Oh Kristin Cashore...how you write a lovely book. I LOVED Graceling and I think Fire might be even better. Fire is a prequel to Graceling and the two books are connected by one character...Leck. Leck is incredibly creepy and though he is not the main character in the book, he sort of lurks around for most of it and I could never forget that he was out there.
The heroine of this novel is actually named Fire. She is a "monster," a creature, in this case a human, with incredible beauty and the ability to know and control the minds of other people. Her hair is brilliant red, hence her name. Fire's father was a monster in the truest sense of the world. Though unbelievably handsome, he was bloodthirsty and cruel - the only thing he ever loved was his daughter and she wanted to be nothing like him. Fire lives in a land called the Dells and is drawn into the polticis and intrigues of government and war. Her father was an advisor to King Nax who eventually overdosed on drugs (really because of Fire's father). Nax's two sons, Nash (the new king) and Brigan (the military genius) are trying to hold the kingdom against those to the north and the south. Fire is drawn to these two men and is determined to save the kingdom that her father practically destroyed.
The storytelling in Fire was tight and the characters incredibly well drawn. Fire's relationship with Brigan is incredibly romantic and I like how she honestly tries to do what is right. She screws up and tries to fix it. Reading this as a prequel was intersting because really the only connection with Graceling is Leck - it's a completely different world with a different set of characters and a different culture. So much fun.