Book Review: The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead

Now that several days has passed since I read The Fiery Heart, I can set my fangirl heart aside and give this book an honest review. I am a huge fan of Richelle Mead. My obsession has reached a point where I’m not sure that I’d care if she wrote a book that was less than fantastic. Actually, I know I don’t care. I thought the first three books of this series were just okay and I still devoured them like the Richelle Mead addict I am. That’s why I waited to write this review. It’s time to be honest.

The Fiery Heart is the fourth book in the Bloodlines series, which is an offshoot of the Vampire Academy series. This is the first book in the series taking place from two different points of view. The first chapter is narrated by Sydney Sage, the Alchemist sent to Palm Springs to make sure Jill Dragomir remains safely hidden. The second is narrated by Adrian Ivashkov, the moody vampire party-boy. I was worried about the back and forth, initially, but Mead pulled it off very well. The story flowed perfectly, for the most part. There was only one chapter where I was confused about who was narrating. That may have been a side effect of reading late at night, though.

Sydney amazed me with just how like me she became. She addresses her relationship with the same logical process as I do. Honestly, I had no idea how she and Adrian were going to work, but Richelle Mead made me a believer. I have seen some fans claim that one or the other character changed too fast, but I disagree. Sydney has always been an intellectual with the desire to expand her knowledge. She’s the farthest thing from closed minded, even when it comes to vampires. When we first met her towards the end of the Vampire Academy series, she’s acting on her current knowledge of vampires (with a little help from the tattoo). Through the Bloodlines series, she is learning through experience.

Adrian has never been the happy party-boy he tried to be, but we never see that side of him until the Bloodlines series. Now, literally in his head,  the reader is shown another side of the flippant vampire. Adrian’s true flaw may not be that he is care-free, but that he cares too much. Not that alcohol and meaningless sex are healthy ways of forgetting the world. His character has grown, and continues to grow in The Fiery Heart, but he still has a long ways to go.

The Bloodlines series has, as a whole, been very predictable. During the first three books, I found this to be the main reason they paled next to Mead’s other books. The Fiery Heart was just as predictable as the last. The things most of the fan base expected to happen, did. What made this book different, was that I found myself devouring the book with exuberance anyway. I think it has something to do with the presentation. For both of the big events in the book, readers were essentially told that they were going to happen a chapter or so before they did. In one case, readers are shown the aftermath of the event before actually reading what happened. I think this what made the predictable nature of the book enjoyable. There were times where I had to set the book down and take a breath because I saw what was going to happen and had to mentally prepare.

Sydney was a bad ass throughout this book, especially the last half. I can now say with full honesty that I love her character. In fact, she has quickly become one of my favorite character’s Richelle Mead has ever created. I think I connect with her, as I come from a conservative family myself (probably not quite as conservative as hers, though). I admire her ability to stand for what she believes in and, as the final events of the book unfold, I admire her strength. She’s not one to lie about her beliefs just to make things easier. Hell, if she was that kind of person, she’d lie to herself and have nothing to do with Adrian.

Adrian, on the other hand, was a disappointment at the end of the book. I think it was in The Golden Lily where he said something about how he changed for Rose, in order to make her like him, but with Sydney, he changed because of her. He was a better man because of her. To me, that means that change should be lasting. If she were to disappear from this world, he will still forever be a changed man. Well, I can’t say that’s the case after his final scenes in the book. I feel for the guy, and I hope Silver Shadows proves my assumptions wrong.  For the time being, though, I am whole dissatisfied with Adrian’s reaction. Sydney left him a message that I think was meant to give him hope and strength and he completely disregards it. His character has had some dramatic changes in this series, maybe some of them are harder to kick than Sydney’s prejudices.

The last page of the book was deeply moving to me. As I turned to that page, I found myself fearful of all that is to come. Somehow, Sydney’s words gave me hope.  I hope they give her hope; she’s going to need it.

In conclusion:

  • Predictable Plot
  • Good romance scenes
  • Repetition of how much the characters are just oh so much in love with each other
  • Sydney Sage is bad ass and I love her more than Adrian
  • Adrian is starting to seems like the exact person I thought he was in VA
  • Richelle Mead is still awesome (See Succubus Blues, Vampire Academy and Gameboard of the Gods)

Rating: 3 Stars


The “Dabbling” Controversy

Now I want to bring up the issue of “dabbling” brought up in The Fiery Heart. People seem to have taken issue with this concept, calling it triggering. It’s implied that dabbling is something typically done by male moroi towards female humans they find attractive. Long story short, dabbling is where a vampire drugs a human and, without consent, drinks their blood. While it wasn’t given a name in Vampire Academy, this is something we’ve seen. Rose and Lissa were at a party where some moroi men brought a human girl to pass around. It wasn’t glorified by any means, but it wasn’t whole condemned either. If I remember correctly, it was only at Lissa’s insistence that Rose tried to do anything.

Fans of the Bloodlines series claim that certain characters did not show enough outrage and/or remorse toward this issue. People are upset that there aren’t stricter punishments for the action under moroi law. Lastly, people feel like the issue was used as a plot device to bring about a big change in the relationship between Sydney and Adrian.

