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?