Fire by Kristin Cashore

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Gollanz, 2009. ISBN 9780575085121
(Age 14+) Highly recommended. Judged by US Publishers Weekly as one of the Best Children's Books for 2009, Fire is a companion novel to Graceling, the winner of the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature 2009, and one of YALSA Teens Top 10.
Monsters live in the Dells. They take the shape of living creatures but are exceptionally beautiful to look upon and have the ability to entrall anyone who sees them. Fire is the last of the human Monsters and she is feared because of her beauty and her ability to control minds, especially as her father Cansrel has grossly misused his powers as advisor to the King.
The world that Cashore has created is complete and fascinating and her characters are well rounded and memorable. There is a slow paced romance and lots of action, fierce battles and court intrigue, but it is the moral dilemmas that Fire faces that make this book so outstanding. Should she use her powers to help in the war that is developing? She longs for children but she knows that if she continues the human Monster line, there is the possibility that any children she has may misuse their power in the same way that her father did. Cashore subtly drew me into considering the difference between right and wrong and the use and misuse of talent, and has left me thinking of complex issues long after I finished the book.
This novel can be read as a stand-alone. It is set in a different kingdom to Graceling, and has only one overlapping character, a boy with different coloured eyes.
Fire is outstanding fantasy. Beautifully written, with a strong heroine, compelling characters and plot, it is a book not to be missed.
Pat Pledger