February 20, 2015

Review: Heir of Fire by Sarah J Maas

She was the heir of ash and fire, and she would bow to no one.

 photo 20613470_zpshd4hmt3y.jpgTitle: Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3)
Author: Sarah J.Maas
Genre:YA Fantasy
Rating: B
Recommended For: Fans of the rest of the series!
Source: Library e-book (but I'll be buying)

One-sentence review: This continuation of Celaena's story brings new characters and more of an epic feel but unfortunately not without sacrificing some of the things I loved most about the series and character relationships in the previous books.

TBR It: Goodreads
Buy It: Amazon

 This review contains spoilers for Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight

Heir of Fire is the third book in Sarah J. Maas' Throne of Glass series and follows our heroine Celaena, the greatest assassin of Adarlan, as she travels to the foreign and magical land of Wendlyn. The tyrant king of Adarlan has sent her to assassinate the king of Wendlyn, but Celaena has other ideas that involve ridding the world of Adarlan's tyrant king himself. Meanwhile in Adarlan, Chaol deals with his feelings and new knowledge about Celeana and has to decide which side he's fighting for: the side he's worked his whole life to protect and uphold or the side of the woman he loves. Prince Dorian is also working through his new found abilities and we're introduced to an unrelated new character, Manon the witch.

I hate to say it, but this book fell remarkably flat for me considering how obsessed I've been with this series as a whole. Where the first book was light-fantasy and the second book was more complex and fascinating, this book felt like it made too great of a leap into trying to be something new. We finally get a real feel for how epic this story is: it's not just about Celaena's singular problems and I do love that. However, there was too little of the things that originally made me love this series to begin with for me to be happy.

My greatest issue is probably the split perspectives because they made me see how segregating our favorite trio of characters eliminates the real magic of this series (pun totally intended). Celaena's perspective in Wendlyn leads her to work with a painfully powerful magical warrior prince named Rowan who must train her if she wants her magical aunt Queen Maeve to give her answers on how to defeat Adarlan's king. When Rowan trains Celeana she is weak, unimpressive and stubborn; two out of three of those things we have never seen from Celeana. While she's always been stubborn, she's always been the most badass babe in literature I've ever read so it pained me to see her so weak, to see Rowan outmatch her on every level. I suppose Maas wanted us to see Celeana vulnerable in such a new way, but I couldn't handle her that out of her element AND without her friends. The dynamic between Celaena, Chaol and Dorian  is something that elevates this book from a good story to a personal one, so I found myself bored for the first half of Celeana's plot and only really excited toward the very end.

Furthering this point, the narratives of the other characters we know and love were zapped of energy without Celaena to infuse them with her usual excitement. Chaol's point of view bored me to death. While there is forward moving plot and he struggles with which side to which he should pledge his loyalty, his storyline felt like it was barely treading water. He didn't need as much page time as he received.

Similarly, Dorian's plight to learn magic gave little to no new information. What Dorian's story did include was a new love and I did not like that (and I think this sealed my Team Dorian status, FYI). Dorian and Chaol's dynamic together was the only redeeming quality of their narratives to me. I love their friendship as much as I love their chemistry with Celaena, which is a testament to the emotional webs Maas is capable of weaving.

All that said, my biggest complaint about the book is the damned witches. We meet a new character in this book, a witch from one of three tribes. Honestly, I wasn't even going to trouble myself to go back and remember her name just to cement how much I do not care about the witches. But of course, I did: she is Manon Blackbeak, heir to the Ironteeth witches (damn myself for being compelled to be a serious book review writer!). The king has asked the witches to train and fly the wild wyverns and we get perspective of Manon who struggles to assert her power amongst two other tribes and her own. I think in general Manon's story has merit (more probably happened to her than Chaol if we're being honest!), but I just couldn't get into it. I didn't like Manon, I'm already apprehensive about the high-fantasy aspect of this series, and I never cared if she (or her wyvern) lived or died! I'm generally anti-novella, but this should have been a novella!!

While I really didn't like Manon, I did love the other two main characters introduced in this story: Prince Rowan and Aedion. As I mentioned with Rowan earlier, he's a painfully powerful magical prince. He's gruff enough when we meet him to know he's going to blossom and that he did! Honestly, I was so sick of Dorian and Chaol putting me to sleep that I think I would prefer now if he became Celaena's new love interest because he's so complex.

By now you should have stopped reading this if you don't want spoilers from the previous books so I won't feel bad mentioning that we now know that Celaena is really Princess Aelin (not to sound braggy, but I totally figured that out in book 1....). Aedion is Celaena's cousin who has been working as a General in the king's military for the past decade. I won't say more, but trust me that Aedion is complicated and I love him for it. I am holding out for an interaction between him and Celaena more than anything!

While I did love that this story felt so much more epic and in-depth than the previous installments, I just wish it wasn't so void of what I loved most. Maas seems to have previously handled readers with kiddie gloves in terms of fantasy, magic and sheer volume of this story, so in comparison this felt like she threw us off a cliff into the ocean. I suppose if she had given this much information earlier I might have been too intimidated and overwhelmed to pursue this story as a (semi) non-high-fantasy reader. But overall I'm glad I learned early to trust Sarah J. Maas because I'm sure I'll return to loving this story soon and understand the pieces stacked here were meant for a bigger picture. Celaena is going home to Adarlan, guys! I can't wait to see what happens there!!

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