I disagree with all the above. For starters, dabbling is not rape. If we are to compare it to anything, it’s probably closer to molestation. That side, they are both series issues in our world surrounding a person’s right to consent. Let’s take a step back from The Fiery Heart for a moment. In the real world, cases of rape and molestation are rarely reported. When they are reported, they are often difficult to persecute. When people actually face punishment under the law, said punishment usually feels soft for the severity of the crime committed. While this is all very serious, we also live in a culture where rape jokes are common. It’s equally common for people to try and get girls drunk in order to sleep with them.

This past Valentine’s Day, I was listening to the radio on the way to work. They were asking people to call in with their love advice. One woman called in a said, laughing, get her drunk and you’ll get laid (paraphrasing). This isn’t right, but it is reality. We should live in a world where people are taught not to rape instead of teaching people how to avoid being raped, but we don’t. The best anyone can do, when seeing a girl who looks like she being taken advantage of (or is about to be), is call the authorities. If the perpetrator never actually rapes or molests the potential victim, there is very little that can be done in terms of legal punishment.

The reason why I have no issue with the way dabbling was handled in The Fiery Heart is not because I see it as a non-issue. Instead, I feel like the issue was addressed just the same as molestation would be addressed in the world, today. Moreover, I did not feel like it was used poorly as a plot device. Instead, it was an issue to show a contrast between good and evil. In Bloodlines, we saw Keith as an example that humans have just as much ability to be evil as anyone else. While Sydney has, over three books, seen that moroi can be good and kind, they possess the same ability to be evil. To me, dabbling was one more example of how moroi are the same as humans. They have the ability to be both good and evil. It separated Adrian, today, from who he used t be.

Some question how often Adrian may have seen dabbling happening and did nothing. They question the one incident he was actually involved in and wonder about the honesty of his remorse. In my opinion, I don’t think he had any more or less remorse than the average dude who sees his buddy take a drunk girl home with him. How many would stop and say “man, don’t do this.”? If anything, the only flaw I see is the drugging. That is, if your average man was aware on of his friends was planning on using a date rape drug, I think most would do something about it. Some would still turn the other cheek. That’s only if they have a problem with the drug. The situation brought up in The Fiery Heart involves a group of moroi who are all on board with the idea. It’s more like a gang-dabbling situation.

To conclude on this issue, I view dabbling as seriously as I do molestation and rape. I do not, however, feel that is was mishandled in the story. Instead, I feel like the issue was addressed and dealt with similarly to the way a molestation case would be handled. Additionally, I think the issue was brought up to contrast the current Adrian with other royal moroi and to contrast moroi, in general, with the rest of humanity.

Maybe the dabbling issue wouldn’t have been such an issue if it was never brought up or if Sydney raged for a whole week. Would any of that change anything? If she interpenetrated real remorse, what then? Is there some time limit that is required to pass before she can forgive? For all we know she would have ignored him for more than one night if not for being attacked. That attack is what made Adrian’s contrast. I don’t see how more anger or greater punishments would have made anything better. Mostly, I think people had their fairy tale view of Adrian shattered. Sorry, guys. Before he met Sydney he was a drinking, smoking, womanizing party boy. He drank to stop caring about the world and when anything bad happened while drunk, he probably just had another drink so he wouldn’t care. He’s the farthest thing from prince charming.

(This is just my opinion, please don’t hate me.)

Mead, Richelle. The Fiery Heart. New York City, NY: Razorbill, 2013. Print.

5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead”

  1. Since I, thankfully, have not experienced sexual assault, I am sometimes caught off guard by others finding certain things triggering. I never would have made the connection all by myself. Yet I can see how others would once they bring it to my attention. I think both sides need to be generous with the other. Hopefully, those who do get triggered will help to educate the rest of us, and understand that we meant no offense. We simply don’t have their experience to rely on. And the rest of us can seek to understand their perspective and be sensitive to it.

    Thank you for a thought-provoking discussion.

    1. You’re welcome and thank you for reading.

      I’ve never experienced sexual assault myself, so I could list myself as one in need of a deeper understanding. Perhaps this influences my outlook of the issue. \

  2. Awesome review, and thank you. Now I know what I want to do with my Christmas break. I’ve been putting off reading this new series because I was afraid I’d go into fandom meltdown mode. Probably still will.

    1. Yeah. If you look at some of the post I wrote last week, I was a total fangirl. I cannot emphasize enough how much I love Richelle Mead. If I were to have written this right after finishing the book, it would have been based on emotion and not the actual quality of the book.

      And really, the Bloodlines series wouldn’t be so bad if not for over emphasis on the romance. One of the reason the Vampire Academy series is my favorite in the YA genre is because the romance often played out in the background, with social and political issues taking center stage. That’s switched around in the Bloodlines series. It doesn’t make the books bad, it just makes them average. Worth a read, especially if want to know more about Sydney and Adrian’s back stories.

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