably beautiful and able to control the thoughts and actions of those around her and surviving on her looks alone - upsetting to strong feminists indeed. But I disagree - Fire is described as a ‘monster’ and that’s exactly how she sees herself; something unnatural and abhorrent. I know that the “Oh, I’m so beautiful it’s a curse” line might not wash with everyone but I found I respected Fire for trying to live without using her unusual gifts and actually did find her endearing. The supporting characters are also great, in particular the lovely Commander Brigan (who I imagined to be a bit like the delicious Viggo Mortenson as Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings films) and adorable Hanna.
This novel is set in a city and deals a lot more with hierarchy and power struggles which gave it a similar feel to a historical fiction - I personally love a bit of court intrigue so it was a perfect combination for me. There was plenty of action and plenty of romance and I was completely gripped until the very end!
My only (very minor) objection was that the idea of graces, which was so unique in Graceling, was mentioned in Fire but never expanded upon - I would have liked to see the two novels brought together a little more. This didn't feel to me like a prequel at all and a reader could easily enjoy either novel as a stand-alone, which is great for those who don't like being tied to a series (unlike me - I love a good epic series!)
Overall: I would definitely recommend this book as it’s a light read with plenty of gripping action and surprises and I’ll be eagerly awaiting Bitterblue, the third in this ‘series’.