I have many of the same reasons for loving the second installment of Kristin Cashore’s The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy. Perhaps it follows a formula we’ve seen in many other female-protagonists-with-agency fantasy novels (read: Alanna of Trebond, not Bella Swan), yet the writing is enjoyable, the plot fantastical, and the romance realistic – which is hard to come by in a genre full of sparkly vampires. As with Graceling, if you like the formula, you’ll love the book!

Fire is delightful because she if flawed. She is an easy protagonist to read, and Cashore doesn’t disclose all her secrets from the outset. Unlike Katsa in Graceling, Fire evolves from her stubborn mould into a woman who realises her value, worth and individuality – and that they are things that can be shared and useful.

Many reviews I’ve read comment on the use of sex in the novel. While it is true that Archer’s use of women for their physical pleasures is increasingly apparent, yet the reader is positioned to be weary of Archer’s jealous and possessive ways – even though we know he means well. Not wanting to add spoilers, but one could argue whether or not his behaviour is punished. The rest of the incestuous links between nearly all the principle characters made me laugh more than balk.

Brigan’s sexual history, in contrast to Archer’s, creates substance and background to his depth as a character. The Commander and Prince is a man whom the reader could realistically expect to meet and fall in love with (if one lived in a Kingdom). He has intense feelings of more than war and his own pleasure. While he doesn’t immediately trip over himself to be noticed by Fire, he is constructed to still have feelings towards his family – that is, just because he is able to resist Fire’s charm, does not mean he is immune to human affection. His past (with his father and Cansrel) demonstrates his development from a boy who was forced into manhood too soon, into the best man for a tough job. I fell in love the moment he first walked onto the page.

When I recover from the knowledge the Cashore may never bring Brigan back into my life, I will eagerly look forward to the third installment.