For a Muse of Fire

For a Muse of Fire

A young woman with a dangerous power she barely understands. A smuggler with secrets of his own. A country torn between a merciless colonial army, a terrifying tyrant, and a feared rebel leader. The first book in a new trilogy from Heidi Heilig.Jetta’s family is famed as the most talented troupe of shadow players in the land. With Jetta behind the scrim, their puppets seem...

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Title:For a Muse of Fire
Author:Heidi Heilig
Rating:
Edition Language:English

For a Muse of Fire Reviews

  • Lauren ✨ (YABookers)

    I received a free copy via Edelweiss for review purposes.

    Jetta is a member of a famed troupe of shadow players, where a story is told through the shadows cast by puppets. But Jetta and her parents have a secret to their success – Jetta's has necromancy powers and uses it to bind souls to her puppets so they can move without strings. With her skills and their fame, Jetta and her family are trying to make their way from Aquitan and Chakrana (the former inspired by South East Asia, and

    I received a free copy via Edelweiss for review purposes.

    Jetta is a member of a famed troupe of shadow players, where a story is told through the shadows cast by puppets. But Jetta and her parents have a secret to their success – Jetta's has necromancy powers and uses it to bind souls to her puppets so they can move without strings. With her skills and their fame, Jetta and her family are trying to make their way from Aquitan and Chakrana (the former inspired by South East Asia, and the latter by France, their interaction and history based on French colonialism), fleeing the rising rebellion, but also where rumor has it the Mad King has a spring to cure his ills, because the spirits of the dead are not the only thing that plagues Jetta. But as the rebellion lands on her front step, Jetta finds herself facing truths and decisions she never imagined.

    I am a massive fan of Heidi Heilig's duology THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE, and so I was ecstatic to get my hands on an e-ARC of FOR A MUSE OF FIRE. It did not disappoint - not in the slightest.

    The characters – both the main and the secondary – were complex and well-developed and the group dynamics and interactions were exceptional. I adored Jetta, how intelligent, caring, and kind she was. Jetta's malheur is also very much inspired by the author's #ownvoices experience with bipolar. I adored Leo. I adored the feeling of found family, and I also adored the slow burn romance between Jetta and Leo.

    Another thing that makes this book so unique, aside from the exceptional world-building and unique magic system, was that whilst most of it was written in the first-person narrative from Jetta's POV, there were letters and transcripts and folklore stories and it enhanced the reading experience and made it feel so immersive. Even though FOR A MUSE OF FIRE is a fantasy, it is very much based on history, with themes of colonialism. I do think that fans of both fantasy and historical fantasy/fiction will find a lot to love here.

    FOR A MUSE OF FIRE is a book that I will be recommending to fantasy fans for a long time to come.

  • Ricky

    Welcome to the fourth in my series of reviews of ARCs for which I traded this August, and for sure one of the best, brightest, and most unique new books of the year! Heidi Heilig impressed me a great deal with her first duology,

    and

    . Now, she starts a new trilogy in

    , another stellar fantasy in Heilig's signature style. It's dark and deadly, very lavish, highly critical of colonialism, and decidedly unconventional in its structure.

    Welcome to the fourth in my series of reviews of ARCs for which I traded this August, and for sure one of the best, brightest, and most unique new books of the year! Heidi Heilig impressed me a great deal with her first duology,

    and

    . Now, she starts a new trilogy in

    , another stellar fantasy in Heilig's signature style. It's dark and deadly, very lavish, highly critical of colonialism, and decidedly unconventional in its structure. Between almost every chapter is at least one piece of ephemera - a bit of dialogue between two side characters, presented in the form of a stage play; telegrams between officials in the Aquitaine armée (the colonial power of Aquitan being largely French-inspired, though with some subtle cultural differences; similarly, the Chakran people and civilization aren't inspired by any one Asian country - I sense aspects of Indian, Vietnamese, and Cambodian cultures, unless I miss my guess); in-universe folklore relevant to the story at hand (my personal favorite being the tale of the King of Death - very definitely a high point); that sort of thing.

