As I mentioned in my blog post reviewing Graceling by Kristin Cashore, I wasn’t expecting another book in this series. However, this book is a partner to Graceling. It is set in an area adjacent to the realm where Graceling takes place. However, the areas (somehow) don’t know of one another and the superhuman phenomenon is different. In this land, instead of people being graced with abilities, there are monsters in the shape of animals and humans. For example, there are regular raptors and there are monster raptors that come in a variety of colors. These monsters are so enchanting; they can lure people to their deaths.
Fire (appropriately named because her hair is like fire) is the last of the human monsters. She is beautiful and has the ability to manipulate people’s thoughts. Her father was also a human monster, and he wasn’t the best influence on the king. It is his fault that the previous king became corrupt and eventually died. Fire learned from her father’s mistakes, and understands that he was a horrible person, and this leads her to believe that because she is a monster, she is horrible, as well. Because she is capable of manipulating other people’s thoughts, she believes that she is just like her father. She also believes that the human monsters should end with her.
But wait—that’s not all! In addition to Fire’s internal struggle, there’s a war brewing between the royal family and the powers of the North and the South. The North and South have teamed up in order to take the power from the royal family. Naturally, this is a problem, and the royal family is not going down without a fight. At the request of the royal family, Fire goes to the King’s city to use her ability to question possible enemies to try and learn of the enemies’ moves.
Though there were a few jaw-dropping moments, I found myself becoming less and less interested as this book progressed. The main conflict was kind of boring to me. Tensions are growing between the royal family and the Northern and Southern powers, and there is about to be a war for control. Even though this was the climax of the book, it was still made out to be less important than Fire’s problems with people finding her beautiful. We get it. Everyone wants Fire because she is so beautiful. I don’t know who’s sicker of this: her or me! To me, beauty isn’t an issue when the kingdom is on the line.
And why shouldn’t the royal family give up control? Besides looking scary, what reason are we given for the Northern and Southern powers to be an ill fit for ruling the land? Maybe they’d do it better. We aren’t given any reasons why they are corrupt. And they are justified in their desire to take over because the previous king was corrupt. Maybe they believe his son won’t be any different. Maybe I just didn’t understand this part of the book, but maybe it was poorly explained.
Spoiler Alert: Another detail that kept me up at night is how did this land and the land from Graceling never discover each other? There is only a mountain range separating these two lands! The only person that is aware of both of these lands is a Graced boy who kidnaps Fire in this book, and later becomes a corrupt king in the first book. (Yes, the first book, because the second one goes back in time.) Anyway, these two lands are vastly different, but they’ve never met. Both lands need to round up some explorers for an expedition!
I really wanted to like this book; the reviews I read made it sound like the kind of book I would love, but I found myself skimming the boring parts, and there were a lot of them. Even though I’ll likely never read this book again, and I clearly had some issues with it, it still kept me occupied on the couch for hours at a time (at least in the beginning.) Interpret that how you will.