Sarah J. Maas continues to impress me more and more with her storytelling abilities. After reading the last book in the series, "Crown of Midnight", I thought to myself, "Okay, this has got to be as good as it gets. She's at the top of her game now." My god, was I wrong. "Heir of Fire" builds on the world and the momentum set in the previous two books and takes it all to the next level with new characters, new settings, and a whole lot of badassery.
In this third book, we are given even more points of view. We still get perspectives from Celaena, Dorian, and Chaol, but we are also introduced to new characters such as Rowan the faerie prince, Manon the witch, and Sorscha the castle healer. These added viewpoints from such a diverse cast help to flesh out the story even more and make the world feel unbelievably real. I loved that these characters all had their own separate stories that slowly weave their way into the main plotline. And don't worry, these new characters are not stock characters added to the story simply as means of providing information. Each has a distinct personality, race, culture, and past they must work through.
Rowan is a true badass soldier, and he takes no shit from anyone, least of all Celaena. The bond that is forged between Celaena and Rowan was one of the highlights of this book for me, and really shows how Maas's storytelling abilities are maturing. The complexity of their interactions and the evolution of their friendship over the course of this book is nothing short of absolutely amazing. It seems rare to find such a strong friendship in YA between two people of opposite gender, and I am glad to find such a shining example.
While I did truly love the Rowan/Celaena combo, that is not to say that the other characters are any less important. My second favorite viewpoint in this book would have to be Manon the witch. The way she is able to rise above the societal and cultural expectations set upon her and forge her own path is admirable. It is funny, because although she is clearly set up to be a villain, I found myself rooting for her page after page. I want the best for Manon because I think, deep down in her black, heartless chest, she is worthy of something better than what she has been offered. Of all the characters and all the plot lines, I am most anxious to see what happens to Manon in the next book. There are literally a million different ways her story could turn, and all of them fascinate me to no end.
In addition to the new main characters, we are treated to new minor characters that I also adore. The demi-fae Emrys and Luca, Rowan's soldier companions, Queen Maeve--even if we are only given a very brief view of these people, Maas is able to give them an essence through their mannerisms, their word choices, their facial expressions. This is the mark of a true wordsmith--the ability to create an entire persona with a face, a family, a past, a future, using nothing more than a few paragraphs.
While I loved the new characters dearly, I also really enjoyed the immense growth and change we see in Celaena, Chaol, and Dorian. Each has their own obstacles they must overcome and approaches them in their own way. I liked that the choices they made highlighted the similarities and differences between their personalities and gave them more depth. This made their actions feel less like plot devices and more like stops along their journey through life.
The world in which the characters reside is also expanded to include new, darker landscapes, filled with a whole host of frightening creatures. I liked that the beasties were scary not just because of the threat they posed physically. Many of these creatures attack the mind and soul, adding a whole new level to the possibilities of torture.
I know this book is almost 600 pages long, but it did not feel that way. I could not gobble it up fast enough. The world building is fantastic, the new characters are instant favorites, the old characters are given more depth, and the plot is full of non-stop action that will keep you frantically turning pages until the very end. I am so excited to find out what happens in the next book, and to see where Maas decides to take these wonderfully complex characters next.