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 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.
“This start to a new trilogy is fast-paced and gripping while also offering readers a thoughtful commentary on the long-lasting ramifications of war and colonization. ...This must-have story with an inclusive cast, high stakes, and an intense cliff-hanger will leave readers clamoring for the next installment.” (School Library Journal (starred review))
“Heilig skillfully mixes francophone-inflected language and South Asian aesthetics...with in-world folk songs, legends, and sections that read like a stage play to present a truly eclectic fantasy narrative of uncanny theatrics.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review))
“A treacherous, darkly fantastical world...This series starter is action-packed…theatrical elements, rich world building, and loose ties to the French colonization of Southeast Asia add fascinating depth.” (ALA Booklist)
“A lush land reminiscent of South Asia is the setting for a thrilling trilogy opener by Heilig. ...Telegrams, letters, and play scenes sprinkled throughout create a strong sense of place, and Jetta’s struggle to accept herself is relatable. Heilig uses intricate prose to animate nuanced characters and action-packed scenes in this immersive, epic fantasy.” (Publishers Weekly)