Book Review



  • Author: Kristin Cashore
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Publication Date: October 5, 2009
  • Publisher: Dial Books
  • Series: Graceling Realm #2

CONTENT WARNING: blood, harm to animals, murder, torture, mention of rape, drug use, suicide, sexual assault, violence

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. Young King Nash clings to the throne, while rebel lords, in the north and south, build armies to unseat him. War is coming. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves.

This is where Fire lives, a girl whose startling appearance is impossibly irresistible and who can control the minds of everyone around her.

Everyone … except Prince Brigan.

So this book takes place within the same world as Graceling, but it isn’t a continuation of book 1. While it’s set before the events of book 1, and in a different part of the world, it isn’t any less intriguing or beautifully written. Instead, it takes place in a kingdom called the Dells, which is undergoing some political strife. There are factions trying to revolt against the king, and Fire gets wrapped up in the struggle. She is a human monster, blessed with inhuman beauty and the power to control people’s minds, but she is also fighting against her father’s legacy. He was another human monster who used his power in terrible ways, and she doesn’t want to do the things that he did.

Fire tries to avoid having to use her power as much as possible, she also sets limits on what she will and won’t do. But when she gets roped into helping the King with an extremely important task that only she can do, she has no choice but to reevaluate those limits.

“Away from home, Fire did not have the luxury of avoiding the use of her mental power. Generally minds did not draw her attention equally unless she was looking for them. A mind’s palpability depended on its strength, its purpose, its familiarity, nearness, openness, awareness of her presence, and a host of other factors.”

Her powers come with a dark side. Being beautiful means that she draws attention wherever she goes, and not everyone can control their darker impulses around her. In addition, she’s a draw to the monstrous animals around her, and must constantly be on her guard. 

“She would have many enemies in King’s City, and too many men who liked her too much. She would be started at, and assaulted, and she would not ever have the option of resting her mental guard.”

As if all that isn’t enough, there’s a strange new threat on the horizon. Strangers keep popping up near her isolated home, and are shot with arrows before she can question them. But before she can focus on this, she’s drawn to King’s City and pulled into political intrigue, court scheming, and focusing on being surrounded by people who don’t trust her … and people she doesn’t trust. She has to come to terms with her own past, her immense power, and how she chooses to use it.

“And maybe I’ll always find my own power horrifying, and maybe I can’t ever be what I’d most like to be. But I can stay here, and I can make myself into what I should be.”

Naturally, the one person who is immune to her power is the one who trusts her the least. And she’s forced to work closely with him, and comes to realize that she doesn’t necessarily hate him. As closed off as they both are, I knew that a romance was going to be building over the course of the book. And it definitely didn’t disappoint. I loved how it slowly built up, starting with grudging trust, growing into respect, and then a tentative friendship, and finally something more. 

“He had enormous destructive power, just as his father had had—but he didn’t use that power the way his father had done. Truly, he would rather not use it at all. But he chose to, so that he might stop other people from using power in even worse ways.”

The story itself is told simply, with a fairytale feel to it, and I thoroughly enjoyed how it was done. I was cast into the world quickly and dove right in joyfully. There was a clear villain, and some characters who I didn’t like at first, but grew to love. It pulled on my heartstrings quite a few times, although there are some violent themes to the story. It sets the tone for the next book, Bitterblue, which I want to jump into immediately.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 14

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