is an interesting companion novel to Cashore’s Graceling
. It takes place about thirty or so years before the events of Graceling
. However, reading the novel is like reading about a whole new world. The only real similarity between the two books is the presence of Leck. The reader is given a glimpse into his early life and learns why he wears an eye patch.
I was initially skeptical about the changes to the setting, but the quality of Cashore’s writing quickly helped ease that feeling away. The story is set in a place called the Dells, which is inhabited by monster-like creatures from flying raptors to monster bugs, rats and cats; each one a different and vibrant color. The story centers around a seventeen year old named Fire, who happens to be the last of her kind: a humanlike monster. The majority of the inhabitants of the Dells fear her abilities (beauty, mind-reading and the power of suggestion), seeing her only as a reincarnation of her father, who had abused his power over man. Because of this, Fire’s rather unsure of herself, and the book follows her attempts to conquer this insecurity.
The passages describing the imagery of this world are a pleasure to read. I found the modernity of the Dells rather intriguing. And Cashore’s descriptions Fire’s inner struggles are well done. And I liked that the story’s set during wartime with moments of political intrigue interlaced throughout the plot. However, the story tends to get a little too much like a soap opera, with predictable story outcomes. For instance, Lord Archer and his Lothario ways. I knew from the start exactly what was going to happen to him, and because of this, I never really got to like him as a character. I also thought that Brocker’s secret was blatantly obvious when the reader first learns about his falling out with the old king.
And while I liked the descriptions of Fire’s inner struggle with her identity, at times I became a little annoyed with her mea culpa-like stance, constantly blaming herself for her father’s past actions and adding new sorrows to the cross she bares. This is certainly not a healthy way for her to cope with her problems; in fact it exacerbates them.
Despite these few shortcomings, I did enjoy reading this book, but I think I prefer its companion novel, Graceling