    Another major reason to read this book is because it's #ownvoices for Heilig as a bipolar writer. One of the driving forces behind heroine Jetta's journey to Aquitan is the possibility of finding a cure for her own illness in the same spring where the Mad King is said to help himself as well. But as with all the best #ownvoices leads, Jetta is nowhere near 100% defined by her bipolar disorder. Her strong family ties help define her as well, as do her magic (dangerous though it may be, using blood-magic necromancy) and her art (coming from a family of shadow puppeteers as she does.) Though I'm not reading this book #ownvoices, as an #ownvoices writer myself - for autism - I very much appreciate how engaging a protagonist Heilig gives us in Jetta. Heilig also helps set a new standard in the business, ensuring the inclusion of all relevant content warnings on the copyright page - something I'm still seeing in oddly few published books.

    Perhaps the only issue I had with reading this book as an ARC is that some of the extra artwork details - notably, maps and sheet music - are still TK. For sure, I'll be taking a look at the final product as soon as it comes out to see how glorious these details are - and, knowing the lovely map work Heilig's books have gifted us with before, that's just another way my standards remain high.

    And one last question - did Heilig name Leo Rath after the actor Jesse Rath? Just curious.

  • Acqua

    is the first book in a YA trilogy set in a high fantasy world inspired by Southeast Asia during French colonization. It's the story of Jetta, a girl with bipolar disorder who is trying to get to a "magic" spring whose waters should be able to help her (because of the lithium which naturally occurs there).

    For two reaso

    is the first book in a YA trilogy set in a high fantasy world inspired by Southeast Asia during French colonization. It's the story of Jetta, a girl with bipolar disorder who is trying to get to a "magic" spring whose waters should be able to help her (because of the lithium which naturally occurs there).

    For two reasons: mental illness representation is only common in contemporary novels, but as I do not live in the US, they do not reflect my experience of living in a country in which there's very little (or: even less) awareness on these topics. The other reasons is that

    . It's subtler than I thought it was going to be: Jetta's lows are basically shown as a time jumps in the story. I think variety in representation of mental illness - books that do not show depressive episodes to avoid being too triggering and books that explicitly engage with the topics of depression or suicide - is really important, especially when it's ownvoices like this book.

    "Subtle", of course, doesn't mean the representation wasn't there:

    I really liked following Jetta and her family through Chakrana as they try to figure out how to live in a place where the tension between colonizers and the rebellion is rising. I especially liked reading about shadow plays and the way this aspect was tied to the magic system.

    The magic system itself was really interesting and imaginative:

    .

    Another thing that made this book stand out was the

    .

    Until now, I talked about what made

    stand out. However, it didn't stand out as much as I hoped it would.

    There are people in power, there's a rebellion, at the beginning of the novel the main character thinks the people in power are not that bad, but then she changes her minds and falls in love with a boy in the process.

    Formulaic diverse stories are important - and the diversity here wasn't just a dressing to make the story feel new without any actual depth to it, it isn't tokenism - but sometimes I wonder whether I've read too much YA fantasy.

    It didn't help that

    . There wasn't anything wrong with Leo, the love interest, he was just so forgettable that I had to look up his name, and I finished this yesterday. He doesn't stand out from a sea of very similar YA fantasy love interests.

    - especially Cheeky, I want to know more about her -

    . This is also the only YA novel I know that has positive sex worker representation.

    This book definitely could have been better in terms of predictability, but I didn't think it was just average: it's one of the books that executed this kind of plot better.

    - clothing, language, religion, even buildings - without any infodumps. I'm often disappointed by the worldbuilding in YA fantasy books, but I wasn't here.

    The writing was solid, but I can't say it stood out. I love atmospheric books, and I would have loved if this had been one of them - I wanted to feel as if I was there with Jetta, but

    .

