Horse of a different colour--
leopards & bugs, too.
I liked this one better than Graceling, which puts me just about opposite Jenny & Marie, who both liked Graceling more-- though Jenny sums it up as thinking Fire is probably the better book, but she prefers Graceling. First off, Cashore gets into the worldbuilding, in a high concept but fluid fashion that I liked better then the "graced." The graced are basically Marvel mutants, each with a unique superpower, right? This book takes place both before the last, & geographically to the far east. Across ridiculous mountains, there is a place where you'll occasionally find...impossibly coloured animals. Green horses. Neon pink hawks. Blue leopards with gold spots. These are called "monsters" & they have an internal ecology-- monster cats prefer monster mice, you know? The main character is Fire, who is a monster human, bright red hair the colour of flame, hence the sobriquet. The only monster human. She, & all the monsters, are painfully beautiful. "Take your breath away & control your mind" pretty. Plus she's got a supernatural empathy about it; desire especially.
The book shares some of the faults Graceling had: some of the girls skirt a little close to martyrdom & self pity at points, though at least Fire doesn't have super fighting powers, making her concerns a little more valid. She's a good stand in for the male gaze-- the first part of the book certainly emphasizes that, & you know? I think she is a good telling of the pitfalls of beauty-- Marie poo-pooed it, "oh, poor girl is too preeeeetty" but you know, there are downsides, especially if you want to be judged for something other than being pretty. The romance is telegraphed & makes you kind of want to pound on everyone's head for not figuring it out, but I guess that is the genre. At least none of the characters have weird emotional non-issues to self-sabotage with. I half expected politics & romance to end up in conflict, but nope. Which is a minor complaint of mine-- there are nobles without there being nobility? Where are the people vying for the king's attention? Seemed weirdly absent. There are two too many unbelievable coincidences-- especially when it comes to parentage. Oh-- Fire's father, the sociopathic monster? His relationship with his daughter, & hers with him, I really liked that. & her relationship with her horses. Anyhow, any minor concerns aside-- those are fodder for conversations. I liked this book.