I’m gonna be up front with y’all and say this is my favorite in the series so far. I know a lot of people who were unhappy with the direction this book went in, and I completely understand. However, the introduction of new characters and the start of something bigger than I ever expected made this novel an expertly crafted climax for the series as a whole. I was hooked from the start, and the ending made me even more excited for what’s to come. I have high hopes for what Maas has planned for her book children as the story goes on.
Original Thoughts + Review
She was the heir of ash and fire, and she would bow to no one.
The story starts on a sun-baked roof. Celaena is a hot mess that’s teetering dangerously on the edge of becoming a regular mess, with the beating sun, stale bread, and an empty bottle of wine as her only company. Honestly? It’s pretty pathetic. It’s not until Fae Prince (aka Heartbreaker Central) Rowan Whitethorn shows up that we actually get the full extent of how bad things are and how little there is left of her to hold together. I know that part of the reason I loved Crown of Midnight so much is because of the brutal, unforgiving turn the story took, and Heir of Fire begins with the emotional aftermath of that brutality, where all of our main characters paid the price.
There are also a bunch of new characters rounding out the darker tone of the novel: Rowan the Bae Prince, who is the primary focus of Celaena’s time in Wendlyn; Aedion Ashryver, the General who is working with the rebellion to restore the rightful Queen of Terrasen to the throne; Manon Blackbeak, an Ironteeth witch and heir to the Blackbeak coven who (along with her Thirteen) is leading the secret army belonging to the King; and Sorscha, a lowly healer, who becomes a big part of Dorian’s future.
To start with the bad: The biggest, glaring issue is the pacing for the first half, which had a lot of build up…in a roundabout, lagging way. Of course I still loved the introductions for where our characters are now: Celaena is struggling with depression, Dorian is fighting against his father’s daring plans for Adarlan, and Chaol is feeling more lost than ever, caught between his loyalty to the King he’s always known and trusted, the wishes of his father, and the rebellion that he has inadvertently become a key player in. The downside here is that after the high-stakes, emotional ending for Crown of Midnight, this beginning felt way too slow in comparison. Even the way Manon (who has become one of my favorite characters ever) was presented to us came off as a bit choppy. I think it’s mostly due to the switching narratives, because in this book we’re split between Celaena’s POV, Dorian & Chaol’s POV, and Manon’s POV, which is something Maas has never done before and flounders with a bit before hitting that sweet spot a couple hundred pages in.
Speaking of Chaol, he makes up the bulk of the ‘meh’ in this book: While I ADORED him in the first two books, his character practically rewinds in terms of development and becomes this insecure, prejudiced, and whiny type of person that was grating to sit through. I talked to a friend about him recently and we agreed that he’s going through some serious stuff right now, facing pressure from all sides: his friendship with Dorian is suffering greatly, his father is back in the picture (and is a manipulative, conniving bastard), and now he’s got Aedion and the rebellion to worry about. However, where he would have worked perfectly as a foil to Aedion (which I was expecting) or simply had some meaningful growth to his personality (LIKE DORIAN), he’d have been one of the best characters ever written. Instead, we get pages upon pages of him wringing his hands and bemoaning how different everything is now. I’m sorry, Chaol, but things change. You needed to grow up a while ago, and I’m tired of listening to you whine about it. Step tf up.
“She was not becoming anything different from what she always was and always had the capacity to be. You just finally saw everything. And once you saw that other part of her… You cannot pick and choose what parts of her to love. Just as you cannot pick which parts of me you accept.” – Dorian, Telling It Like It Is (Again)
The parts I loved: The way Maas wrote Celaena’s depression following the events of Crown of Midnight resonated so much with me. It is so unimaginably hard to pick yourself back up after a loss like the one she had. Something I’ve been thinking about recently is that I’m coming up on the one year anniversary of when my first friend in Ohio passed away, almost a month from today. Her funeral was on my birthday. We stopped being so close months before she committed suicide, but I still think about her every day, and I wish she had been able to find her path, something that would have kept her here today. Celaena’s struggle is very different from mine, of course, but it still hit me in that same place where I keep memories of my lost friend. Single sentences – ones that had nothing to do with the plot or the story, but all to do with Celaena coming to terms with who she is in the aftermath of the massive trauma she faced – came at me in great big waves of sorrow and understanding, with silent tears rolling down my face and a deep, overwhelming wish that I could reach into the book and hold her because I know, it’s okay, and I know.
She vaguely felt the light shifting on the lake. Vaguely felt the sighing wind, warm as it brushed against her damp cheeks. And heard, so soft it was as if she dreamed it, a woman’s voice whispering, Why are you crying, Fireheart?…
“Because I am lost,” she whispered onto the earth. “And I do not know the way.”
On a happier note, I also REALLY ENJOYED Manon’s chapters. The first time I read this series, I felt like they were weird and out of place, but I’ve come to really enjoy her development in this book and beyond. The introduction we get to the Blackbeak coven is nothing short of glorious: powerful, beautiful, and deadly witches with iron teeth and sharp claws, Manon and the Thirteen are a serious force to be reckoned with, even though it remains unclear what exactly they plan to provide to the story. Are they villains, aiding the King of Adarlan to take over the continent? Are they potential good guys who will help the rebellion and turn on those who want to rule the land? Or are they simply taking part in this war for their own good and without care for what happens to any mortal kings and queens?
Regardless of their motives as part of the overarching plotline, there was some serious competition and conflict of interests between Manon’s group of warriors and the rest of the clans. I don’t want to go into any details that could spoil the story, but I have to say that this side of the novel’s current events was something else, something wicked and strange that will no doubt send strong reverberations through the remainder of the series going forward.
Overall, this book was one big climax where we’ve left Celaena behind and Aelin has finally taken center stage. It was truly one huge 360 into a completely new story that I’m still mindblown over Maas’s thought process and plan for the series that we still have yet to see. The end itself was a perfect before-credits scene, where there is only a minute left and you already know…the minute you reach the final page, you’ll be running headfirst at the next one with open arms. And I’m right there with you.
“I will gather the rest of my court – our court – and then we will raise the greatest army the world has ever witnessed. I will call in every favor, every debt owed to Celaena Sardothien, to my parents, to my bloodline. And then…” She looked towards the sea, towards home. “And then I am going to rattle the stars.”
It’s hard not to shout all of the spoilers and PAINFUL twists this story took. I had to cut out at least 3 different quotes because they gave away something huge (and because they made me cry. I swear to God, the QUOTES made me cry. This whole book had me in frickin’ tears. Bring a tissue box when you read it, y’all.) I loved it, and it’s definitely up there on my favorites shelf.
I’ve already got a review of Queen of Shadows written from months and months ago, but I’m doing some last-minute edits to reflect how I felt rereading it for my pre-Empire of Storms marathon. I honestly think it’s my best review yet, and I plan on releasing it tomorrow morning, so stay tuned for more thoughts on this incredible, delightful series that has totally changed my life by inspiring me to yell about books to strangers on the internet. Thanks to all of you for continuing to read these thoughts of mine.