    I always say that books longer than 500 pages are longer than they need to be and usually have pacing problems. Here, this was true only for the ending, in which I felt like too much and not enough was happening at the same time. Anyway,

    One more thing:

    . I didn't know whether to recommend

    as a queer book, but

  • Cori Reed

    I tried to read this book many months ago as a manuscript and couldn't get into it, but the audiobook is GREAT. An interesting and unique world that I have never seen before.

    PS - There is quite a bit of French in here, definitely not enough to take away from the story if you're 100% unfamiliar with the language. That said, if you're a non-French speaking Canadian (like me!), the basic education we learned from the back of cereal boxes makes all the French thrown in really fun.

  • Dani - Perspective of a Writer

    In a vivid, rich world inspired by Asian cultures and French colonialism… A bipolar young woman with a dangerous power she barely understands. A smuggler with secrets of his own. A country torn between a merciless colonial army, a terrifying tyrant, and a feared rebel leader. Told from Jetta’s first-person point-of-view, as well as chapters written as play scripts and ephemera such as telegrams and letters, we are taken on a journey that weaves

    In a vivid, rich world inspired by Asian cultures and French colonialism… A bipolar young woman with a dangerous power she barely understands. A smuggler with secrets of his own. A country torn between a merciless colonial army, a terrifying tyrant, and a feared rebel leader. Told from Jetta’s first-person point-of-view, as well as chapters written as play scripts and ephemera such as telegrams and letters, we are taken on a journey that weaves magic, simmering romance, and the deep bonds of family with the high stakes of epic adventure.

    Let me preface this entire review by saying I enjoyed For a Muse of Fire!! That is important to note because I also had a bunch of stuff bug me... It didn't ruin the read but was quite a disconnect for me at times. I feel like the best way to distill my jumbled thoughts (that I've spent two days trying to pull together) is through a lovely list!! So please decide for yourself if this is a book for you!!

    What I enjoyed?!

    -The Added POVs.

    We got other POVs through the plays, telegrams and letters in between chapters. That was neat even if I didn't really understand where these fragments came from (Who was writing the plays? Why was someone collecting this information?) I really enjoy getting more than just the main female's POV.

    -I really liked Jetta!!

    Such was NOT the case with The Girl from Everywhere so I was really happy about that. I felt for her that she lost her brother and that her and her parents last hope was this ship. I wanted to fully understand what was so forbidden about her art and to experience the trials of colonialism... And for the most part I got that all through Jetta.

    -The shadow puppetry, necromancy and blood magic!

    Yes, these all three are sort of the same thing and a little different. Suffice to say THESE are the REASON TO READ THE BOOK! I found it a rather incredible use of necromancy and I loved that it was used in such a benign way as a livelihood. The spirits and the puppetry truly felt from South Asia too!

    -The oppression of an invading country.

    Heilig has always been really great at creating intriguing worlds even if they don't always make sense... and this one does have both that creativity and that problem... But it DOES feel like a country that is being overtaken by another country's army. Their people are told their old ways are no good and are being killed when they don't accept being oppressed.

    What I didn't...

    -The bi-polar rep.

    I actually forgot that it was in the book... Jetta kept calling it "malheur" and I kept wondering what the heck she was talking about because she didn't seem to be anything but normal?! Then when they introduced the "treatment" I remembered! But looking back at Jetta's actions I never saw a manic high or a maudlin low.

    I know quite a few people who are all bi-polar to varying degrees and yeah not a whiff of it here. Really I LOVE MENTAL HEALTH!! I would give props to even hints of it. But frankly Wintersong is a better representation of bi-polar disorder. I applaud the publisher for mentioning it in the blurb so readers would be alerted but that effort was really wasted...

    -This won't feel very Asian.

    Now I know it IS based on legitimate South Asia cultures. I've read a couple books about Cambodia and it lightly felt like hints of that country if I stretched it (shadow puppetry, the jungle setting, the temple). Here's the thing though... it felt MORE French. Like even Jetta felt French. Her parents felt even MORE French. It was so freaking odd!

