Author: Sarah J. Maas
Overall Rating: 5/5
Spicy Rating: 1/5
Celaena has made her way to Wendlyn, the only place that Chaol believes she might be safe from the King of Adarlan now that he’s discovered her secret and her real name, Aelin Galathynius, the lost princess and future queen of Terrasen.
Except, now Celaena has no idea what to do with herself in this picturesque land across the sea where magic is still bountiful, the royal family is beloved, and her life has imploded around her. That is until Rowan Whitethorn takes her before Queen Maeve, the Queen of the Faedom, and her aunt, who demands that she learn how to use her abilities and if she’s worth anything she’ll be granted entry into Doranelle, the capital city of the Faedom which Maeve lords over.
When facing a centuries-old warrior who’s toppled cities, can move faster than her, smells fear, and has cool ice magic to boot, Aelin has no hope in her human form.
Over the course of this novel, we see Aelin finally face her trauma and her grief for Nehemia, a tragedy for which she holds herself responsible even though it was through the betrayal of her own friends that she was tricked into leaving and the events unfolding behind her back.
We also meet the Cadre of Queen Maeve, six soldiers including Rowan who have spent centuries serving Queen Maeve and have taken the blood oath that binds themselves to her, which makes it so that they can never defy her and they are essentially her obedient slaves. Rowan is one member of the Cadre, and the one that we get to know the best in Heir of Fire, but we also briefly meet Lorcan, Gavriel, the twins Connall and Fenrys, and Vaughan. Each member of the Cadre is blessed with incredible magical abilities which Maeve uses to her advantage, they are essentially the most powerful army at her back and since they are incapable of defying her while they are bound to her they are the perfect weapon, more deadly than even the most nuclear option.
But while Aelin is focused on learning how to control her abilities, and attempting to kick the shit out of Rowan who can be a big, brooding, fae asshole, something is killing demi-fae. Something that not even Rowan has ever seen before and it leaves them a corpse that reeks of fear.
It is only between the two of them, with her history as an assassin and the bits and pieces of gossip that she picked up while in Adarlan, and Rowan’s abilities to fight and to spy that they solve the mystery, but the treacherous and terrifying beast has been hunting them too, and it’s about to show up at their doorstep.
This book lacks the aspects of explicit romantic intrigue of the last three, where she had a brief romance with one of her friends in each previous novel in the series. Though I’m excited to see how her relationship with Rowan grows in the next four books of the series and whether they begin a romantic relationship from the at times tender and at times tense friendship that they formed in Heir of Fire.
But for its lack of romance, it more than makes up for the aspects of the fantasy genre that are introduced. In this novel, we see what the monsters under the prison are when they aren’t broken like the one killed in Throne of Glass. We discover how the King has cursed the continent, and how the spell might be broken. We find out where and what the third wyrdkey is and just how powerful Aelin is when her magic is unleashed and she has control over these immense abilities.
One of my favorite things about this novel is Rowan and Aelin’s character arcs, both individually and as a pair. They begin as enemies and at times grudging allies who want the same thing, which is to see her learn to use her magical abilities if only so they can part ways in Doranelle. It’s through each of them acknowledging their own trauma and growing and recovering as individuals that they become an incredibly close pair.
One of the things that I feel Sarah J. Maas does a spectacular job of depicting throughout any of her books is her portrayal of mental health journeys, especially after severe trauma. She doesn’t romanticize or trivialize the characters' pain and the characters often suffer from low self-esteem, panic attacks, loss of confidence, fear, and have triggers to things that remind them of their trauma just like real people. Their recoveries are also often marked by struggling with panic attacks and nightmares, talking about their trauma and triggers with their friends, lovers, and family, finding sympathy and support, and realizing that many of their friends have also had similarly traumatizing experiences that leave them feeling less alone, and through the social support of their confidants, their self-esteem and confidence improve. They still have momentary lapses of their mental health that are recognized by those trusted peers, which are realistic to the recovery of real people from real trauma who often call themselves survivors because that trauma never completely goes away, it is something that they have learned to live with and to relate to.
As someone who survived a high school relationship that was rife with abuse and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder following the end of the relationship, I felt seen when I read these books and that’s part of why I fell in love with them and with Aelin so deeply.
Here you can find a deleted scene that can be read during Chapter 45 after the section ending in the quote, “He got his answer a heartbeat later, as he waited for her to shout or shriek or walk away. But the princess just slowly got to her feet, not bothering to brush off the dirt and leaves, and kept practicing.”
If you enjoyed Heir of Fire you might also enjoy the A Court of Thorns and Roses Series, the Crescent City Series, the From Blood and Ash Trilogy, The Folk of the Air Trilogy (also known as the Cruel Prince Trilogy), the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, and its follow-up the Six of Crows Duology, the Serpent and Dove Trilogy, and The Shadows Between Us.
Buy the book here:
Thriftbooks: Heir of Fire
Half-Price Books: Heir of Fire
Better World Books: Heir of Fire
If you can’t afford to purchase the book, consider subscriptions like Scribd which I reviewed here, or by visiting your local library or using the app Libby to borrow books from the library digitally on your own devices.