***Warning!!! This Book Review contains spoilers from the previous titles in the series, read at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***
To see my review of book #0.5 – The Assassin’s Blade – Click HERE!
To see my review of book #1 – Throne of Glass – Click HERE!
To see my review of book #2 – Crown of Midnight – Click HERE!
To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the whole series – Click HERE!
Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars
So, if you though you had a handle on this series and what it entailed based off the first two books….oh honey, you couldn’t be way more off!
Sarah J. Maas comes back with the next chapter of her first fantasy series, Throne of Glass, and gives readers an entirely new feel for what it’s all about! Seriously, it feels like her writing has aged many moons since we last read whatever the latest tale was in Caleana’s story and her writing has dramatically matured into a full fledged Best-Selling author that we know she is! She continues the series in epic fashion as she tells us a story filled with newfound magic, heartbreaking loss, sacrifice, self doubt, character development, friendship, rebellion, danger, and redemption!
I am seriously starving as I write this review, so one way to describe this book is sort of like eating spicy Thai food…It’s delicious and full of savory and sweet flavor, but then the after-burn hits, and you begin to feel the sweat form on your brow and your cheeks redden. You keep eating, and the fire continues to build and build until you’ve got what feels like a legit forest fire dancing on your tongue!
I’m not going to lie, I really want some Thai food now…
Years ago, after reading the ending of Crown of Midnight and being shooketh harder than a polaroid by that big reveal, I knew I was absolutely going to love this series! Looking back on it and remembering my young, naive heart that was still so full of hope and not so much of vain, self-deprecating sarcasm and I’d just laugh at how I absolutely did not see that big reveal play out like it did! I admit, nowadays it’s nothing too new, but it was the way it was told and revealed to us that made it truly epic and changed the entire way I viewed the series.
With how it all left off, I honestly had no idea how this series was going to continue! Crown of Midnight really sped things along and gave us a ton of easter eggs of what was to come (ie: the myth of the Valg, Baba Yellowlegs and the Ironteeth Witches, the wyrdkeys and wyrdmarks, the heart-wrenching death of Nehemia, and yes, Caleana stealthily revealing to Chaol who she REALLY is, plus plenty more), I really wondered what was going to happen next! I thought Aelin was going to just rise up with new army from Wendlyn and return Daenerys Targaryen-style across the sea and take back her kingdom and stop the King that way, and that’s not really the best route for a long term plan. Why not add, like, 10K levels of complexity to that plan and add more interesting characters, develop familiar ones even further, and increase the stakes with an even bigger enemy that has yet to actually reveal itself until now! THAT, my readers, is what it takes to tell an amazing story!
Heir of Fire adds so much more depth to the overall series, and like the novella’s in The Assassin’s Blade, it continues to allow the series to gain an even bigger base in order for it to continue to branch out and grow into something even more amazing than what we mere peasants could imagine! Sarah J. Maas changes the game up on us and gives us a much deeper and more thought out plot than we maybe could’ve originally guessed, and deals with even more important issues that are actually not plot based, but character based. Important aspects towards the characters is how they’ve suffered and how that’s shaped them to be who they are in current time. Things like betrayal, grief, acceptance, self-love, and loyalty play a huge part in how this book develops and allows us as readers and fans of the series to feel an even closer connection towards them within the pages and make them feel so much more real, personable, relatable, and most importantly: memorable.
What It’s About:
Caleana Sardothien, aka Aelin Ashryver Galathynius and who we now know is actually the long lost heir to the throne of Terrasen, has made it over to the magical realm of Wendlyn in order to finally confront her dark past and maybe gain help from her estranged aunt, Maeve, who is queen of the Fae in Doranelle. While in Varese, she is confronted by a fae prince named Rowan Whitethorn, before she can gain any real answers. The scene is officially set when she learns that if she wants to learn the secrets of the wyrdkeys and what power they may hold in the final battle to come, she’ll need to train alongside Rowan and master her fire abilities in an incredibly short amount of time. It’s a hard task, but what does Aelin have to lose at this point? She and Rowan travel to Mistward in order to carry out her part of the deal, but tensions rise and personalities clash as Rowan and her try not to absolutely tear each other’s heads off before they even get there.
