“Be prepared to stay up late with this one.”—NPR.org
“[A] must-have story.”—School Library Journal (starred review)
“Evocative and refreshingly unique.”—Tor
A young woman with a dangerous power she barely understands. A smuggler with secrets of his own. A country torn between a merciless colonial army, a terrifying tyrant, and a feared rebel leader. The first book in acclaimed author Heidi Heilig’s Shadow Players trilogy blends traditional storytelling with ephemera for a lush, page-turning tale of escape and rebellion. For a Muse of Fire will captivate fans of Sabaa Tahir, Leigh Bardugo, and Renée Ahdieh.
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. 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 King has a spring that cures his ills. Because seeing spirits is not the only thing that plagues Jetta. 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 Southeast Asian cultures and French colonialism. Told from Jetta’s first-person point-of-view, as well as 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.
A lush land reminiscent of South Asia is the setting for a thrilling trilogy opener by Heilig (The Girl from Everywhere). Sixteen-year-old Jetta, part of a family troupe of shadow performers, can bind departed souls to intricate shadow puppets with her blood, but such magic has been forbidden by the Aquitans ever since they conquered Chakrana. Her family seeks an audience with the king of Aquitan, hoping to gain access to its healing spring waters for Jetta's "ups and downs," and to find a place to weave their magic. Following a rebellion, daunting trials such as the unforgiving jungle and a haunted underground passage stand between Jetta and Aquitan. Jetta has her parents and her magic on her side, but there are those that would do anything to harness her power, and the specter of war looms. 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. Ages 13 up.