I enjoyed this in its own right, and I enjoyed it as a prequel to Graceling. Fire is another strong female protagonist whose relationships with men are more mutual than is sometimes the case in fantasy/swords and sorcery novels. Intertwined with Fire's story is that of Leck, who appeared in an important role in Graceling. While that book focused on the lands where gracelings arise, here the story concerns beautiful monsters, of whom Fire is one.Quite aside from the story and the writing, both of which held my interest, I want to appreciate several aspects of the story. First, the non-marital sexual and romantic relationships were nicely described without gratuitous sex scenes. Second, the existence of same-sex relationships was acknowledged neutrally and without much emphasis by the narration and characters. Third, you've got to love a young adult novel where the protagonist's travels are thwarted by her monster-attracting menstrual blood. Now that's an interesting twist.