Heir of Fire
Sarah J Maas
Warning: as this is a reread, it is very hard to conduct this review without spoilers, as my knowledge of what will happen colours my judgment of certain characters.
I have always had such a soft spot for this book in the series. Heir of Fire is the third in the Throne of Glass series and the one where I feel Sarah J Maas is really stepping up her game. There is such an evolvement going on, the story becoming something different and more from what it was.
Celeana is not ready to shed her identity as a Rifthold assassin, and become Aelin Galathynius. She herself believes this to be cowardice, and there is a lot of self loathing going on in this novel. To us as readers it is abundantly clear – to me at least – why you would want to forget everything instead of fight for a country that seriously does not even exist anymore. She was under the impression that Aedion had turned and would hate her, that every member of her parents’ and uncle’s court were dead. She had no allies, considering it was quite clear the rebels were in it to free Rifthold, and didn’t care a lick about Terrassen or Eyllwe. Nehemia had seen it too. Take with that the fact that she has always been afraid of her Fae powers.
Celeana, as she is still called in Heir of Fire has a lot to struggle through. Her depression and self-loathing are not going away in the blink of an eye. It’s a long process of Rowan bullying the truth out of her, the influence of Mistward and her coming to terms with her losses, failures and self. I can see how for some readers that would become a bit tedious. Celeana does not move quickly in this novel. But it is very realistically written, you can see every step of her transformation into Aelin so that by the end of Heir of Fire, I was wondering why we were still referring to her as Celeana. That is powerful stuff, people.
Rowan, of course, is the one who made me forget Chaol. I just love myself a snarky Fae male, and I loved how he had his own flaws of shortsightedness when it came to Celeana. They may be immortal and all-powerfull, but they sure aren’t infallible. I really liked how this is echoed by Aelin to Aedion in Queen of Shadows, when he is so star struck over Rowan. But throughout the first two novels, and a good part of the third, I did have my heart set on Chaol. He just resonates with the sort of man I usually fall for. But in Heir of Fire he is on his own course of spiralling down until hitting rock bottom (which he won’t reach until Queen of Shadows, which means we really have to try our patience). I have not exactly liked who he has become, but again, what else can we expect from a man who realises he is betraying the very core of who he is. The only reason he does it, is that it’s for Dorian, but he doesn’t believe in it himself. Luckily, this storyline also includes Aedion.
I’m a bit sorry he was never mentioned before now, considering Celeana was so close to him growing up and he is still alive, but it is acceptable. Celeana was deep in denial about who she was and no hints were dropped but a sore few. She never spoke of it and multiple mentions were made of her shoving down memories and faces, not even acknowledging their existence to herself. Which is why the Mistward battle against the Valg princes was so well thought out. She had to face them as a physical threat, but what she really had to face was herself, and she did both because the Valg accomodated that. Cleverly done.
The added character of Manon was a bit of a struggle for me first time I read Heir of Fire. I liked the chapters as I liked her ruthlessness, it was a fresh wind. But I couldn’t really see where the book was going with her, as she is constantly doing things that are unlike herself. She is already changing when we meet her, without having grounded her in her character first. I think the only reason it works is because Manon continues to believe she has not changed. That she is still what she thinks herself to be. As readers we then also continually compare her actions to what she and we think she usually is, thus grounding the character despite her already changing. And indeed, even in Queen of Shadows she is the last of her Thirteen to switch allegiances to her own judgment of right and wrong. This second time reading Manon, I know where she is going, and I can enjoy the process much more.
The only thing I do disagree with, is the addition of Sorcha. I understand why perfectly. Dorian sorely needed someone to care about in the castle, and he and Chaol where getting quite estranged, especially on the part of Dorian. But she is never mentioned before except as an unnamed healer who truly could have been anymore. There is no real reason why Dorian would fall so hard for this girl and not another (until she learns of his magic of course, which forms a strong enough bond). Sorcha feels shoehorned in to make the king’s betrayal of Dorian, Chaol and Aedion more powerful because an “innocent” can be slaughtered, and Dorian will have once again lost a great love. I don’t believe in that great love, as I did not believe in Nehemia’s friendship. But considering all that is going on, the multiple characters so well laid out and tied together, all with different reactions to one another, I can certainly accept that.
I loved Heir of Fire most for its storyline with Celeana and Rowan. As someone who adores a relationship that has to come a long way, theirs was very entertaining. What I also consider well done, is that in Heir of Fire, we have no real reason to think they are ever going to be together. They have a strong bond, but they also have their hang-ups and past loves. They are comfortable being together physically, but not conscious of one another, which takes any romance out of it. Their bond is more powerful than friendship, but it is also secure where it is. In Heir of Fire, at least. We still don’t know if Celeana is going to go back to Chaol, but as I mentioned, I was already letting go of him about halfway through the book. Rowan fits Celeana – or rather Aelin – far better. So when their appointment with Maeve was drawing near, I was practically praying to Mala Fire-Bringer myself to find a way to keep those two together.
And boy, did Sarah J Maas deliver! I have a deep respect for the way she can bring in characters as late as the third and even fourth novel and have us care about them, adopt them into the family we have created with characters that have been there from the start. The addition of those who will remain throughout the rest of the series she knows how to establish well. Merging them with the original group of people brings out a new side in each of them and enriches the whole. And yes, I am most definitely also talking about Lysandra. Who’s up for a Queen of Shadows reread?