Well, really it’s a side-quel. Or something like that.
It takes place in the same world as Graceling, just a different part. Therefore, we didn’t have to spend too long on setup, other than orientation in the new part. Whereas Graceling occurred in The Seven Kingdoms, Fire takes place to the far east, past the long mountain ranges, in The Dells.
The opening of the book establishes a little backstory of Graceling‘s protagonist, then smoothly ushers us into a new story and another unique species: monsters. Monsters can be anything: animals, insects, fish, or people. However, human monsters are the most rare. The difference between monsters and the “normal” kind of their species is that they are brilliantly, abnormally colored, and they crave the flesh of other monsters–and they go wild when they catch a whiff of another monster’s blood.
Fire is one of those human monsters, the daughter of another monster who was the worst thing that ever happened to the kingdom of The Dells. She must face down the terror of her father’s legacy, while dealing with the reactions that every person who sees her (because not only do the monsters affect each other, they drive humans wild, which leads to both murderous and lust-filled attacks on Fire). She is able to repel most of these attacks due to her telepathic abilities, which allow her to enter and, to an extent, influence the minds of those around her–when they are weak-minded. Not many are strong enough to keep her out.
She, then, deals with the moral aspects of entering people’s minds, even to save her own life. Then, she begins to feel pressure from the leaders of the kingdom to aid them through interrogation and mind control. To an extent, she begins to help them, while figuring out how to avoid complacency and standing by while the world begins to fall apart around her, and using her abilities to their proper extent.
It’s a great read, dealing with more mature issues than Graceling, and remains in a well-constructed, full world with that extra twinge of fantasy to set it apart. It features an imperfect, identifiable heroine (irresistability and all) who struggles with hard choices and makes both good and bad decisions throughout on her journey toward maturity.
I’d recommend reading both of these books–you can see my opinion of the first book here.