Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore

In today’s post, you get two book reviews for the price of one! What a deal!

I found Graceling on my library’s downloadable audio website, and decided that it would be a perfect book to listen to because I was intrigued by it but not that interested in reading yet another teen fantasy.  The premise was interesting.  Some children are born with “graces,” which are powers.  It’s kind of like the X-Men in a high fantasy setting.  They cannot hide the fact that they are graced because they have two different colored eyes.  Katsa, the protagonist, was born with the grace of fighting.  The story is about her coming to terms with her powers and deciding if she could escape the clutches of King Rand, who forced her to use her powers to bully his subjects.  I enjoyed listening to the story, but the recording was a full cast recording, and some of the voice-acting was comparable to bad video game voice actors.  It was really cheesy.  Also, Katsa was a bit annoying.  Because she has always been a social outcast (another similarity to the X-Men) she doesn’t really know how to trust others so she is suspicious of everyone.  I also found the love story to be awkward and cringeworthy.  Overall, it was a good story even though it had its flaws.  I give it 3 out of 5 stars, but you should definitely read it because you’ll want to have some background for Fire, which was so much better than Graceling.

Fire takes place in the same world as Graceling, but in a land to the east of the Seven Kingdoms, the Dells.  In the Dells, there are creatures called monsters, who are brightly colored and beautiful.  Fire is the last monster in the shape of a human, and she is able to control minds, which is imperative to protect herself from human men, many of whom cannot control themselves around her.  The Dells are on the brink of war, and Fire must decide if she will use her power of mind control to help interrogate prisoners.  She ends up living at court for a while and must deal with King Nash, who can’t control himself around her and Brigan, Nash’s brother, who does not trust her.  Fire is a fantastic fantasy novel that I wanted to keep listening to at the end of my runs and when I got to work in the mornings.  Fire is a much more interesting and less annoying protagonist than Katsa, and her love story didn’t make me cringe at all.  While this novel is a prequel to Graceling, you should read Graceling first.  Important things about characters in Graceling are revealed in this novel that you will not want to know ahead of time.  The recording of this one was not full cast, and the reader, Xanthe Elbrick, is quite enjoyable to listen to.

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