    Even the half blood felt... FRENCH! And yet all the Aquitans (the invading colonists) were described as blondes (a sea of blondes was mentioned often)... and there are French blondes, but honestly they are mostly dark haired so I became so freaking confused! It honestly felt like a FRENCH world being oppressed by Vikings (or late Englishmen) and NOT Asian at all!

    The two racial names of the people (Aquitans and Chakrans) were used so often to keep the two people separate that it became one of the few markers of the world. It was hard to visualize what each meant... So all I had to go on was the day to day life I experienced and that felt... FRENCH!

    Unfortunately I READ For a Muse of Fire BECAUSE of the bi-polar mental health and the Asian culture!! So to be disappointed in these two things is pretty disheartening... The thing is though that I enjoyed the story without the bi-polar bit (it added zero even if I believed it) and without the cover and the blurb I wouldn't have thought this was so much Asian and so wouldn't have been disappointed that it lacked that element. The shadow puppetry, necromancy and blood magic ROCKED it!! Seriously I rated this such as I did because it elevated the story that much...

    Between the cover with a huge Asian dragon and the blurb that boldly states a "vivid, rich world inspired by Asian cultures" I was expecting a vivid and rich Asian world... and that is decidedly NOT what I got... The expectations were all off... To me I would have played up the shadow puppetry and the blood magic instead... because that is what really slays in this book! As a result the cover gets the lowest rating possible for deceiving me and I don't much like the title either... Is Jetta the muse? What does fire have to do with it? Things did burn... but why is that made to sound like a positive thing due to the title?!

    Personally as a graphic designer... I would have made a vector drawing of the dragon puppet to put on the cover... that would have been so awesome... I would have bought the book for that cover...

    I applaud utilizing your #ownvoices in the writing of your book as a writer myself. Even though I don't LOOK Asian I still apply my love for my culture to my own writing... I'm sure the author's feelings as a bi-polar and Asian POC are totally accurate and real... I just didn't feel it come across the page. *shrug* It's pretty bad when I can't even remember what the hell malheur was or why it was such a concern! And as a reader it makes me uncomfortable when I start rationalizing for the author why I'm not getting the world building I was told was going to be front and center. That's a risk we authors take putting ourselves out there at the poster child for our story...

    I really enjoyed the necromancy and blood magic in For a Muse of Fire and feel you'll enjoy it if you read for that. Please though... don't rely on this to get a sense of the bi-polar mental health condition. And don't be disappointed that the Asian culture is quite light... the cover misrepresents the story and that's just a sad, sad thing...

    ⋆ ⋆ ⭐⭐⭐ Authenticity

    ⋆ ⋆ ⭐⭐⭐ Writing Style

    ⋆ ⋆ ⭐⭐⭐ Plot & Pacing

    ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⭐⭐ World Building

    ______________________

    You can find this review and many others on my book blog @

    . See my special perspective at the bottom of my reviews under the typewriter...

  • Adah Udechukwu

    The cover art is good, the title is good, the novel is not so good.

    There is a spark of potential that needs to be exploited in subsequent books in the series.

  • Heidi Heilig

    Okay I'm going to paste my preliminary author's note here, because it includes

    and I want to get those in front of people now because ARCs will become available soonish and I don't want anyone to be taken by surprise! I will format with spoiler tags as well, to keep anyone from being spoiled.

    So! Here goes:

    Sometimes, the inside of my head seems like the pile of returned books on a library cart. A well-worn high fantasy beside an account of the lives of party girls i

    Okay I'm going to paste my preliminary author's note here, because it includes

    and I want to get those in front of people now because ARCs will become available soonish and I don't want anyone to be taken by surprise! I will format with spoiler tags as well, to keep anyone from being spoiled.

    So! Here goes:

    Sometimes, the inside of my head seems like the pile of returned books on a library cart. A well-worn high fantasy beside an account of the lives of party girls in Bohemian New York . . . a Shakespeare play sandwiched between a history of French colonialism and a book about shadow puppetry. These flying leaps from topic to topic are one of my favorite things about my own bipolar disorder, and they inform my world building in unexpected ways.

