In the West, a small boy, Immiker, and his father journey east through the mountains to escape the king and his quest for Gracelings, for one of the boy's eyes is gray and the other red. By the end of the journey, the boy's name will be Leck.
In the East lies the kingdom of the Dells, where monsters dwell. Creatures of incredible beauty and color, they crave only more beauty, blood, and power. With the power to command and control the minds of human and animal alike, monsters are both feared and revered. Fire is a monster girl, so named for the astounding colors of her hair, and the only human monster remaining in the Dells. She is the daughter of Cansrel, cruel and hated monster advisor to the dead king, who was killed by his own caged leopard monster. Fire has hidden herself away from the world, determined not to unleash her terrible power upon the people of the Dells. She does have a few companions, though - Archer, her best friend, and his father, kind and gentle Brocker, exhiled advisor to the same king Cansrel served under.
In Fire's forest, a series of strangers are captured who have a strange fog in their mind. When the strangers are each assassinated by a mysterious archer whose mind is filled with the same fog, Archer decides to ride out to the fortress of Queen Roen, the wife of the late king and mother of the new one, to look for answers. Hopeful that Roen and her spies will possess some knowledge of who the fog-minded men were, Fire accompanies him.
In the King's City, young King Nash clings to the throne as war threatens from all sides. His young brother, Prince Brigan, commander of the King's Army, is doing all he can to support his brother and hold the Dells together. When the brothers arrive at their mother's fortress, Fire is shocked to find Brigan's mind closed to her, though Nash is much weaker. Still, she can feel Brigan's hatred of her and her monster beauty seeping from his every pore. When, in a desperate act of rash bravery, Fire attempts to show him that she is not as monstrous as her father was, she sets in motion a series of events that force her to discover what it really means to be a monster... and to be herself.
I am absolutely, starry-eyed in love with this book. Seriously, I think I have paper cuts on my fingers from turning the pages so quickly. I've been waiting for this prequel to Graceling since I read the last page of Katsa and Po's journey, and Kristin Cashore has once again managed to entrance me with the lyrical, intricate beauty of her writing. Filled with heart-pounding action, breathless suspense and intrigue, almost unbearable tension, heart-aching sorrow and heart-melting romance, and the most horribly disturbing child villain I've ever found between the pages of a book, Fire will be devoured in one sitting.
FYI, it doesn't come out until October 5 (I was lucky enough to be loaned an advanced reading copy of Fire by a librarian friend, TY Tiffany at Shorewood!), but hop on the hold list for this now - even if you don't usually read fantasy, you'll want Fire. Until 10.05, you can sample the prologue and the first two chapters here!
(who is gleefully about to begin Rampant by Diana Peterfrend, which is about... venemous killer unicorns! Oh yeah, you just read that right - killer unicorns. Awesome!!)