by Richelle Mead
Published by Razorbill
on November 18, 2013
Summary excerpted from Goodreads: As Alchemist Sydney Sage navigates the aftermath of her life-changing decision, she still finds herself pulled in too many directions at once. Her sister Zoe has arrived, and while Sydney longs to grow closer to her, there's still so much she must keep secret. Working with Marcus has changed the way she views the Alchemists, and Sydney must tread a careful path as she harnesses her profound magical ability to undermine the way of life she was raised to defend. Consumed by passion and vengeance, Sydney struggles to keep her secret life under wraps as the threat of exposure—and re-education—looms larger than ever.
My SPOILER FREE take: I'm loving this series! I'm really enjoying the way that Richelle Mead is taking the story world she created in the Vampire Academy books and looking at a new aspect of it: the Alchemists, and the uneasy relationship they have with the vampires they are duty-bound to hide and protect.
In case you haven't started this series at all or you haven't read all four books, I'll just tell you some of my favorite things about this series and The Fiery Heart in particular.
I know it's taken some readers time to warm up to Sydney, but if this book doesn't make you love her, nothing will. Okay, Sydney isn't Rose. Rose is dramatic and headstrong and larger than life, which makes her a very entertaining character, but what you see with Rose is what you get. In contrast, Sydney has layers. She's cautious, she's principled, she's smart, and she's incredibly loyal. I've really enjoyed watching her begin to question some of the Alchemist philosophies she grew up with. Like Sydney, Adrian has layers to his personality. On the surface, he's brash and funny and outrageous. But underneath, he's troubled and vulnerable. Seeing these two slooowwly work their way toward each other has been pretty fun. Seeing them together as a (secret) couple is even better.
Alchemists and Vampires
I'm also really enjoying the way that Richelle Mead has taken two groups with a long and interesting history in mythology, history and fiction, and put them together. If you've forgotten your Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone lore, Alchemists have actually tried to turn metal into gold and create an elixir of life. In this series, they also guard vampires and protect their secrets. But in this series they are also forbidden from becoming involved with vampires. As the series progressed, Sydney becomes a person at war with herself. She's a scholar, she believes the Alchemist principles she's been taught, and yet … she begins to question them. In an earlier book, Syd begins to wonder if she holds the power to stop vampires from turning into evil Strigoi.
Series writing the way I like it
I'm a fan of series, but I'm getting weary of series books that seem like chopped up stories -- the partly-explained world building, the partial plot arcs, the "this doesn't make sense, but it will be explained in the next book." Richelle Mead writes the kind of series I like: each of her books has a plot line, and then there is an overarching series plot line. I get the feeling that there is a Plan. In series writing, I think there needs to be one.
What's more wrenching and relatable than family drama? I recently wrote a review complaining about Gratuitous Family Drama as a plot device, but in this series the family drama is at the heart of the series. In Bloodlines, the very first book, we get a glimpse at Syd's family dynamics. She has a cold, controlling father, a mother we don't get much of a sense of, plus two sisters: a traumatized older one and and eager-to-please-her-father younger one, both of whom Sydney is determined to protect. Sydney's family didn't have a big role in the first three books, but they come back into the picture in The Fiery Heart. Let's just say that most of our own Thanksgiving-induced family dramas have nothing on what the Sage family is about to go through.
Humor, Meatloaf, etc.
You probably don't remember my 2012 St Vladimir's Summer School review of Shadow Kiss, but I wrote about Christian -- one of my favorite characters -- and how Steph @ The Fake Steph tweeted me about his meatloaf-making ways. Now I like to picture him in a frilly apron. So I was cracking up when the meatloaf made a reappearance in this book. I love the way that Richelle Mead incorporates these wacky things to lighten the drama -- Jet Steele, the Ivashkinator, Malachi Wolfe, and that meatloaf. I need to know what Christian is making for Thanksgiving!
Have you read this? Are you going to? What do you think about the cover and title of the next book, which releases July 29?
