9. "Fire," by Kristin Cashore
The title character in Kristin Cashoreâ€™s fantasy "Fire" is an outcast human monster â€“ the last of her kind â€“ who is so beautiful that she must hide her hair to avoid attack. Fire lives in the Dells, a war-ravished land readers know from Cashoreâ€™s first novel â€śGraceling,â€ť a top book on last yearâ€™s list. In a plot considered more complex and adult than that of "Graceling," Fire grapples with her fatherâ€™s fearsome legacy, complicated relationships, and a fateful wartime role. Fire is a strong female character readers admire for her courage in a violent, cruel world.