3.75 out of 5 stars
Still epic and fast-paced, this installment is missing a little something.
The first third of Heir of Fire should be subtitled: Celaena Throws a Tantrum. Packed off to Wendlyn at the end of Crown of Midnight, Celaena finds herself a adrift in the new land depressed, broke, and drunk. She’s wallowing in 31 flavors of hurt – but none of them are confusion. Only readers learned the truth about Celaena at the end of Book 2: who she is, what she is, and that, as a narrator, she can’t be trusted. Calaena knew it all along.
[SPOILERS, because there’s no way not to.]
Celaena gets plucked from the gutters by Rowan Whitethorn, legendary fae (as in fairy) warrior and requisite dead-sexy-looks-human-only-way-better hero of the Sarah J. Maas canon. Rowan carts her to Mistward, the last (half-)human outpost before the fae kingdom of Doranelle. There, they spend 350 pages “hating” each other while Calaena learns to call, control, and wield her fae magic. It drags a little. (It’s a slightly stumbling precursor to every relationship in the ACOTAR series. By the time SJM writes Feyre, she’s got this down pat.) But, when it counts, they ally. And Calaena comes into the magic that is her heritage and the name/title that is her birthright: Aelin Ashryver Galathynius. Lost, and presumed dead, Queen of Terrasen. The only person in the world who can hope to fight and defeat the King of Aderlan.
(Speaking of names, there should be a quota. Calaena, Lillian, Elentiya, Aelin – she’s like a girl at a bar giving a fake name to every dude who buys her a drink.)
back on the ranch in Rifthold, Dorian finds new love and Chaol finds new ways to be miserable. Dorian’s magic makes things weird between them, but they have the same goal: bring down the King. Aedion Ashryver, Celaena/Aelin’s cousin, and general in the army, joins the cause.
Somewhere between, a badass witch princess named Manon Blackbeak rescues an animal and becomes my favorite character.
The end is pretty brilliant. A small, witty plot by the King of Aderlan exposes almost everything, endangers everyone, and catapults the action forward, just as the book is ending. Aelin turns back toward Aderlan – and the King knows she’s coming.
There are two reasons I gave this book 3.5 stars instead of 4, like its predecessors. As I mentioned, the Aelin/Rowan thing gets long. The action is important to the story, but stretched simply to draw out their trope. Also, I don’t feel them. I read what they experience, that mix of duty and righteousness drawing them together, but I don’t feel it. And while no romance blooms (yet, because obviously), that’s not what I think Aelin and Rowan are missing. Their connection doesn’t leap off the page. Rather it tells me that it needs to happen and so it does, not surprising and not quite satisfying either.
I’m diving right into Book 4, Queen of Shadows, though, because I know what SJM can do. I know she can make me feel Aelin and Rowan like being hit by a truck. And I want to know this is where she learned to do it, before she wrote ACOTAR and drove right over all our hearts.