Fire by Kristin Cashore, 461 pages
Fire, our titular character, is a beautiful, powerful human monster, with the ability to read and control the minds of those around her, both human and otherwise. Her father also had this ability, and exploited it to gain himself political power and fame, and to become a roguish playboy, nearly destroying The Dells, the kingdom where he lived. Knowing the power she was born to, Fire is careful not to use her mental abilities, except in self-defense. However, that decision to abstain from using her birthright is called into question when the kingdom is again thrown into chaos, and it becomes clear how Fire's abilities could help the king and his family keep the throne.
This is Cashore's follow-up to Graceling, and while it is set in the same world, it is not by any means a sequel. Fire takes place some 20 years before Graceling, and the two books share only one character, who plays a constant background role. I loved Graceling, and very much respect Cashore's decision to avoid the typical YA trilogy trope. I also enjoy the strong heroines she creates. (Katsa in Graceling is nearly off the charts of the Katniss-Bella Scale (on the Katniss end, thankfully), and Fire has a touch more Bella in her, but not much.) Specific to Fire, I also like Cashore's frank discussion of reproductive rights and rape (though not in gory detail). Again, it's something I respected in Graceling, where she discusses marriage and the role of women therein, so I'm glad she's continuing to examine these topics. I have high hopes for Bitterblue, the third book in this not-a-series.