Fire by Kristin Cashore. Read by Xanthe Elbrick Fire is set a few decades before Graceling on the other side of the nearly impenetrable mountains. It was a little slow to pick up, as we start with the back story of the odious Lek, the villain in Graceling, then peaceful times with our new heroine at home. This side of the mountain, there are no Gracelings. Instead, there are monsters, especially beautiful, brightly colored and bloodthirsty animals and people, which can mesmerize victims with their beauty and call victims to them with their minds. Fire, so named for her vivid hair, is the last human monster. She tried to live below notice, making up for the life of her wild monster father, Canceril, who as adviser to the previous king, deliberately let the kingdom sink into chaos and lawlessness, now verging on civil war. Fire struggles with her feelings of mixed love and loathing for her now-deceased father. She lives near her adopted father, Brocker, a former commander, and his son Archer, her best friend and sometime lover. Fire can see into minds, though she tries not to, and as her story opens, she is accidentally shot by a strange man whose mind is filled with a strange fog and who is shot himself before he can be questioned. Still, somehow, the story is slowish, until at the request of the king, Fire journeys to King City to help with the questioning of an especially troublesome prisoner. She agrees, despite the king’s brother’s violent suspicion that she is only going to take over the king’s mind and continue her father’s work. Briggen, though only a few years her senior, is commander of the king’s armies and second in line for the throne. Now Fire finds herself wrestling with the moral limits of her powers, trying to keep from falling in love with someone who hates her, and enmeshed in trying to stop multiple plans to topple the kingdom, some more obvious than others. Once again, Cashore brings us vivid characters with real problems, both personal and political. Xanthe Elbrick does a fine job with the narration, though her male voices sounded a little fuzzy to me. Still, this is a wonderful story for reading and listening to, and I look forward to hearing more from Cashore. I hope she is able to continue either Katsa or Fire’s stories at some point, as neither one feels as if her story should be done.
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