9. "Fire," by Kristin Cashore
The title character in Kristin Cashore’s fantasy "Fire" is an outcast human monster – the last of her kind – 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 Cashore’s first novel “Graceling,” a top book on last year’s list. In a plot considered more complex and adult than that of "Graceling," Fire grapples with her father’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.