For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig
Genre: YA Fantasy, Action, Adventure, Magic
Publication: September 25th 2018 by Greenwillow Books
Series: For a Muse of Fire #1
Length: 512 pages
Format: ARC from publisher
A young woman with a dangerous power she barely understands. A smuggler with secrets of his own. A country torn between a merciless colonial army, a terrifying tyrant, and a feared rebel leader. The first book in a new trilogy from the acclaimed Heidi Heilig blends traditional storytelling with ephemera for a lush, page-turning tale of escape and rebellion. For a Muse of Fire will captivate fans of Sabaa Tahir, Leigh Bardugo, and Renée Ahdieh.
Jetta’s family is famed as the most talented troupe of shadow players in the land. With Jetta behind the scrim, their puppets seem to move without string or stick—a trade secret, they say. In truth, Jetta can see the souls of the recently departed and bind them to the puppets with her blood. But the old ways are forbidden ever since the colonial army conquered their country, so Jetta must never show, never tell. Her skill and fame are her family’s way to earn a spot aboard the royal ship to Aquitan, where shadow plays are the latest rage, and where rumor has it the Mad King has a spring that cures his ills. Because seeing spirits is not the only thing that plagues Jetta. But as rebellion seethes and as Jetta meets a young smuggler, she will face truths and decisions that she never imagined—and safety will never seem so far away.
Heidi Heilig creates a vivid, rich world inspired by Asian cultures and French colonialism. Her characters are equally complex and nuanced, including the bipolar heroine. Told from Jetta’s first-person point-of-view, as well as chapters written as play scripts and ephemera such as telegrams and letters, For a Muse of Fire is an engrossing journey that weaves magic, simmering romance, and the deep bonds of family with the high stakes of epic adventure.
Huge thanks to my friends from HarperCollins International for sending me a physical review copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. This did not, in any way, affect my overall opinion of the book and/or the story.
When I first heard of it, and saw its gorgeous cover, I knew instantly that Heidi Heilig’s newest book, For A Muse of Fire, had a rightful place in my TBR. I found it to be intimidating, given it’s massive size, but that most definitely did not stop me from reading this fantastical read. Before giving it a shot, I had to put myself in the right mindset, much like with every other YA Fantasy books I read, and I’m so, so glad that the lovely people from HarperCollins sent me a copy of this, and that I picked it up on a whim. It was amazing, and I can’t wait for everyone to read it too. Read on to know what I thought of this alluring Fall 2018 title.
Jetta Chantray belongs in a family of shadow players, also known as the art of using puppet shadows to tell a whole new story. She has a suppressed talent that’s fairly similar to necromancy, a power that’s been banished by the entire kingdom. But still, this talent is also the reason as to why they became the most popular troupe of shadow players, for Jetta has the ability to bind souls to puppets, allowing them to move without strings. However, in efforts to look for a cure for her malheur , Jetta and her family must make the journey out of Chakrana and into Aquitan, where a rumored cure can be found, that’s also used by a mad prince, all while having to endure a civil war. Sounds exciting, yes? WELL, THAT’S BECAUSE IT IS!
This book is impressively written with a gorgeous set of posters, scripts, telegram documents, letters, maps, sheet music, etc. The addition of these unique storytelling / formatting techniques made the pacing a little more bearable, in my opinion, because even though I adored this book to a fault, I still didn’t like the pacing, at least for the first half of the story. I know that this is the part when we need to discover the established facts about the characters, the setting, and even the time period that they lived in, but there were moments that made me drag-read in hopes of getting to a scene where it finally picks up the pacing. Thankfully, these interesting ephemera made the story a lot more intriguing, offering big and small twists for readers to be mesmerized by.
But one of the many things that I adored about this novel was how intriguing the main character’s mental illness was depicted all throughout the book. For those who were able to check out the author’s note at the end of the book / review copy, the author said that Jetta has bipolar disorder. She has also promoted the book online as an #ownvoices novel representing bipolar. In the book, Jetta also refers to her illness as her malheur, a word that I later came to find out that means “misfortune” in French, and so even though it was never really mentioned, I think it’s very well-established that Jetta does have bipolar. And what’s so great about this is that even though the disorder is one of the things that made Jetta who she is, the story never revolved on that one detail alone. There were instances when Jetta had manic and depressive episodes, ones that entailed dire consequences, but it almost always complemented the story in a good way. It’s also noteworthy that there might’ve been more episodes than I realized, since I know next to nothing about the disorder, and so I’m not entirely sure as to what to look for and I’m sure others who might know more about it may detect ones that I didn’t. I obviously can’t speak for the bipolar representation that this book has, but I sincerely hope that you’ll end up loving it the same way I do.
I also adored Leo as a character because he is spontaneous, and brave, and caring, and just sexy as hell, but especially because he has experience with mental illness himself, since he lost his mother to suicide. He is half-Chakran and half-Aquitan, and since relationships between these two races, albeit isn’t at all forbidden, is still discouraged, this meant that he became a victim of bullying and racism. His father didn’t want him around, and other people, even the ones who he didn’t know at all, called him “moitié“, or “half / mixed”, which is a racist slur known all throughout the kingdom. But what I love about Leo’s personality is that he’s strong and he’s able to withstand the challenges that life throws at him, making him a force / character to be reckoned with. He’s persistent, and dauntless, and his individuality shines through from the moment I met him, down to the very last page.
“Heidi Heilig’s newest book is an #ownvoices novel that’s incredibly diverse, inspired by Asian cultures, featuring a colorful and well-grounded cast of characters whose individual stories all deserve to be told. With a writing style that’s interestingly unique, a center-plot that’s perfectly alluring, and emotionally investing lead roles, For A Muse of Fire will no doubt be a powerfully groundbreaking YA fantasy novel to look out for that’s indeed perfect for fans of Roshani Chokshi, Sabaa Tahir, and Renée Ahdieh.”
Have YOU read For A Muse of Fire yet? What other Heidi Heilig books have you read? And be sure to grab a copy of this from your local book store and start reading it! And once you do, let me know what you think of it down below in the comments section!
JM is a 21 year old blogger from Manila. He has a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management mainly because it was too late when he discovered that literature and publishing is his true calling. He enjoys reading contemporary and fantasy novels as much as he enjoys playing video games and baking pastries. You may find him on his book blog, Book Freak Revelations, also on Twitter, Instagram, & Goodreads.