For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig. September 25, 2018. Greenwillow Books, 512 p. ISBN: 9780062380814. Int Lvl: YA.
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 ever since the colonizing army conquered their country, the old ways are forbidden, 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 Emperor has a spring that cures his ills—and could cure Jetta’s, too. Because seeing spirits is not the only thing that plagues her.
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 with 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.
Part of Series: For a Muse of Fire (Book #1)
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Grotesque imagery, Harsh realities of war, Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Racism
Booklist (August 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. Jetta has lost much since her people, the Chakrans, were colonized by the Aquitans. After her brother, conscripted for an Aquitan war, disappeared, Jetta grew closer with her parents as they traveled across the country, putting on shadow-puppet shows. That Jetta’s puppets seem almost supernaturally independent is something the family must be coy about: Jetta can bind the souls of the dead, old magic that the Aquitans despise. Jetta hopes to use her skill to win a cure for her mental illness. But unrest simmers, and, as she makes her way through a treacherous, darkly fantastical world, joining forces with a smuggler who has motives of his own, Jetta learns more about her family, her powers, and the place she inhabits. This series starter is action-packed, sometimes overly so; it’s occasionally hard to keep up with the many twists and turns. Still, a girl dealing with bipolar disorder is a welcome heroine in a fantasy novel, and theatrical elements, rich world building, and loose ties to the French colonization of Southeast Asia add fascinating depth.
Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2018)
Sixteen-year-old shadow puppeteer Jetta Chantray performs with her family’s traveling troupe, the Ros Nai. The dark-skinned, dark-haired Chakrans have been colonized by the pale, blond Aquitans who prize their sugar and sapphires, and their shadow theater too. But Jetta has a secret—instead of sticks and strings, she binds souls with blood magic and tucks them inside her puppets. Jetta is desperate to impress the Aquitan general and win passage to Aquitan, where she hopes to find a cure for her mental illness. When the Ros Nai collides with Chakran guerrillas, Jetta and her family are plunged into the chaos of the rebellion. Thus begins an action-packed journey that takes readers from a sultry cabaret to a subterranean tunnel, tropical jungle, putrid midden, shining city, and stone prison. Jetta discovers the dark side of her gift, long-held family secrets, and truths about the horrors and lies of war. There’s a somewhat thin romance with a mixed-race smuggler, and the plot occasionally gets tangled in the weeds of imagery. But readers will be rewarded with vividly drawn settings reminiscent of Hawaii and Southeast Asia, exciting action scenes, and a complex protagonist who contends not only with her malheur, but also ambition, anger, and family loyalty. Ephemera, including telegrams, letters, and scenes from plays, enhance the story. A brooding fantasy with a diverse cast, rarely-seen setting, and compelling heroine who struggles with bipolar disorder. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 14-18)
About the Author
Heidi grew up in Hawaii where she rode horses and raised peacocks, and then she moved to New York City and grew up even more, as one tends to do. Her favorite thing, outside of writing, is travel, and she has haggled for rugs in Morocco, hiked the trails of the Ko’olau Valley, and huddled in a tent in Africa while lions roared in the dark.
She holds an MFA from New York University in Musical Theatre Writing, of all things, and she’s written books and lyrics for shows including The Time Travelers Convention, Under Construction, and The Hole. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, her son and their pet snake. Her website is www.heidiheilig.com
Around the Web
For a Muse of Fire on Amazon
For a Muse of Fire on Barnes and Noble
For a Muse of Fire on Goodreads
For a Muse of Fire Publisher Page