Lynn: Kristin Cashore is a gifted storyteller – one of those remarkable writers who spin a web of words that wraps around readers, capturing them completely with a tale. I’d wager my classic sf collection that every reader coming to the end of the first book, Graceling (Penguin/Dial, 2008), immediately asked when the second volume was going to publish. The news that Fire (Penguin/Dial, Oct. 2009) would be a PREQUEL was greeted by most of us with initial disappointment. Who cared about a prequel – we wanted to know what happened to Katsa and Po! So it was with some reservations that I started the new book and for the first chapter or so I was a little confused. Where were the gracelings and what was this stuff about beautiful monsters? But Cashore wove her storytelling magic, her prose more fluid and assured in this book, and I was her prisoner by the second chapter. I was unable to do anything but read, snatching time with pages wherever I was – meeting the school bus, in line at the bank, waiting for the pasta water to boil! I couldn’t stop.
This story is set in the same world as Graceling but over the mountain ranges in the Dells, a country besieged by both external and internal enemies. The last remaining human monster, Fire, is drawn into the conflict. Having spent her childhood in a sort of exile, Fire must learn not only to understand herself and her abilities but to forgive herself and accept love and trust. Cashore plays again with themes of identity, responsibility and finding one’s place in the world but it is the sweeping love story that stands center stage. Richly imaged setting, vivid characters and suspenseful plotting combine to make this book utterly compelling. I do have one huge complaint. Now I want more than a sequel to Graceling – I need a sequel to Fire too!
Cindy: I was slow to get to this book, too, based on our early BBYA teen response and my similar reaction to Lynn (who wants a prequel? I want a sequel to Graceling!) I shouldn’t have waited. (The good news is that you don’t have to, the book published on Oct. 5th!) I like this story just as much as the first book, but the writing is even better. Our teen response is skewed by the fact that we don’t currently have the group of avid high school fantasy readers that we used to have. Some of the middle schoolers who read this were a bit confused by the more subtle political and social maneuverings and perhaps turned off by the slow-paced start as the world building of the Dells took place. Graceling was more plot-driven, this one relies more on characters and their ethics. In our conservative area, some of our young teens were concerned with the unmarried sex and resulting pregnancies, but the “action” is not graphic and is appropriate to the characters and the story. I love that we get a little back story on Graceling‘s villain, Leck. I can’t wait to read more and wonder if the next book will be set in the Dells or back in the Seven Kingdoms…or perhaps in both?
I LOVE the Internet. I just found the answer to that last musing: There is a “next” book in the works, Bitterblue, set six years after Graceling in the Seven Kingdoms. Cashore doesn’t know if there will be a fourth. She thought Graceling would be a single title, not a series. You can read more at her FAQ page on her blog. One thing is sure, I won’t wait so long to read the next one.