I skimmed the last 20% of this book. Why? Because the main character is an insufferable, whiny brat.
Granted, she may have been a brat the entire book, but for much of the time I was blinded by the lovely world the author, Kristin Cashore, created. And toward the end, the main character became irrational, on top of being an insufferable, whiny brat. "No, don't look at me; I'm too beautiful." "I can't look at you because I'm afraid you will die." "No, I cannot go on! I am too beautiful." Wah, wah, wah.
I enjoyed the introduction to the world toward the beginning of the book. The world contains regular people and animals, and it also contains "monsters." Monsters are beautiful, colorful versions of other animals. They have the power to delve into people's minds to entrance and control them. Fire, the main character, is the only living human monster. Thus, she is beyond lovely, and she senses people's thoughts and feelings.
At the beginning of the book, Fire is on the farm where she was raised. We meet her and her adoptive family. And then she travels to King's City. The journey was tad dull but not so long that I began to pull my hair out. King's city presents some interesting new issues. There, Fire has to deal with being around many more people, most of whom have some strong reaction to her monstrousness. Some are immediately smitten. Others want to rape and/or kill her. That was fun and interesting; I liked seeing her getting acclimated to the city.
Then Fire is drawn into a war. There's lots of war-planning going on. Yawn! Fire falls in love. The romance was interesting for about four seconds, until Fire decides that she is too beautiful to love, and that her man is in too much danger for her to love him. That was the last 25% of the book: "No, don't look at me. I'm pretty! You'll die, and then I'll be sad but still really really pretty!" Wah, wah, wah.
I enjoyed Graceling, the first book in this series. I kind of wish I had never started this one. I have so many unread books on my shelves, and this book feels like a black hole into which I just threw my valuable time. I'll think twice, and then again a third time, before I pick up the next book in this series.