I should warn you before you starting reading it that Richelle Mead’s The Fiery Heart finishes on a cliffhanger. And that you’ll probably feel, as I do, that you’re not sure how you’re going to keep it together until the follow-up book, presumably named Fans Nearly Lost Their Minds Waiting For This, is released. Said release is likely to be some 18 months to two years away.
Leafing through a book of baby names seems the antithesis of lead-ins to a climactic ending, but that’s where the book opens. ‘I won’t lie,’ Adrian Ivashkov says. ‘Walking into a room and seeing your girlfriend reading a back-name book can kind of make your heart stop.’
Sydney Sage is not pregnant, though. She’s looking for a name to be ordained with when she joins the local witch coven. It’s a leap from Sydney’s (I’m going to break with tradition and use first names from now on—for clarity) originally staunch alchemist ways, which view moroi, dhampirs, and strigoi as one and the same. That is, all blood-sucking bad guys.
The Fiery Heart follows on from The Indigo Spell, (I think—there are so many books these days I’m starting to lose track of them all) and the romance between Sydney and Adrian is new, joyous, and all-consuming. It’s also completely forbidden, with being found out likely leading to the very real danger of re-education.
Complicating the matter and putting a dampener on the love festivities is Sydney’s sister Zoe. She’s been sent to assist in the operation to keep Jill, half sister to moroi queen Lissa, alive. Moroi law dictates that a ruler can only hold their throne as long as they have a living relative. Hence the metaphorical target painted on Jill, who’s surrounded by fewer guardians and therefore a more accessible target than the queen herself.
As part of their lover’s agreement, Sydney has reduced her caffeine intake and Adrian his alcohol one. Oh, and Sydney and Zoe’s parents announce they’re getting a divorce.
Suffice to say, there’s plenty of material to keep The Fiery Heart ticking over (even if I still haven’t forgiven Mead for severing the Rose-and-Dimitri-led Vampire Academy books. I am consoling myself with the knowledge that the first film adaptation is due out on Valentine’s Day in 2014).
The Fiery Heart is fun, both because the subject matter is loved-up and because Mead has found form with the assembly of characters. Sydney and Adrian’s Escape Plan # [Insert number and far-fetched but amusing idea here] are quirky and I’ll-pay-that clever. The witty banter between them as lovers and as faux-enemies (for show, because they don’t want anyone to know about their relationship) is endlessly entertaining.
Even Angeline, the ‘feral’ dhampir and fierce scrapper who’s grown up in an alternative community, is less annoying. Mead has found a way to soften her and make her an endearing insertion for comedic effect.
‘Did you know,’ Angeline says at one stage, ‘that it’s a lot harder to put organs back in the body than it is to get them out?’ We discover she hasn’t gutted someone, but rather has knocked over the male and female biology models and spilt the organs far and wide. Another time there’s a reference to when Angeline forgot her locker combination and tried to get in with an axe.
That’s not to say all elements worked. Throughout the book Jill and Angeline both fixate on the new guardian in town, Neil, as a way to get over their real crushes. It never gels and I feel it either was part of another storyline that was never fulfilled or Mead needed to find a way to embed Neil in the group when he’s otherwise a tacked-on character. He still feels like a tacked-on character.
To give her the benefit of the doubt, he may come to the fore in future books. He just arrived and was accepted a little too easily when the group has already had trouble with insider–outsiders in previous books. The writing of him felt two-dimensional and as a character he was crowding out and essentially performing the same role already occupied by Eddie, whom I’ve come to quite love.
I’ll have to wait at least 18 months to determine Neil’s usefulness, though, so am hoping Mead is doing less book touring and touting of The Fiery Heart and more writing of the book that will likely include some reference to centres holding. Gah, bring on its release. And a Valentine’s Day film release in between.