If you like: telepathy * fantasy * female protagonists
Fire is a companion book to Graceling. (See my review of Graceling here.) Though it is set in the same world, and there are some relative plot points, it is not necessary to read one in order to read the other. Fire is a young woman who is a monster, which means she is devastatingly beautiful, can read minds, and hold sway over those around her. In this kingdom, monsters come in all species; in each they are more beautiful than their companions, but also significantly more dangerous. All creatures lust after monsters, especially other monsters. This interplay makes Fire incredibly powerful, and constantly in danger.
The nature of the royal family in Fire is very different from many other books of this genre. So many times a family will do anything to maintain their power. Often the people of the kingdom are second to the lusts and desires of the royal family. In Fire the family runs their kingdom more like an efficient business. They each have a role that emphasises their individual strengths, and their strong bond prevents them from squabbling to displace each other in pursuit of power. A royal family that effectively rules and does not believe itself superior to its own people is truly rare. The nature of this easy interplay between the family allows Fire to stand out from its competition.
Kristin Cashore is an author who knows how to write a female lead. Fire is self-sufficient and powerful, but not without experiencing normal worries. Her nature makes her beautiful to everyone, which means that it is difficult to tell if those around her truly admire her, or are only compelled by her monster beauty. Fire is practical in this regard, and rarely lets others in. She has learned to trust herself and expect to need her mind-controlling abilities in order to protect herself. This makes the small coterie of people she allows close to her all the more special. Fire knows the dangerous potential of bearing monster children, and though that makes her envy other women, it is not so powerful that it taints the narrative. Cashore’s women are all confident, strong, and ring true to the reader. Anyone looking for strong female role models for a YA reader in their lives should look to this series.
If you would use all of your abilities to save your kingdom, read Fire.
Cashore, Kristin. Fire. Dial Books, 2009. Kindle Edition.