For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig

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 sould 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. (taken from Amazon)

First of all, wow. I loved it. I had high hopes going in because I enjoyed The Girl From Everywhere, also by Heidi Heilig. Add the fact that the main character is part of a family of traveling performers, which I always like, and I was half in love with this book before I even started it.

This book did not disappoint. There is so much going on, not just with Jetta, but with the country. A war is being fought, but things aren’t as black and white as they appear, and Jetta unintentionally gets drawn into the thick of it. While that plotline was excellent, there’s also Jetta’s trying to understand and come to grips with both her forbidden talent, and her illness. More on that in a minute.

The entire cast of characters was great. I liked not just Jetta and Leo, but Cheeky, an exotic dancer. She added a dose of optimism when parts of the story badly needed it. In fact, all the characters were woven together so skillfully that the book would have been lessened had even one of them not been in it.

Another really cool thing about this book was its usage of songs, scenes written like plays, letters, and telegrams to show things that are happening simultaneously with several different characters without it being too overwhelming or slowing the plot at all. Heilig is a master storyteller in that way.

Now, back to Jetta and her illness. I found myself empathizing quite a bit with the symptoms, even leading me to wonder if it was based in some part on bipolar, which I have. According to the author’s note at the end, it was! I was absolutely blown away! I published a post yesterday lamenting the lack of characters with mental illness in fantasy and thrillers that aren’t horrible people. I loved, loved, loved that it was the main character who deals with it, and that it was dealt with so gracefully. All I can say to Heidi Heilig is, Thank you.

I loved this book and highly recommend it.

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