For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig
Release date: September 25, 2018
An ARC was provided by Miss Print's ARC Adoption Program and an e-galley was provided by HarperCollins via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Jetta’s family is famed as the most talented troupe of shadow players in the land. With Jetta behind the scrim, their puppets seem to move without string or stick—a trade secret, they say. In truth, Jetta can see the souls of the recently departed and bind them to the puppets with her blood. But the old ways are forbidden ever since the colonial army conquered their country, so Jetta must never show, never tell. Her skill and fame are her family’s way to earn a spot aboard the royal ship to Aquitan, where shadow plays are the latest rage, and where rumor has it the Mad King has a spring that cures his ills. Because seeing spirits is not the only thing that plagues Jetta. But as rebellion seethes and as Jetta meets a young smuggler, she will face truths and decisions that she never imagined—and safety will never seem so far away.
Heidi Heilig creates a vivid, rich world inspired by Asian cultures and French colonialism. Her characters are equally complex and nuanced, including the bipolar heroine. Told from Jetta’s first-person point-of-view, as well as chapters written as play scripts and ephemera such as telegrams and letters, For a Muse of Fire is an engrossing journey that weaves magic, simmering romance, and the deep bonds of family with the high stakes of epic adventure.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: There is always a fear, when an author starts a new series, that it will not live up to its last one. Thankfully, For a Muse of Fire did not fall victim to that.
The world of FaMoF is rich and beautiful. The influences of a colonized southeast Asia (and colonizer France) are clear, but it still feels original at the same time. I hope the setting will continue to be fleshed out with wonderful details throughout the rest of the trilogy.
At times the voice reminded me a little too much of Nix (the protagonist from The Girl from Everywhere), but I wondered if that might just be Heidi's authorial voice, and I can't fault an author for that sounding the same. I never fully connected with Jetta, but I loved how her bipolar disorder was written. In the author's note, Heidi talks about how she wove her own experiences with BPD into the story, and that shined through beautifully. Jetta's thoughts and moods felt authentic and never forced.
FaMoF definitely feels like the beginning of a series (I think it's going to be a trilogy?), so the ending of the book isn't quite as strong as I would've liked it to be. There are definitely catalysts moving forward, and I'm curious to see where things go with Theodora especially.
Romance-wise, I think Heidi did a great job with this just being the first book. I can see where the relationship between Jetta and Leo will grow.
Content warnings: bipolar disorder (although not called that), death, violence, necromancy
The Verdict: Not quite perfect but still a good read.
Will I be adding this book to my library?: Absolutely.