For those who have not read any of the Throne of Glass novels, this review is spoiler-free. Also, YOU SHOULD READ THEM. Then come back and read this.
Heir of Fire is the third in an ongoing series by Sarah J. Maas about assassin Celaena Sardothien. It takes place in a fantasy world of Maas’ creation and the initial novel, Throne of Glass, was described as a Cinderella story with an assassin.
According to Goodreads, there are six books expected in this series (the fourth, Queen of Shadows, comes out in September) and Maas is also writing a new series, A Court of Thorns and Roses.
Can I just say that this is the career I hope to have one day? A six-book run with another series started and already incredibly popular? New York Times bestseller? Award-winning author? Sarah J. Maas, how can I be you?
And it’s not just the career, it’s the writing, too. I learn about writing when I read Maas’ books. The characters are diverse in appearance, motivation, worldview, and fates. No one is just an archetype, a stereotype, or a placeholder where a character should be. These characters are so real, I was moved to tears more than once because of a heartbreaking scene or because I was just so proud of a character. That just doesn’t happen to me!
One of the things I absolutely love about these books is that the character flaws are both realistic and meaningful. Heir of Fire deals with some of our main characters’ major flaws pretty heavily, possibly to set them up to be our true heroes in the coming books, making them refreshing and compelling. Celaena, especially, has a huge personal flaw that drives the central plot of Heir of Fire forward. She becomes more and more real as the series progresses and I love it.
The world-building is simply inspiring. Throughout all three books I’ve read so far, Maas has created a simple, easily-understood world rich in culture, lore, mythology, and varied geography. I never look at the maps in a book but I really enjoyed tracking characters around the map available in Heir of Fire.
A few things that I, personally, found less than thrilling:
Celaena is ultimately a mostly-passive participant in her own story. In all three books, Celaena is caught up in some overarching process which she does not initiate or ultimately has any control over. While she has her own arc, the conflict and plot developments often come to her.
Case in point, the plot of Heir of Fire would not have happened if someone hadn’t acted for Celaena, without her permission or knowledge. The event fits into the story, but it still removes her from the driver’s seat.
It’s like in The Hunger Games–Katniss is caught up in the Games and, while she kicks ass and is amazing, she is somewhat of a passive character as a result of having no control or impact over the Games themselves (which is why the most thrilling moments are when she does strike back, because she becomes an active driver of her story).
Celaena is very much the same way. Often, to keep the story moving, things have to happen to her and people have to act for her. She’s written as a character who can make her own destiny, so let her!
Speaking of Hunger Games, how can we petition to have the entire Throne of Glass series made into movies? Can someone get on that?
Finally, Maas likes to switch perspective. In the first book, we had three main characters and almost every chapter was written from one person’s point of view. In Crown of Midnight, this was expanded with more scenes from nonessential characters and more switching within chapters. In Heir of Fire, we have escalated to the point where I sometimes did not know whose perspective we were seeing until a page or two later. It was a little unnecessary and confusing and I’m hoping Queen of Shadows will tone this down a bit.
Anything I didn’t like was mitigated by how real this world feels and how diverse and three-dimensional its residents are. I’ve already said Celaena just gets better and better, even when I disagree with her or dislike a choice she has made. New characters in Heir of Fire are equally as varied in their worldviews, opinions, and motivations as existing characters. Even with such a large cast, Maas is able to shape several different stories and twist them all into one huge plotline that is set to explode in the next book. It’s no small task and I hope she keeps up the fantastic work throughout the series.
The first three books seem to be building to a larger climax and I am looking forward to Queen of Shadows really digging its teeth into this overarching conflict while still carrying us to two more books.
Finally, with such a real world built and sprawling with so many unexplored lands, I hope Maas will write in Celaena’s universe long after Throne of Glass has ended (mostly because I’m not sure I’ll be ready to leave!).
Now, excuse me while I go pre-order Queen of Shadows on Amazon…