Book review by
Debra Bogart, Common Sense Media
Fire Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Stellar fantasy heroine in mature action-adventure/romance.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 26 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers may be interested in exploring other strong female fantasy characters. See our recommended book list for some ideas. Also, our "Families Can Talk About" section can help readers do some critical thinking about the difference between violence and fantasy violence and what makes a book Young Adult.

Positive Messages

At heart, this is a tale of triumphing over adversity. Fire and Brigan, despite growing up in sumptuous conditions, overcome  tremendous adversity through their perseverance, belief in humanity, and willingness to sacrifice.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Fire is strong female character with a level of resiliency and integrity that we would all love to see in our children. Despite being raised, literally, by a monster, she's loving, forgiving, brave, and generous. She is drawn to her love interest by the same qualities present in him.


This is a fantasy novel with fantasy violence: In the first chapter, a young Graceling tortures small animals and murders his father. Assassinations, war, bloody attacks, non-graphic rape, and plots to murder enemies abound. Not a lot of blood and gore, though -- mostly political intrigue. Fire has one violent secret in her past that comes to light. Many men are overcome by Fire's beauty and attempt to rape her; she can read their minds and violent intentions even if they don't get physically close to her. Fire herself is the product of a rape of a human female by a monster male.


Fire becomes intimate with her best friend when she's 15. Infidelity is key to the love story, and two minor characters become pregnant. One vague allusion to a brief love between Fire and a servant girl.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this well-executed fantasy book contains some violence and other mature subject matter, including a young man who murders his father, (barely described) rapes, and unplanned pregnancies. Fire herself was fathered by a monster who raped her human mother -- and used mind control over the king to enjoy acts of cruelty and depravity. But Fire is a strong, brave heroine, and the main story is about how she overcomes her history and realizes that she can be the kind of person she longs to be. 

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMy Kid's Mom November 10, 2011

Very loose morality

The sex in this book is appalling. It is debase and inappropriate for kids of ANY age. It was truly a disappointment because Graceling was a good read, despite... Continue reading
Adult Written byT4 Mom May 15, 2015

Engaging, but look for hidden messages on sex and violence.

This is the first book in a series, it's quite engaging, and if you child likes it, they will want to read all three. However, you'll want to read it... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bybooklover369 April 26, 2011

Perfect for All Ages

I loved this book! I recommended it to all of my friends, and they all loved it as well. It does include some sexual content and violence, but people seem to be... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bylgbt April 11, 2018

This is my three year old brother's favorite book.

I was having trouble finding books that were the right difficulty for little Jackson, but this book is just right! All the other books like "Cat in the Hat... Continue reading

What's the story?

In the Dells where the monsters live, every creature -- even human -- has a monster version: monster leopards, monster kittens, even a 17-year-old monster girl named Fire. Men desire her for her beauty, kings desire her for her ability to control minds. She lives a secluded life giving music lessons to children and thinks she's in love with her childhood best friend, Archer. But as war brews, young Prince Brigan arrives in Fire’s village to ask for her help. She travels with his army to the city of her birth, where life in the castle is full of both intrigue and beauty. Fire finds the royal family worthy of loyalty and risks her life to help them, but first she has to learn to use her ability to control minds -- and learn to trust herself.

Is it any good?

Elegant world-building creates a medieval fantasy full of mystery, romance, and complex characters with secrets that are slowly and carefully revealed. The main character is the most compelling, raising the bar for what makes the perfect heroine. Turning away from her monster heritage and living as a human -- and becoming embroiled in the moral obligations that come with that choice -- is just the beginning of her trials. And of course there's the heartbreak as well.

This is one of those books marketed to young adults that will also have a large adult readership due to the strong, heroic characters; beautiful imagery; and a setting in which women have many kinds of freedom and many kinds of power.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about fantasy violence versus realistic violence. How do they impact you differently? Why do you think that is?

  • This book is marketed as Young Adult, but it will attract adult readers as well. Why do you think the publisher decided to market it to teens? What separates Young Adult from children's or adult literature?

  • And, just for fun: Fire can control minds, a common ability in fantasy and science fiction. What other supernatural powers are common in these types of works? What ability would you most like to have?

Book details

Themes & Topics

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