My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Although Fire is listed as the second book in the Graceling Realm series, it is really a prequel and generally unrelated to the first book. The events of Fire take place some 30+ years before the events of Graceling and in a different land. Although the two are somehow magically connected by a series of mountain tunnels, they don’t know about one another. I didn’t realize this when I started reading the book and was quite confused for a while.
The book starts with an extensive prol0gue which introduces us to a character that only re-emerges in the story for a short time near the conclusion. While I understand his inclusion, as it is the only thing that ties Graceling and Fire together I don’t see its purpose in the story. It was not particularly interesting to read and didn’t give me a better sense of who the character was. Personally, I would have rather the prologue not have been included in the story as it certainly made my interest in the book wane.
The prologue set a slow and unengaging pace for the start of the book that did not remedy itself for some time. Although the start of the book was enjoyable enough, it didn’t really really intriguing until the second half. That is when I really fell in love with the characters and the plot. In Fire, we are introduced to Monsters rather than Gracelings. Human Monsters have special abilities, although there aren’t many of them in the Dells. Instead, most of the Monsters are animals with abilities beyond their average non-Monster kin. I don’t feel like the Monster idea is well explained in the books and I wish the author had developed that aspect of the world building more.
When we first meet Fire, she is not a very likeable character (at least in my opinion). Her Monster abilities make her so beautiful that people can’t control themselves around her and usually either want to possess her or kill her so no one else can have her. Harsh. She also has the ability to get inside people’s heads and manipulate their thoughts. Scary. Those combined made it difficult to relate to her character, although over the course of the novel her personality was developed more and she became a little more human.
There were many other characters in the book, but Prince Brigand or Hannah were definitely my favourites. They made the story more enjoyable and I loved the scenes that they were in. Hannah was fiesty and not afraid to stand up for what she believed in, even though she wasn’t quite six yet. Prince Brigand loved his brother’s Kingdom and did what he must to protect it, even if it would put his life at risk.
The world building was good overall, the characters developed slightly over the course of the story and the pacing was generally decent although there were a few inclusions to the story that significantly slowed the pacing down. My biggest concern/problem with the book was the character I mentioned from the prologue’s inclusion into the story later on. He didn’t fit in with the story initially and his re-introduction just completely threw off the plot. Our characters went off on this side storyline that didn’t add anything to the plot and reinforces for me that his inclusion wasn’t necessary. I understand that he was the only aspect that binds the two books together, but his inclusion detracts from the otherwise enjoyable story.
In the end, his inclusion and the small details thrown in throughout the story took away from the world of the Dells that was very enjoyable. The book would have certainly been rated more favourably by me if those aspects were removed. Overall though, I really enjoyed reading the book and can’t wait to finish the series (although it is also another jump in time and space, so be prepared for some confusion initially.)