Author: Kristin Cashore
Series: Graceling Realm #2
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
The one issue I found myself having with the Graceling Realm series my first read through was that, while the novels existed in the same world developed my Cashore, it was difficult to call either Fire or Bitterblue a sequel to Graceling. Granted, Cashore never claims for Fire to be a sequel, instead billing the novel as a companion novel to Graceling. But to count them all in the same series pushed the limit for me.
In Fire, we see a complete diversion from the characters Cashore developed in Graceling that I came to love. Leck is the only character that makes a crossover appearance between the two novels and while he serves an important role, he does not get a whole lot of face time (which is just as well, since we learned to hate his guts in the first novel).
Unable to fall back on the core characters that she created in Graceling, Cashore had to develop an entire new plot line and set of characters for Fire. She even went as far as to develop an entire new kingdom with weird monster creatures that I still don't understand 100%. While the character deviation was tough enough to swallow, the introduction of this new kingdom with these bizarre monsters made it even more difficult.
Now don't get me wrong; I enjoyed Fire. It just did not seem to live up to the standard that Cashore set in Graceling. After giving us the adventures of Katsa and Po, Fire's adventure left more to be desired. The story line in Fire wasn't as rich, and while the character development was fine, I never connected as much with this new set of characters as I did with the Graceling gang. Even as two standalone novels, I cannot say that I would have enjoyed Fire as much as Graceling. I won't go as far as to say that Fire suffered from a sophomore slump plague, as it was still a very enjoyable read, but I simply can't say that Cashore carried all of her momentum from Graceling into Fire.
Nevertheless, the entire series is worth buying and reading multiple times. And I believe Cashore might have seen some of the same issues as I had with Fire, as the next installment of Bitterblue welcomes back our original cast of characters, even though even if it is still difficult to call it a sequel to Graceling.