Final Ruling: 5/5 stars
There are seriously not enough words to describe just how much I adore this author. Her books are seriously my lifeblood. Okay, so for this book in particular really hit home for me, and her depiction of so many things went straight to my heart, earning this book a place of honor in my heart, right alongside her other books. So let’s get real here, because I’m not one to just hand out five star ratings all willy-nilly. Let’s get down to it, there are so many reasons for my adoration of this book.
The most important thing about this book, in my opinion, are the characters. Oh my sweet goodness the characters. Now, for me, the characters are the most important part of any book, the souls that are written into them make or break the story for me, no question. So let’s begin (I’ll go along with the points of view from which this tale is told).
First of all, of course, there is our beloved Celaena Sardothien or, as we come to know her in this book, Aelin Ashryver Galathynius. During the course of this story in particular, we get a glimpse into her soul which, in the words of one of my favorite guilty pleasure TV shows, is quite dark and twisty. Heir of Fire contains what is quite possibly the best representation of a character with depression that I have ever read (well, other than in Sarah’s other phenomenal series, which is not the point). Throughout the text, Aelin frequently references her feelings of drowning, of numbness, of unadulterated agony, that comes along with depression. It warmed my heart to see this representation, and not only did she represent the dark depths of the worst times, but she also showed Aelin fighting tooth and nail against it, and winning. She rose from the depths of depression back into the light. But the most important thing about this representation is that she shows that depression is an illness, a terminal one, and though it may get better, it never goes away. Aelin will have to live with her depression forever, and Sarah J Maas shows that that is okay, that that is what happens. And that is so unbelievably important. Aelin is, without a doubt, a personal light of mine, someone that I admire for her fight against the darkness, and one that I look to to remind myself that even the worst darkness can be overcome.
Whew, now other than Aelin, my absolute favorite character in this entire series is Manon Blackbeak. She is my morally ambiguous queen and the absolute love of my life. Morally ambiguous characters are my absolute favorite and, in my opinion, there are not enough of them. Now, it’s true that Manon has done some horrific things, but she also does have a heart, and does care. For instance, sweet Abraxos is the love of her life and he is a big mighty wyvern who is supposed to strike fear in the hearts of the public that is absolutely obsessed with wildflowers. Like he sniffs them and rolls around in them and it is so precious. They are two peas in a pod, two morally ambiguous beings who care deeply for one another as well as those around them. That right there is exactly what I love about them, that their morals are not strictly black and white, that things are not strictly right or wrong, no matter what their superiors claim. I actually have come to admire her, or at least certain parts of her; for instance, she is so unapologetically herself, following her own moral compass, no matter the consequences. For this, she is exceptional, and for this, she rises to become my favorite character in the series; from her introduction in this book, she stole my heart and my mind, and somehow Maas managed to make this cold, stony, and morally ambiguous woman into somebody phenomenal.
Other than them, of course, there are other characters that deserve and honorable mention. Rowan, who knows exactly how to correctly pull Aelin out of her fog of depression (and helps her do so) because he went through it himself with the loss of his mate; Sorscha, who so lovingly looks after Dorian in the wake of his father’s ruthlessness, and pays the ultimate price for it; Chaol, who fights for Aelin even after he discovers who she is and what she has done; Aedion, who would do anything for his cousin, whose ties of family are stronger than anything in this world; Asterin, who lives with her entire body and soul, whose loyalty to Manon is unmatched; and Dorian, who, in this book, becomes a king in his own right and suffers unimaginably for it.
Okay, enough about my character obsession. Another amazing aspect of this book is the plot, oh my sweet goodness, the plot. This book is filled with the stuff of nightmares, chasing the main characters all around; but it also shows these characters coming into their own, growing up, making their own decisions, becoming who they are supposed to be. Yes, some refer to this book as a ‘filler’ in the Throne of Glass series, but it is anything but; it is incredibly necessary. No, it does not have all of the action of the other books, but the character development is breathtaking, and the action it does have is intense and mess-with-your-heartbeat kind of good. The Valg are truly terrifying, and the princes that Aelin fights at the conclusion of the novel are pure nightmare, and I honestly was not sure who would prevail, I thought the darkness would swallow Aelin once and for all. Instead, she rallies, and finally accepts her role as the Queen of Terrasen, in a scene that seriously brought tears to my eyes.
I would recommend this book to anybody in desperate need of an epic fantasy to sweep them off their feet and take them to all new heights.