    When I set out to write FOR A MUSE OF FIRE, I wanted to write about a main character who shares my mental illness, and seeks a real life treatment for it.

    But I also wanted to create a magical second world out of my obsessions, which are in turn informed by my own malheur: I spent a long time in theatre in my youth, where my manic highs let me shine in the limelight. I was obsessed with death and spirits for a while, those thoughts meshing with my maudlin lows. There is a hedonism to mania as well, which is so often reviled in young women (unfortunately, I was no exception), so the cast of Le Perl gives me especial joy.

    And of course, my heritage and upbringing creeps in. I am half Chinese, but raised in a rainy valley in Hawaii down the road from a taro farm where a water buffalo grazed. I must admit, as a biracial person, I have sometimes felt like a man without a country, as it were. In this book, I leaned into the freedom that feeling can bring: inspiration for food, styles of puppetry, and language are taken from a broad cross-section of places and times.

    The technology, too, is a bit out of history. Though the headers on the letters from the Aquitans note that the year is 1874, the year is not quite analogous to our own 19th century history.

    Lastly, please note that while Aquitan and Chakrana are inspired in part by France and South East Asia, so many cultural, linguistic, political, historical, and religious liberties were taken that the story is truly a fantasy, and not an allegory or a close second world version. This might be most noticeable in the inexact but French-like nature of the Aquitan words.

    CONTENT NOTES:

  • Elise (TheBookishActress)

    I'm going to be putting this on hold at about 33%. I'll keep this at a bulleted list because I'm... almost 200 pages in? and that doesn't quite feel like enough to actually Dislike The Thing, and also there is a good chance I will finish this at some point

    →I think this might just be one of those fantasy books that is heavier on the world and plot than on character, and I honestly... don't find either worldbuilding or plot particularly interesting

    →fantasy names for real life things are cool and i

    I'm going to be putting this on hold at about 33%. I'll keep this at a bulleted list because I'm... almost 200 pages in? and that doesn't quite feel like enough to actually Dislike The Thing, and also there is a good chance I will finish this at some point

    →I think this might just be one of those fantasy books that is heavier on the world and plot than on character, and I honestly... don't find either worldbuilding or plot particularly interesting

    →fantasy names for real life things are cool and i absolutely understand why they exist and i also can't keep them straight at all i really do struggle with names

    →.......the arc doesn't have all the maps and stuff which makes sense!!! maybe i just need a final copy to appreciate that part of the story?

    →okay here comes an actual issue: the plot is super super generic. like i'm 200 pages in and i can outline this book for you

    →generally, however, i can go with a generic plot if i enjoy the characters and themes

    →uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. maybe i'm just. missing them?

    →points for a biracial and bipolar (and according to Heilig's twitter, queer!!) heroine

    →buuuuuuuut i think i'm really struggling to get hold of Jetta as a character? she just doesn't have a very strong voice to me?

    →Leo has literally no characterization he feels incredibly forced he did NOT need to be here

    →i can't visualize anything for shit the writing is fine but it's not helping me picture what the fuck is happening

    →I want to finish this primarily because it's postcolonial literature

    →postcolonial literature is the only bitch in this house that i respect

    →I also generally want to feel like I have something more to say about books I DNF, especially as I am currently higher on this book's page from my prereview than I feel is fair to the book? if you're wondering why this will not be on my blog or be boosted in any way shape or form, that's why

    →i'm really forgetting details of this story only a month after i last picked it up and I think that's probably just a good note to end on. i'm not really keeping the plot straight in my head because i'm just,,, not that invested yet

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  • Cesar

    Originally, I was going to power through this in a few days, but I just can't.

    This isn't a DNF, I'm just going to put it back on my to-read pile and pick it up later in the future.

    I don't hate it, but after 100 pages, I just can't get into it. Nothing has really captured my attention. Even the necromancy is lacking substance.

    Hopefully I can read the story all the way, but for now, I'm setting it down.

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