When I first started this book, if you had told me that I would be giving Fire only three stars, I wouldn't have believed you. I was immediately sucked into the story. I loved Fire, her relationship with her deceased father, Cansrel, told through flashbacks, and her relationship with her childhood friend and lover, Archer. Fire is the last living human monster. Monsters are just like their animal and human counterparts, except for two big differences—they’re ridiculously colorful (animal monsters)/beautiful (human monsters) and they have the power to read and control minds. The consequences of this and the potential ways to abuse this power are explored with both Fire and Cansrel. Cansrel could never be considered a good person. He abused his powers, befriending and controlling the king, leading the whole kingdom to ruin with his desire for chaos. Fire is determined to not follow in his footsteps and fears her own power. I just loved Fire’s inner struggle to be good. But the book just grew more and more boring to me as it continued.
I think things started to go downhill with the introduction of Brigan, the serious prince who hates Fire for what she is and who her father is (hello, hypocrite) and whose mind Fire can’t get into. It became immediately obvious that he was going to be the love interest. And their relationship was just boring to me compared to Fire and Archer’s. Fire and Archer had known each other since they were children and had grown up together. They knew each other so well that they could tell how one another would react to different situations and would just hold conversations with one another telepathically all the time. They were like two halves of one whole when they worked together at the start of the book. The two had a relationship that I don’t think I’ve seen before in a YA book—they were lovers, but Fire had no problems with Archer sleeping with other girls as well, and he slept with a lot of other girls. In comparison, we had Fire being immediately drawn to the brooding prince who hates her because she can’t read his mind. When Fire saves his life, Brigan starts to realize that maybe she’s not like he first thought. And then circumstances force the two to work together for the good of the kingdom. I’ve read that set-up so many times in so many YA books where one party hates the other (bonus if both hate one another) because of preconceived notions, but they grow to realize they were mistaken as they’re forced together for some reason or another. I don’t even dislike that set-up for a romance; I just like some variety and after getting a glimpse of something unique with Fire and Archer, I was utterly disappointed to find it being replaced with Fire and Brigan.
Now clearly I favor Archer, but I’ve had plenty of books where I had no problems with the main character not ending up with my favorite because I was interested enough in both relationships to not care which one happened. That was not the case here. I didn’t really feel any chemistry between Fire and Brigan and couldn't see why they were drawn to one another. And their relationship bypassed any of the real obstacles that might have let me see why they’re so good together. The whole ‘Brigan hates Fire because of her father’ thing got resolved early on easily off-screen, and we don’t even find out until much later. It started out with potential by having Fire rescue Brigan and his troops from a bunch of monsters by putting herself in danger to provide a distraction. That action forced Brigan to start reexamining his opinion of her. This is then completely ruined by having(show spoiler)
Instead of having Brigan slowly learn to see Fire as her own person, he’s given absolute proof that he was wrong and has no problems after that moment with seeing Fire for herself. No gradual growing together and watching them progress. Then we have Fire’s desire to have children, but her refusal to have kids herself. Now that’s normally the kind of thing that would be an issue that would warrant some kind of discussion and serious consideration for a relationship. They don’t have to worry about that because Brigan already has a kid, so he gets a child of his blood, and Fire gets a kid without having to have one herself. No need for any kind of compromise there. An interesting issue is brought up near the end—Brigan is next in line for the throne after his brother, and Fire worries that if Brigan were to become king, the kingdom would not accept a monster as their queen. Now that’s an interesting issue, or it would be if I actually believed that it would truly ever come to that point. And Brigan basically brushes it off anyway. Even the issue of Brigan always being away is a non-issue because Fire doesn’t really mind. There really isn’t any true conflict in their relationship, so I never saw them really develop as a couple by working through things. That left me not caring about them as a couple. And when I compare it to Fire and Archer’s relationship, I’m left frustrated at the wasted potential I saw in Fire and Archer.
Ok, getting out of my frustrations with how the relationships played out, I found myself bored with the plot. The most interesting parts of the book were the flashbacks to Fire’s relationship with Cansrel. I found him absolutely fascinating, even though there wasn't a lot of action in his scenes. It was all developing their relationship and him as a person, but it was interesting. Cansrel was so twisted, and Fire knew this, but she also saw his good moments with him, leading to complicated feelings toward him. Honestly, I could have read an entire book just about Cansrel’s life and been totally entertained.
In contrast, the plot of Fire, despite featuring a war, assassination plots and attempts, kidnapping, and a glimpse at the early evil of Leck, left me rather bored. The war happened off-screen with us being given random updates, which wasn't particularly interesting. We do see the assassination plot play out, but it was so drawn out that I grew bored with it.(show spoiler)
The book had a lot of things it would go on and on about that I just didn't find interesting after a while.
Even the ending didn't do it for me. After an entire book of everyone sleeping around and almost every character being revealed to be a bastard (bonus points if they were conceived through rape), we suddenly have almost every character getting paired off and implied to be heading toward marriage for all. After reading a whole book where every single marriage depicted had at least one partner cheat (I honestly can’t remember a single one without cheating), it just seemed a bit strange to imply a happily and monogamous ever after with every couple. With all the sleeping around going on and bastards running around, I’m pretty much expecting cheating to go on in every single one of those relationships. Especially in one in particular.
Basically, the book started off with Fire being in a unique romantic relationship and examining her complex relationship with her father through an interesting series of flashbacks, but traded all of that for a more stereotypical and predictable plot that left me frustrated and wondering what could have been. The beginning of the story would have earned five stars from me, but the rest of it ranged, sadly, between two to three stars for me.