You can find more of my reviews (plus discussions and giveaways) at Christina Reads YA.This is not actually a review, just the past midnight thoughts of a rambling book lover.Why Fire is the best of the Graceling Realm books:**The gender dynamics (and discussion that this book could generate) are truly fascinating, and I applaud Kristin Cashore for taking simple concepts like beauty-as-power and mind-reading and making them utterly complex and compelling.**World-building. Yeah, so what if we don't get an explanation for why there are monsters and why the human monsters have such frightening abilities? The actual manifestation of these creatures and their powers, and the Dellian landscape and politics are explored well enough to make up for either of those problems.**The character development is the most obvious and fulfilling of the three, as Fire's past interacts with the present and future in various ways. Katsa is trying to learn more about her Grace, Bitterblue about her father and how to rule. Fire is learning about acceptance, about how best to use her power in a way that she can live with. (Her growth is somewhat akin to the superheroine's growth; "with great power comes great responsibility." That and the gender dynamics, as noted earlier.) This means that people who are looking for a lot of plot may be a bit more disappointed, as Fire's struggle is mostly internal. More internal than either that of Bitterblue or Katsa.**The character cast and interactions between the Dell family and the others who have loved them are truly something to behold. The work of a master writer. Plus Fire herself, though I cannot argue against any of Cashore's protagonists.**This book also has the most fulfilling romantic relationship. A lot of people seemed to complain about the romantic ending in Graceling, and in Bitterblue, the tone of the romance is much more different than in either book. This romance fills that gap.However, when I gave this book to a friend, she suggested that it "glorified war" and "the pacing was a tad slow." The latter is true as the book is character-driven fantasy and it takes a while to get used to everything and for everything to come together, but the former, I would disagree with. While it's true that the book could have showed more clearly the ramifications of war, it's also clear that the book's main focus is not the war, no matter how much tension and conflict that it provides as a backdrop. The war is a part of plot, certainly, but as I said earlier, I think this book is much more internally focused. I also would disagree with the various reviews which suggest that Fire is a Mary Sue, since a good deal of her power is not only explored but also not something that I'd imagine the author would "want," given that a good deal of men and sometimes women always want to possess (and truly harm) Fire for her unnatural beauty. Mary Sues generally seem to only take on the benefits, and none of the worse aspects of whatever token power they are given.