Now before you get all "she has no life" on me, you have to realize these books are unbelievably addictive. All of four engaged me, but Graceling and Fire stood out as my favorites. Both are by author Kristin Cashore.
Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.
She never expects to fall in love with beautiful Prince Po.
She never expects to learn the truth behind her Grace—or the terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.
I LOVED it and devoured the book within hours. All of the characters breathed (figuratively, of course), the plot moved at the right pace, and the writing transported me into Kristin Cashore's world. The romantic elements hooked me instantly, not to mention all the fight scenes!
What an amazing debut! (Yes, two exclamation points back-to-back. It was that good.)
She is the last of her kind...
It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. In King City, the young King Nash is clinging to the throne, while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. War is coming. And the mountains and forest are filled with spies and thieves. This is where Fire lives, a girl whose beauty is impossibly irresistible and who can control the minds of everyone around her.
This story still haunts me. When I started it, I'd just finished Graceling, so the bar was set very high. I loved the idea of "monster" things -- Cashore's descriptions and ideas about her world improved from her first book. There was a more mature theme with this one, which I appreciated, and the relationships between characters were less straight-forward as in Graceling. Overall, Fire was a darker, more complicated book. I loved it.
My Impression of the Author:
She has a distinct style in which she uses a repetition of sentences beginning with the same pronoun or word, most often "she" or "the". Cashore uses this device several times in both books and it works. It seems to emphasize a growing intensity to the succession.
Her settings are phenomenal and I love that all of her characters have flaws. Both books do have a happily-ever-after, but not in a cookie-cutter kind of way. Sacrifices have to be made and not everyone lives.
In sum, Kristin Cashore is now one of my favorite authors. I hear she's working on a new book titled Bitterblue. Can't wait!