Meanwhile, another new character is introduced in the name of Manon Blackbeak and her coven of 13 Ironteeth witches. She’s the heir below her grandmother patron, and they travel to the Ferien Gap under the deal they have struck with the King of Adarlan. It is revealed that he is building forces in the mountains and powerful winged creatures named Wyverns are being raised, with the Ironteeth Clans coming together to become their riders for his army. Wyverns are very similar to Dragons, so see the image below for clarification:
Manon is cold, vicious but determined and fights all other witches in order to be named Wingleader, but is she really a villain? Or is she more an anti-hero who surprises herself with actually having a soul and slowly learns that maybe she doesn’t have to settle for what her grandmother’s rule makes her believe is true? Good questions, and an even better new character!
A cry went up from the witches, save for the Thirteen—who stayed cool and quiet. They did not need to cheer, for they—were immortal and infinite and gloriously, wonderfully deadly.– Sarah J. Maas, “Heir of Fire”
Back in Rifthold, Chaol and Dorian come face to face with Aedion Ashryver, who is actually Caleana/Aelin’s cousin and childhood BFF. He’s all bad boy smirks, sharp zingers that roll off his tongue, and barely contained wild behavior as he seemingly seems to have completely turned his back on his heritage and is now working with the king with his army of the North, the Bane. Both Chaol and Dorian don’t trust him and his suspicious aloofness to certain questions, and try to follow him and see what he’s possibly up to. To make matters worse, Chaol can’t help but notice a particular black ring around Aedion’s finger and assume the worst…
While all that is going on, the bigger enemy has been gaining power until their forces are at their worst and they are finally able to make a major power play move! It turns out, The king of Adarlan isn’t the big threat!
The bigger enemies are a demon race known as the Valg and they were the ones that actually formed the wyrdkeys long ago. They were trapped and entombed before, but somehow they’ve gotten out and intend to continue their malicious plot and infest the world with their eternal darkness….
What I Liked:
- The Series Has Evolved Into Epic High Fantasy! So before in the previous two books it had felt more like a Grimdark subgenre of fantasy with only a small inkling of magic but with the hint of more to come later on, but now as Aelin is revealed to be half-fae and the long lost heir to the Terrasen Throne, and changes the game on us. When she goes over to Wendlyn, the author introduces us to a whole new magical world that is full of incredible beings and creatures. While something like this has been hinted at since the beginning of the series, seeing it finally appear in front of your eyes is still pretty eye-opening and adds so much more depth and excitement to the series overall!
- It Introduces Great New Characters! Oh. My. Gods!! There’s a plethora of new and interesting characters that are brought into the story! Some of them are more interesting than others of course, but the ToG series is changing rapidly and becoming even bigger with the many new faces Heir of Fire presents us with: First one worth noting is Rowan Whitethorn, of course. Under the orders of the Queen of the Fae, Maeve (another new character), he takes Aelin to Maeve, who will only tell her all about the wyrdkeys if Aelin can master her abilities. The next character is Manon Blackbeak, an Ironteeth Witch whose goal is to track down any remaining Crochan Witches (enemies of the Ironteeth clans for centuries), and eradicate them forever. She, along with her Blackbeak clan of 13, head to the Ferien Gap to personally select their own Wyverns, and it is there that she ends up with her steed, Abraxos. Next we have Aedion Ashryver, who is basically a male version of Aelin and has many secrets beneath his arrogant smirk. Last but not least, we have Ren Allsbrook and his grandfather Murtagh, who are former courtiers of Terrasen before it was invaded by Adarlan, thus making them join the rebellion cause. Many new faces, but important players in the game!
- So. Much. More. Growth! What was truly a huge moment in this book was how we finally get to see what happened the night Aelin’s young life was changed forever when Adarlan invaded her homeland of Terrasen. It’s a highly emotional moment that brings tears to your eyes as you learn more and more about those whose lives were lost trying to save her from assassination, and how her inner demons with that knowledge try to drag her down and make her want to give up all this time later. She blames herself for all the pain she feels she’s caused and hates herself for it all and believes she wasn’t’ worth it!S he becomes so raw, broken down, and vulnerable in your eyes as she confronts the dark memories and faces a deadly enemy on the rise, her growth in this story is iconic! She enters Wendlyn a lost little girl, but may be able to leave as the queen she was born to be!
