Book Review: For a Muse of Fire

Title: For a Muse of Fire (For a Muse of Fire #1)
Author: Heidi Heilig
Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy | Magic
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: September 25, 2018
Source: Won
Format: ARC

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 the acclaimed Heidi Heilig blends traditional storytelling with ephemera for a lush, page-turning tale of escape and rebellion. For a Muse of Fire will captivate fans of Sabaa Tahir, Leigh Bardugo, and Renée Ahdieh.
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.
Heidi Heilig creates a vivid, rich world inspired by Asian cultures and French colonialism. Her characters are equally complex and nuanced, including the bipolar heroine. Told from Jetta’s first-person point-of-view, as well as chapters written as play scripts and ephemera such as telegrams and letters, For a Muse of Fire is an engrossing journey that weaves magic, simmering romance, and the deep bonds of family with the high stakes of epic adventure (goodreads).

For a Muse of Fire was complex and addictive. 
Plot: For a Muse of Fire was unique based on its format alone. The novel was told in regular prose, clippings from letters or advertisements, and play scripts. I was at first intimidated by the 500 pages, but it was easy to fly through with these different formats and it kept the novel fresh. 

In terms of storyline, I'm a bit obsessed with Jetta's journey and haven't been able to stop thinking about it. Jetta's family was a troupe of renowned of puppet workers on their path to find a cure for Jetta's bipolar disorder. Along the way, they were thrown in the path or war, death and necromancy. I was soo close to giving For a Muse of Fire five stars but there were some hiccups that frustrated me. I didn't understand some of the relationships between the characters until the very end nor did I understand the relationship between the people and their colonizers. This may be more accurately outlined when the maps are included in the final copy, but I, unfortunately, did not feel that I had all the pieces I needed to understand the complexities. 

Characters: Heidi has a wonderful author's note at the end of For a Muse of Fire that elaborated on Jetta's mental illness and how she drew from her own experiences. I absolutely adored Jetta as a character and her growth throughout the journey. In the beginning, Jetta had only one goal in life: to find the cure that the Mad Emperor had access to. Throughout the book, Jetta's life and views on her world changed given the horrific acts of war that she stumbled upon. I loved how people entered her life, some for only one scene, but they had such a large impact on her life and how she interpreted the world. 

Heilig introduced the complexities of being biracial in a time where lines were drawn in the sand, and I was astounded that she also included sex workers who were just trying to make a living and survive. Another highlight for me was that the Jetta's parents were along with her throughout her journey. In YA, it's common for authors to either kill off parental figures or have them separated from the teens, but Jetta's parents were very much so involved in her life and they were useful. 

Worldbuilding: For a Muse of Fire sounded very much like Vietnam when France colonized it. In her author's note, Heidi Heilig stated that it wasn't a specific culture or country under French rule, instead, her world borrowed from multiple Asian cultures. I was drawn to the many layers of colonization, and how some saw their colonizers as their protectors (despite the inequalities) and others fought to rebel and retake their land. 

The magic system was intriguing and gave just enough information to keep me wanting to learn more in the second book. Jetta had the ability to capture souls and reanimate bodies, but I got the impression that there was more to unveil in the second book. 

Short N Sweet: For a Muse of Fire is my new obsessions. If you're interested in three-dimensional characters and commentary on the complexities of colonization, don't sleep on this book!

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