For a Muse of Fire will be published September 25th
Arc of For a Muse of a Fire provided by Edelweiss and Greenwillow Books in exchange for an honest review.
Warnings (mentioned by author in book): Mental illness (bipolar), blood use in magic, gun violence, war, colonialism, racism, descriptions of dead bodies, mention of reproductive coercion, mentions of torture, mention of suicide
Heidi Heilig has created a piece of art that is multi-faceted in characters, writing structures and plot points. Within this she has interwoven an own voice struggle as a bipolar woman through the main character, Jetta, who simply refers to it as her malheur, the french word for misfortune. Heilig discusses writing a bipolar heroine at the end of the book. She balances writing Jetta’s manic highs driving her family’s successful shadow plays, her ability to defend herself and control spirits through necromancy. However, it also causes rash decisions and leads to actions that harms herself and those she cares the most about. This comes with the depressive lows where she withdraws, panics and sleeps due to the exhaustion of fighting it all because of a driving resilience, intelligence and need to not have her malheur define who she is nor her life.
In the same way that Jetta isn’t defined by her malheur, while Jetta takes center stage she does not define For a Muse of Fire. There is a cast of characters, literally. I admit it. When I saw the cast of characters at the beginning of the book, I giggled. I thought, why? Then I quickly went back and book marked it to reference. However, even that couldn’t spoil the reveals each character had as the story unfolded. I won’t spoil those reveals, either. Needless to say, many characters aren’t exactly what they seem having hidden agendas, connections and back stories that won’t completely reveal themselves until the final pages and even one shocking cliffhanger.
The depth of character building was dynamic and unique to each voice. The amount of characters did not leave any character out of the story, feeling shallow or out-of-place. Characters weren’t left feeling unfulfilled or just left hanging. Each had a unique place, purpose and point of view in the story. Heilig was able to carry their perspective and tone throughout, staying true to their specific cadence.
Layer on top of that the many formats utilized to tell the wonderful main plot and subplots that interact within each other beautifully. Most of it is told from Jetta’s first person, point of view. Then you have letters, telegrams, poems, lyrics and prose. Genres such as folktales and maps (I didn’t get to see the maps because they were noted as TK) also sprinkled in. Although this book overall is a fantasy, bringing in these different flavors along with pieces of different cultures and colonialism periods brings a historical angle to the book that grounds it in a bit of reality that is an exception within the genre.
There is one critique I could have for the book but without spoilers it is hard to discuss because I don’t think it would matter going going into the second book. This is the first book in an announced trilogy that is definitely worth the investment and the time.