- The Theme of the Power of Friendship! It’s another thing that Maas does so well in all her books, and that is how she plays up the importance of friendship and those platonic relationships amongst her characters. There are romantic relationships too, sure, but it’s surprising how little we see of just good ole’ relationships of friends and allies in all the titles of YA Fantasy that come out! This is especially evident in Rowan and Aelin’s relationship as the story develops. They start off as reluctant allies, and animosity builds between them with their clashing personalities. Rowan has an incredibly strong presence that is also chillingly quiet, and he’s also a total Alpha-Male who doesn’t put up with Aelin’s bullshit. She tries to give him harsh words with her sharp tongue? He throws it right back at her 10x over! He’s intense, intimidating, and infuriatingly patient as he continues to train her, but they form a seriously special bond when they begin to understand each other better and learn what the other has been through before their eventual meeting. It’s not romantic really, but more of a friendship kind of bond to the point that they would kill for each other and do anything to help one another by the end. It was incredibly refreshing to read, and not many relationships out there are quite like it in Fantasy genre literature. I’d like to see more like that!
What I Didn’t Like:
- It’s Slower Paced…The author switches things up with the content, and gives us a more traditional high-fantasy genre novel with several POV’s occurring side-by-side from far distances, and while the story takes on a whole new level of world-building and becomes much bigger and richer, it does slow down in terms of pace for much of the middle. This mainly occurs with Aelin and Rowan’s chapters filled with their traveling and training sessions as they travel to Mistward, but can also be seen with Dorian back in Rifthold with yet another side romance story arc that doesn’t really do anything to develop his character. I think the reasoning is because so many of the revolving storylines have an air of mystery to them, and while the author gives us exciting little tidbits throughout to recapture critical readers dwindling attention spans, it’d revert back to the slow pace. Sarah just really takes her time exposing the big reveals, when maybe she could have had them happen a lot sooner, but it’s also worth mentioning that it’s slower because Aelin’s storyline becomes more character driven instead of plot driven, in my opinion. It’s more about her confronting her demons, exposing herself and taking a mental, emotional and physical beatdown, and rising above it as she comes to terms with everything, stops blaming herself, and learns to stop having it weigh her down and instead use it as her driving force.
- Dorian and Chaol Starting to Disintegrate…It’s unfortunate to see the two of them continue to drift apart in this next installment because their friendship felt like a backbone of it all and is another great example of friendship that we need to see more of! Their storylines go off into separate directions, Chaol’s being more prominent, and pretty much seems to be leaving Dorian behind. So, he gets a new romantic love interest with a servant girl, Sorscha, as she helps him be able to move on from the emotional pain both Chaol and Caleana/Aelin had caused him in their abandonment, especially when they needed him most! Chaol, bless his heart, continues to become weary and judgmental of Aelin and Dorian’s powers and his unwillingness to accept it is so disappointing. It feels so ignorant and old-fashioned of him, and I don’t want to call out his behavior to being similar to homophobia, but it does feel similar to when someone completely turns their back on a person in their life when they come out of the closet as queer. Chaol’s character wants things to go back to the way they once were, with both Dorian and Aelin, and struggles to accept how things have now become.
You cannot pick and choose which parts of her to love!“– Sarah J. Maas, “Heir of Fire”
Wow you guys, I’ve got to apologize because like the actual book itself, this review is loooonng! I can’t help it though! I love this series, and get extremely passionate about talking about it, even when I can find material to critique and maybe even find problematic later on. I can accept those aspects and still love the series all the same!
I recommend this book, or the whole series in general, to anyone who loves those sweeping & epic fantasy-genre tales that have so much history behind them and so much action, adventure, romance, and coming of age characters (so yes…I’m about to connect this series to the high caliber tales like Game of Thrones, Harry Potter and even Lord of the Rings! Get at me if you disagree!
SJM somehow exceeds expectation with this vast addition and shows that she is a master of her character’s development and the interpersonal relationships that form and develop between them too! With the ending of this book—while it does tie up quite a lot of loose ends that have been lingering since the very beginning—it does leave us absolutely shaken to our core and on quite a cliffhanger with the wellbeing of a lot of characters being called into question! It does, however, give the author the thing they want most, and that is by having their readers say the following:
“I can’t wait to see what happens next!”
Thanks for Reading!
— Nick Goodsell