by Sarah J. Maas
To be published on September 2, 2014
Source: ARC from the publisher for review
Synopsis from Goodreads: Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy. While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?My take: I'm not the most enthusiastic fantasy reader, though thanks to my friend Steph of TheFakeSteph.com, I actually listened to all 33 hours of Game of Thrones: Song of Fire and Ice on audio. And while I could appreciate George R.R. Martin's immense talent as a writer and worldbuilder, I stopped after that one book. A high-fantasy that's really, really dark isn't the kind of story I wholeheartedly enjoy.
So when Throne of Glass, book one in this series, was pitched as a sort of YA Game of Thrones, I was a bit intimidated. I didn't need to be. Throne of Glass had more to do with palace intrigue, romance and friendship than with bloody action scenes. Throne of Glass also traced Celaena's journey from murderous assassin to trusted warrior and loyal friend. Then came Crown of Midnight. That book seemed a bit darker and more grounded in fantasy, but was still within my comfort zone as a reader.
I knew from the ending of Crown of Midnight that the action of Heir of Fire would be moving away from the kingdom of Ardalan and to a new setting. What I guess I didn't think about was that all these books are part of a six book story arc. And what I didn't expect was that Heir of Fire would also be moving more firmly into high fantasy territory. Three new POV characters were added -- a witch, a healer, and a Fae -- for a total of six, if I'm counting correctly. New plotlines were started. The romantic situation got waaay more complicated. And this book is long -- over 500 pages.
I should also add that this book was very impressive. The writing and the plotting and the character development in this installment have become really top-notch. If I were giving stars, I'd give it five.
But still .... as a not-so-enthusiastic-fantasy reader, I struggled. Struggled with the fact that a lot of this story was made up of training sequences -- not my favorite. Struggled with the new characters, the new relationships, the new creatures, the new settings, and the Fae elements, which I had known were coming but have never been my favorite aspect of fantasy. (On the plus side, the love triangle that was developing in the first two books seems to have been blown into a love shape that is something I can't even describe.)
I was fortunate that my friend Sabrina of IHeartYAFiction was reading this book at the same time, and she cheered me on. By the middle of the book, I felt like I had reached the top of a mountain, that I could see where I was going, and that I was ready to race down and finish the story. The last half of the book was definitely a wild ride -- gripping and emotional.
So, here's the weird part of this review: as a reviewer, I can wholeheartedly say that this book is excellent -- the best in the series so far -- and highly recommend both this book and the series to YA fantasy fans. As an individual reader, I'm wondering if this series is still for me. Can I handle another 1500 plus pages, or is it time to say goodbye? I'm still not sure. I may try the next book on audio, as that worked well for me with Game of Thrones. I have to say, I'm really torn.
Has this ever happened to any of you? Did you ever read a book that was objectively fantastic, but just not your kind of book?