I’m reviewing FOR A MUSE OF FIRE and A KINGDOM FOR A STAGE together because I read them one after the other in a single fiery couldn’t-get-enough-streak!
For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig
Summary: Jetta’s family is famed as the most talented troupe of shadow players in the land. With Jetta behind the scrim, their puppets seem to move without string or stick a trade secret, they say. In truth, Jetta can see the souls of the recently departed and bind them to the puppets with her blood. But the old ways are forbidden ever since the colonial army conquered their country, so Jetta must never show never tell. Her skill and fame are her family’s way to earn a spot aboard the royal ship to Aquitan, where shadow plays are the latest rage, and where rumor has it the Mad King has a spring that cures his ills. Because seeing spirits is not the only thing that plagues Jetta. But as rebellion seethes and as Jetta meets a young smuggler, she will face truths and decisions that she never imagined—and safety will never seem so far away.
A Kingdom for a Stage by Heidi Heilig
Summary: Jetta is a prisoner. A prisoner of the armee, a prisoner of fate, and a prisoner of her own madness. Held captive in Hell’s Court—now the workshop of Theodora, the armee engineer and future queen of Chakrana—Jetta knows she needs to escape. But Theodora has the most tempting bait—a daily dose of a medication that treats Jetta’s madness.
But the cost is high. In exchange, Jetta must use her power over dead spirits to trap their souls into flying machines—ones armed with enough firepower to destroy every village in Chakrana. And Theodora and her armee also control Le Trépas—a terrifying necromancer who once had all of Chakrana under his thumb, and Jetta’s biological father. Jetta fears the more she uses her powers, the more she will be like Le Trépas—especially now that she has brought her brother, Akra, back from the dead. Jetta knows Le Trépas can’t be trusted. But when Akra teams up with Leo, the handsome smuggler who abandoned her, to pull off an incredible escape, they insist on bringing the necromancer along. The rebels are eager to use Le Trépas’s and Jetta’s combined magic against the invading colonists. Soon Jetta will face the choice between saving all of Chakrana or becoming like her father, and she isn’t sure which she’ll choose.
Once again, Heidi Heilig shows how it’s done. There is so much to love about this series: deep, intricate worldbuilding, a propulsive, compelling plot, and a story that unfolds in prose, theatrical scripts, handwritten notes, sheet music, signage, and more. The fast-beating heart at the center of it all is Heilig’s vibrant cast of characters, especially Jetta, whose first person narration grounds the series. Heilig’s own experience of bipolar disorder informs Jetta’s story, but Jetta is not defined by her malheur (as it is called in the world of the story). Rather, her experience shapes her choices. And that’s really what the series is about: complex characters making complex choices in the midst of larger systems of oppression and injustice. Sometimes that means confronting their own roles in those systems alongside their own personal and interpersonal struggles. I can’t wait to see how Heilig brings all these threads together in the conclusion to the trilogy.
FOR A MUSE OF FIRE and A KINGDOM FOR A STAGE are out now.