Book Reviews: Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore

Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore
Click on the titles above to find library copies.

When I got my new Kindle last month, these were some of the first books I purchsed.  They have been on my reading list for a while, but they were always checked out of the library!  I was on vacation and had a gift certificate, so I decided to splurge and buy them.

These two books are loosely linked, taking place in the same universe.  Graceling was published first, but Fire is a prequel of sorts.  In my opinion, you could read them independently and not have a problem.  In fact, I almost wish I had read Fire first!  Both stories are adventure fantasy centered around strong female characters, making them great reads for fans of authors like Tamora Pierce, Allison Croggon, or Kate Constable.

Graceling is the story of Katsa, whose different-colored eyes mark her as someone with a special "grace."  Hers happens to be a skill at fighting that is unequalled in the Seven Kingdoms, making her indespensible to her ruthless king.  Katsa, however, has started the Council, an underground resistance network dedicated to righting wrongs in their kingdom and beyond.  This precarious balance doesn't last long, and Katsa flees the court on a perilous mission of her own.

Fire takes place in a neighboring land, the Dells, that is separated from the Seven Kingdoms by an impenitrable mountain range.  There are no gracelings in this land, just "monsters"--technicolor versions of real animals that are vastly more dangerous.  Fire is the last human monster, with flaming red hair that she keeps covered at all times for her own protection.  As the Dells are thrown into political chaos, Fire struggles to give up her reclusive life and use her power in the service of the rightful king.

The two books do share a common character, a graceling who accidentally makes it through the mountain barrier.  This is somewhat unbelievable because it happens to that same character two times, enabling him to be in the Dells during the time of Fire and in the Seven Kingdoms during the time of Graceling.  Yet, it happens to no one else in either story.  This is a minor flaw in two amazing books, but it did really bother me!  I hope the author sheds more light on the connection between the lands in a future story.

Kristin Cashore is currently writing a third book set in this world. Called Bitterblue, it is rumored to be coming out in 2011. There is no firm publication date yet.  I am looking forward to it! 

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