by Kristin Cashore
In this companion book to her riveting debut novel, Graceling, Kristin Cashore tackles slightly more sophisticated themes. Only one character carries over from the Seven Kingdoms setting of her previous novel. Here Cashore takes teens instead to an outlying area called the Dells, home to beautiful redheaded 17-year-old Fire, the last of a human-monster hybrid species, who has the ability not only to read minds but also to change minds. Fire and her longtime friend and sometime lover, Archer, get drawn into the complex turf wars going on between the neighboring kingdoms, and Fire must decide if and when to use her powers, and decide with whom to align her talents. The author expands on themes she first introduced in Graceling, such as when to diverge from the path paved by one’s parents, how to determine what’s right and wrong for oneself, and whether one can love fully while still maintaining a sense of self and independence. But Cashore also delves deeply into questions of feminism, fidelity, and responsibility. These themes make this book appropriate for more mature teens, as it touches on attitudes toward monogamy versus free love. Teens looking for high adventure will still find plenty in these pages, and they will also find even more food for thought as they await Cashore’s next installment.