Monday, 23 December 2013

Review: The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead

Well. It looks like this one got released just in time. As many of you will know, over the past couple of months I have been reading my way through Richelle Mead's brilliant Vampire Academy series and its follow-on series Bloodlines. As chance would have it, I finished the third book in the Bloodlines series just shortly before the fourth book, The Fiery Heart was released, so unlike other fans who have been waiting for a good chunk of 2013 to find out what happens next, I had the luxury of moving straight from one book in the series to the next. 

The Indigo Spell ended on quite a surprising note and had a couple of unnecessary plot twists, so it was nice to see a lot of those problems being ironed out in The Fiery Heart. Unlike the first three books in the series, this one is jointly narrated by Adrian, who is now Sydney's very secret and very, very passionate lover. (Though, secretly, I do think the author could have pushed some of the love scenes a little bit further than she did, given that the romantic element of the book is quite an important one.) We get to see a lot more of the Moroi in this book--a given considering that part of it is from Adrian's perspective, and it makes a refreshing change from the cold, calculating Alchemists, who have proven themselves to be quite a cruel bunch. Joining Sydney in her adventures in Palm Springs is her fifteen-year-old sister Zoe who is on her first Alchemist assignment and is a little too eager to please their dad, who is more or less revealed to be a hard-arsed bastard. Through the introduction of Zoe (who up until now has been a minor character,) and a harrowing scene where Sydney learns that her parents are divorcing (and Dad's tricks to ensure that their kind and loving mother does not get custody of Zoe,) we get to see just how far Sydney has developed as a person. Meanwhile, it is now Zoe who is devoted to the Alchemists with a frightening, slave-like devotion. Zoe's age and immaturity make it clear that she is very vulnerable to a group who are not as honest or kind as they appear on the surface. Some things, such as the re-education scene (basically a torture camp where 'bad' Alchemists are punished and deprogrammed,) from The Golden Lilly begin to make a lot more sense and are put into a real and frightening context, instead of being something gross that happened to a character who probably deserved some form of punishment. From the Moroi perspective, there is a lot more on the healing qualities of Spirit and the possibility of saving people who have been turned Strigoi. Jill and Eddie remain minor characters, though yet again, Eddie proves himself to be one of the most honest, loyal and quite frankly, likable characters in the series. I am hoping that when Bloodlines is done that Mead may consider the possibility of a third series, focusing on Eddie and Jill.

The Fiery Heart gets off to a slow start and is focused mainly on the development of Sydney and Adrian's relationship and the complications in hiding it from the others, primarily Zoe who, along with Sydney's dad prove themselves to be the main antagonists of the novel. It is difficult not to giggle at parts of Adrian and Sydney's relationship (Love Phone, anyone?). And then, well, I don't think I am giving away too many spoilers here by saying that they are eventually caught and Sydney finds herself on the receiving end of a harrowing punishment from the Alchemists. But what is surprising is just who would be willing to stab Sydney in the back and send her to such a fate ...

The Fiery Heart is a brilliant instalment in the series and one that helps put many of the smaller parts from the first three novels, along with parts of the Vampire Academy series, into a bigger, compelling and sometimes more frightening context. I'm looking forward to the release of Silver Shadows in May 2014 to find out what happens next ...