By Kristin Cashore
The cold and rocky kingdom of the Dells is where Fire, the fantasy novel by Kristin Cashore, takes place. During the book, the Dells is in a state of despair because of the previous king, King Nax. Nax had run the city to the ground twenty years ago, spending all the money on drugs and partying, because he was under the control of a monster. He neglected all the duties a king has, and that caused the outer reaches of the kingdom to become infested with thieves, brigands, poachers, and other unsavory people. Sensing the forthcoming destruction of the kingdom, two rebel lords, Mydogg and Gentian, raise armies in order to take control of the Dells for themselves. Now, Nax's son King Nash has to fix all the problems Nax had created while he was alive along with his brother, Prince Brigan.
Monsters in the Dells are variations of the animals on earth. The monsters are normal animals with normal appearances in most ways, but they have astonishingly beautiful colors. These colors are what identify monsters from animals, because monsters are just like normal animals in their physical appearances in every other way. They have the shape of normal horses, normal frogs, lions, raptors, cats, bears, flies, and all the other kinds of animals; but the monsters are sunset orange horses, and apple green raptors. Monsters like house cats, mice, flies, fish, and birds are harmless, but the bigger, man eating monsters are more dangerous than their animal counterparts. Not only are there animal monsters, there are human monsters too. Human monster are the most powerful and rare kinds of monsters. Human monsters look like normal humans, but they are extraordinarily beautiful. Along with their beauty, human monsters have hair colored like that of other monsters, colors rainging from blue tinted silver to fiery red. Human monsters, along with all other monsters have another defining characteristic. They can take over and control your mind. They will make you do things like stand still while they kill and eat you, or in the case of human monsters, force you into doing things you normally wouldn't do like telling secrets that you would otherwise not share.
This is Fire, a human monster, and the main protagonist of the story. She lives in the north of the Dells with her friend and landlord Archer. Fire is always in a constant struggle with herself and the people around her, because she refuses to use her monster powers to control people for any reason short of the imminent risk of death for herself or her closest friends. Fire constantly feels confused and afraid about her powers, because her friends constantly try to pressure and guilt her into using her power to infiltrate the minds of people who might know about the plans of Mydogg and Gentian. She constantly denies the efforts of these people because she is afraid she will abuse her powers, and she hates bypassing the boundaries of anybody. Even though she wants to help her friends, Fire is afraid that she will make the same mistakes her father, the deceased Canserel, had made, because he corrupted King Nax, and brought the Dells to ruin.
This is a picture of Archer, Fire's best friend and landlord. He taught her how to shoot a bow, and he helped her through life when her dad died. He became more than a friend to Fire when she was a teenager, but Fire leaves him because he was jealous that she liked other men. Because of this, he becomes careless with women. His carelessness makes Fire like him less, and then he becomes more jealous. This cycle continues to the point where he and Fire almost become enemies.
This is a picture of Prince Brigan. When Prince Brigan was barley a full grown man, his father, King Nax, sent him to lead part of the royal army far up in the North while being controlled by Canserel. Prince Brigan could block Canserel from entering and controlling his mind, so Canserel hated him just because he could defy him. Although Brigan had no experience fighting, he lead his troops better than anyone had ever seen. When he returned home from the fighting Canserel forced the king to promote his son to commander of the army, even though he was nowhere near old or experienced enough to lead an entire army. Because Canserel, who is Fire's father, had destroyed Prince Brigan's own father, he hated Fire before he even met her. As he convoys her to the castle to interrogate the spies of Mydogg and Gentian he realizes that Fire is not the same person as her father. As they work more and more together, he starts to fall in love with Fire without even knowing it.
This is a picture of an interrogation like the ones Fire conducts for the royal family to find out about Mydogg and Gentian. She starts to feel inner turmoil because she doesn't want to invade and control peoples minds, as her father had done to others. On the other hand, she wants to help her friends in the royal family defeat Mydogg and Gentian so the Dells could be at peace again. As she stays at the castle for more and more time, she feels more and more obligated to protect her friends and defeat the rebel warlords, so she starts to interrogate the captured spies. The longer she tries to figure out what their plans are, the more confused she becomes. The spies are told lies to throw Fire off their trail, and only the closest people to Mydogg and Gentian know their actual plans.
This a picture of people coming up with a plan similar to what Fire and the royal family did. After months of interrogation, Fire decides that the only way to learn what Mydogg and Gentians plan's entail is to interrogate the rebel lords themselves. Knowing that nobody could just capture Mydogg and Gentian, Fire and the royal family decided to lure them into a place where Fire could learn their plans. The only time both Mydogg and Gentian would be in a place where Fire could contact them was during the winter gala. Eventually, they come up with a plan. Fire will keep track of every person in the castle, and contact Gentian and Mydogg when they enter. She would have to lure them into empty rooms, and make them tell her their plans, and then Prince Brigan would assassinate them. Fire learned that Mydogg and Gentian are working together, and that Gentian's army would attack from the South, and draw off half of the royal army, while Mydogg's army would use this diversion to attack from the North.
This is a picture of Leck. Leck is not a monster, but he can control people's minds with his words. Because of this, he believes he should get whatever he wants, so uses his power to make people to give him things, protect him, work for him, or even make people think it is okay for him to torture small monsters and animals. Just after Fire learns Mydogg and Gentians plans, she is captured by Leck, and brought to his house where he keeps her hostage. He uses physical abuse and the people he is controlling to keep Fire from running away, because he can't control her. Eventually, she knocks Leck out, and makes the people he was controlling set his house on fire.
After Fire escapes from Leck, she wanders aimlessly in the cold northern winter, until she is delirious from the frigid air. After days of walking, exhausted from the lack of food and with her hand burning from the cold, she collapsed to the ground, and passed out. Time passed in a blur for Fire, and all she remembered was being brought underground into an extremely warm place, being covered in blankets with two other people, and eventually being fed. When she woke up, an old lady was feeding her warm soup, and she explained what happened to Fire. She waited in this warm, fire filled cavern while an escort from the army came and brought her to the front lines of the battle against lord Gentians army. This is a picture of a fire heating the underground caves where Fire is brought when she loses consciousness.
When Fire gets convoyed by Prince Brigan, she thinks that he hates her, because he is disregarding towards her. Even though Fire thinks he hates her, she notices that Brigan watches out for her and protests her from people who wish her harm. During the beginning of her time in the castle, Brigan is blocking Fire from knowing what he is thinking, so she feels like Brigan is pushing her out of his life because of what her father did, even though he isn't blocking her out on purpose. The longer Fire is in the castle with Prince Brigan the closer she and him get, and neither of them realize that they both need each other until Prince Brigan opens his heart to Fire to give her the strength to finish interrogating Gentian. After Fire is brought back from the cave in the North, Prince Brigan goes to fight the war against Gentian and Mydogg, Fire is inconsolable thinking he will die in the war, and she says she doesn't want live if he dies.