Sounds like another great installment-I promise that one of my 2014 goals will be to check out the Vampire Academy series so that I can get in on the discussion fun. I really liked Mead's writing in Gameboard of the Gods and I trust your recommendation!ReplyDelete
YES!!!!! I will do a re-read with you….Delete
So jealous you read this one already. I'm making room on my tbr pile to read it soon!!!ReplyDelete
You will love it :)Delete
I have decided that since I heard there is a cliffhanger to this one that I will start the series when Silver Shadows is out and then read them all together. I just can't take her cliffhangers! She writes fabulous stories. I totally agree with you on all those things you love. I read the meatloaf excerpt in another review and it is fabulous!!! I loved Christen too! Oh, maybe I just need to read the series now. ;)ReplyDelete
Yeah, the next two books are going to be rough...Delete
I loved The Fiery Heart! I love this whole series in general and the way Mead writes it. It's very obvious she has a plan for it, which is something you don't see very often unfortunately. I love seeing foreshadowing and hints that you might not even pick up on until after you reread the series. I'm not a huge fan of the girl's hair on the Silver Shadows cover, but I'm sure they'll make it look better by the time the book releases. Or I'll be too psyched to realize it looks like crap, one or the other. I did read the synopsis of SS though and feel a little sick to my stomach about some of the things it hints at. I love these characters and hate to see heartbreaking things happen to them, even though I know it'll be worth it in the end.ReplyDelete
I have been waiting for that bad thing to happen, and now that it did, I'm worried!!Delete
I've read the first one but haven't gotten round to the rest yet. Like the new cover ☺ReplyDelete
Plenty of time until Silver Shadows releases in July!Delete
Jen! Great review! I'm dying to finally recieve my copy I ordered and it won't be till the 14th of December! But I am so excited for The Fiery Heart! Richelle Mead always delivers and since you loved it I'm excited to pick it up!ReplyDelete
I haven't read this yet but I'm going to soon. I adore this series and Sydney is one of my favorites. I actually like Bloodlines a lot more that the Vampire Academy series. I feel like Sydney is a more relatable heroine, and there's so much at stake with Sydney and Adrian's relationship so I'm totally invested. I'm glad you enjoyed this book, I can't wait to read it myself!ReplyDelete
Yay - glad to find another Sydney fan :)Delete
I haven't read any of her books, but every time I read a review of them I think I would like that. I need to buckle down and get one of her books! :)ReplyDelete
Yes!!! Read the Vampire Academy series :)Delete
OH MY GOODNESS! I completely forgot about the release of this book! (shows where my heads been), but AH! I'm so excited for this book!! Christian makes an appearance? And then Sydney's character becomes even more likable!ReplyDelete
AH. Great review! Can't wait to start this one.
Tabitha @ Tabitha's Book Blog
Well, it's the meatloaf more than Christian, but I was still excited….Delete
Uhm okay. Meatloaf? If that's not enough to get me reconsidering my initial meh reaction to Bloodlines, I don't know what will. :)ReplyDelete
Is that sarcasm, Joy, or are you a true lover of meatloaf as I am? (I make a pretty good meatloaf myself. Maybe Christian and I can have a cook off…)Delete
Christian's meatloaf makes a reappearance??????? Also, hows my Adrian? I haven't started these yet, but I think I'm going to wait for book 6 and then binge read. :)ReplyDelete
YES!!!!! I was cracking up. I should have texted you….Delete
What a great review! I really cannot wait to read this book and you have me all excited all over again :) I absolutely love Adrian to pieces and Sydney grew on me from book in this series.ReplyDelete
Chanzie @ Mean Who You Are.
YES! Is pretty much all I want to say. I loved seeing Sydney comfortable in her skin - her body physically and her beliefs. And it was great to peal back some more of Adrian's layers. I also really like what you said about how Mead writes her series. I mean we know this world well after 10 books, but I agree, I'm getting fed up with seeing huge holes and having to wait multiple books to fix them. And being in Adrian's head was funny! I'm excited/nervous for the next book, but I know Mead won't let me down.ReplyDelete