The good thing is that by the Heir of Fire, I feel like my grasp on Maas’ world building is much stronger than it was at the end of Crown of Midnight. After CoM, I felt a bit awash, confused by the busy world building. Now, Maas is really tying things together and I’m starting to really get what she’s doing rather than just sort of shrug and keep going. Basically, the time she’s spending on world building is needed and useful. Also, though it is slow and dense, Heir of Fire doesn’t feel infodumpy to me. What we learn, the characters are learning and needed to learn.
Speaking of characters, there are a whole load of new ones in Heir of Fire. That was part of the slowness too. There’s a lot of time spent with Manon, this black-hearted, iron-toothed witch. Her sections were rather torturous for me at first, because I didn’t know her and I hadn’t bonded with her. I just wanted to get back to Celaena. However, Manon’s third person perspective gets really good in the end. My most emotional moment ended up occurring during Manon’s section, not Celaena’s, which I never would have predicted. As with everything else, my point is that Heir of Fire is worth it if you hold out and spend the time. Well worth it. Because wyverns.
You also need to know that there’s not going to be a massive showdown in Heir of Fire. There are definitely enemies to be faced and wars to be waged, but Heir of Fire is more setting the stage and moving the players than actually getting into that. The battles waged in Heir of Fire are primarily inner conflicts. Manon the witch is, without even realizing it, in conflict with a kinder nature than she’s meant to have and the expectations her clan has for her. Chaol’s torn between his duty to the kingdom, his desire to help Celaena, and his promise to his father. Dorian’s struggling with whether to resist or accept his magic. Celaena’s inner conflict is most obvious, as she’s figuratively divided herself into two. She is both Celaena Sardothien and Aelin Ashryver Galthynius. The problem is that she thinks of those identities as separate and not as parts of who she is as a whole. Without accepting both sides of herself, Celaena/Aelin (henceforth to be called by me Celaelin) will not have enough power to face what’s coming.
Speaking of Celaelin, I love her even more now than I did before. Though it’s third person limited, her sections pop with excitement no matter what she’s doing. Celaelin is vibrant and jumps off the page. What I like here is that we get to see new depths to Celaelin. We’ve seen her as the pretty girl who loves parties and dresses, a childish spirit with a love for candy, a fierce warrior and a true friend. Now we get to see her so intimidated by the pressure on her shoulders that she becomes a drunken, homeless wastrel instead of making a move. We see her so terrified that she pees herself. It’s a whole new Celaelin.
That said, Celaelin obtains a whole lot more power in Heir of Fire. An absurd amount of power. However, she works hard for every bit of it. Maas is very good about showing the training and the pain and the strain. The power feels earned and not like it comes to her easily, even if it is part of her nature. That does slow things down, but it was so necessary for Celaelin’s journey and for the reader to really get to know her and care about her even more. We also come to care for Rowan, her trainer, though I differ from the bulk of my friends since my new favorites characters are Aedion and Abraxos rather than Rowan. They’re all fabulous, but those two are where my feels really reside. Well, with them and Celaena.
So far as the romance, previously my favorite aspect of the series goes, there’s not actually too much of it in Heir of Fire. Celaelin and Chaol are apart and honestly not too sure how they feel about each other now. It’s not so much that they don’t think they love or at least loved one another, but that they don’t know if that means anything in the context of everything else and whether they can possibly be right for each other. Dorian has a romance, but I can’t say I ever got particularly invested, aside from being really glad that Maas seems to be moving him out of the list of possible love interests for Celaena. The romance could go anywhere and I’m really happy with that for the moment.
Heir of Fire isn’t the book I expected it to be and it’s got a slow pace, but I think that it’s the book that will turn this series from really good to incredibly amazing. Heir of Fire is a turning point and from here the scale gets so much more epic and dangerous. Prepare yourselves for Maasive pain, because it’s coming.