4 out of 5 stars
There aren't any huge spoilers for the series in this review, but it probably wouldn't do much good to read it if you haven't read the first two books. If you're interested in reviews for those, you can check out my review for Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight.
Things I liked
- It's Sarah J. Maas. I love everything about her writing. The way she builds worlds, her characters, her approach, and how in everything you can feel her paying homage to her influences (all of which are my favorites too) while still remaining wholly her own. Sarah J. Maas makes me remember why I love stories.
- Manon Blackbeak's story. This felt a little out of place because it doesn't tie in at all to Celaena's story (in this installment), but I did enjoy it. I wasn't hugely impressed with Manon as a character (especially in light of all the hype) and I think she could have been fleshed out a whole lot more (backstory!). But, I'm a sucker for the underdog and I latched onto her relationship with her dragon like a dog with a soup bone.
- Those scary creatures! My gosh they are creepy. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the pulse pounding scenes with them. They reminded me of Tolkien's Nine with all their creepy soul sucking tenacity. But, of course, Sarah J. Maas makes them her own.
- Aedion Ashryver. Oh, swoon! Even better, he stands on his own as an intriguing character. I'd love a spinoff series of Aedion's adventures. In many ways he was a highlight of this book, despite his short page time, and I hope he gets developed a whole lot more.
Things I didn't like as much
I'm having a hard time adjusting to Celaena's character switch. I get it. It's good. It's important. It matters for her character arc and I do like the direction this is going in.
But...Celaena Sardothien is such a powerhouse of a character and her name matters. I feel like something is lost. Aelin may be who she was born as, but Celaena is who she chose to be and I feel like she's ceding something by embracing the name Aelin instead of sticking with Celaena. Then again, I always have difficulty with this sort of thing.
While this is definitely not a filler book, it still felt like a filler book. Introducing Manon's storyline broadened the scope of the book, but it also felt like a digression. Celaena spends a lot of time sulking and depressed, and instead of gutting me and wrenching my heart (Nehemia!), it made me feel bored and listless. Celaena is going through a lot of legitimate feelings during this time, and I'm disappointed that this didn't come through to me like it has in the past.
While I liked Rowan well enough, he wasn't a particularly memorable character and I wasn't feeling much chemistry between him and Celaena (platonic chemistry, I mean, because there is no romance between them). It felt...forced? This whole part felt like a waiting period. It felt like a rehash of Celaena's growth periods with Chaol after the salt mines or in the desert with Ansel and the Silent Master, but without any of the heart or fire or character chemistry.
Things for the future
I feel like, as the story is getting larger, it's losing it's way a little. There's a lot going on here and I think some of it suffers from lack of development. Sarah J. Maas can do epic and she can create characters that leap off the page and into my heart, so I'm sad to see so many meh characters here that I know could be so much more.
I'd rather have a 2,000 page book or have one book broken in two (yes, even if that means massive cliffhangers) than sacrifice the depth of the world and characters. Manon is a character worthy of more. Rowan could be. Chaol deserved more page time and depth to his intrigues. Dorian is a potentially huge character with an incredible arc that continues to get short shrift. Each of these characters are worthy of lead character status and I wish Sarah J. Maas would write them that way.
I know this would fundamentally change the series from Celaena's story to something really epic and HUGE, but, gosh, what a story that would be.
I felt like a lot of this book was tearing down everything I loved about the earlier books. Celaena's spark, her relationship with Chaol, her direction, the momentum of the story. This is a darker, slower, more introspective book, which is not a bad thing. It did make this a hard, disappointing book to read though.
That said, there were also stunning moments that have been seared into my memory. That scene running from that...thing, the battle at the end, the descriptions of flying, the backstory with the red cloak, Sarah J. Maas knows how to deliver scenes that leap off the page and there were plenty of them in Heir of Fire.
I understand and appreciate the value of this book, and I think I will like it a lot more upon a reread. As a part of a whole, this is a solid installment and a worthwhile part of Celaena's journey. But, as my one yearly gulp of new story fodder, I was disappointed.