Jetta is a prisoner. A prisoner of the armee, a prisoner of fate, and a prisoner of her own madness. Held captive in Hell’s Court—now the workshop of Theodora, the armee engineer and future queen of Chakrana—Jetta knows she needs to escape. But Theodora has the most tempting bait—a daily dose of a medication that treats Jetta’s madness.
But the cost is high. In exchange, Jetta must use her power over dead spirits to trap their souls into flying machines—ones armed with enough firepower to destroy every village in Chakrana. And Theodora and her armee also control Le Trépas—a terrifying necromancer who once had all of Chakrana under his thumb, and Jetta’s biological father. Jetta fears the more she uses her powers, the more she will be like Le Trépas—especially now that she has brought her brother, Akra, back from the dead.
Jetta knows Le Trépas can’t be trusted. But when Akra teams up with Leo, the handsome smuggler who abandoned her, to pull off an incredible escape, they insist on bringing the necromancer along. The rebels are eager to use Le Trépas’s and Jetta’s combined magic against the invading colonists. Soon Jetta will face the choice between saving all of Chakrana or becoming like her father, and she isn’t sure which she’ll choose.
Warnings: blood use in magic, gun violence, war, colonialism, racism, descriptions of dead bodies, mention of reproductive coercion, mentions of torture, mention of suicide
Heilig takes us back into Chakrana fighting for its freedom, with Jetta as a crucial piece in the war between Chakrana and Aquitan. Now that the Aquitans are aware of her necromancy, she is in greater danger, and not just from the wanted posters of hers that gone up. The military applications of her necromancy mean that she is to be a tool that might turn the war. At first, imprisoned by the Aquitans, she seeks to learn all she can about her skills, so that she may have a better understanding of how best to apply it; the medicine made from precious lithium is another benefit in the scenario. Still, she is planning her escape from their clutches, and her brother being her revenant has its perks. Then when she is with the rebels, the fact that they have also rescued Le Trepas means that she has to contend with him throughout their journey to the rebel base camp. With her own guilt in her mind, and his whispers of teaching her more things, Jetta has a complicated journey with her own necromancy in this sequel.
Like the first book, Jetta’s first person perspective is regularly interspersed with ‘extra content’ – conversations between other characters depicted as play script, songs, and letters. Her story in this book is a lot about the depths of her powers, and her complicated feelings on it. With her mother’s trauma, and thus her restriction on using her powers, she has always feared necromancy to bring her closer to Le Trepas, the monster of their modern legends. And now, having brought her brother back from the dead, she still has a lot of complicated thoughts about it. Obviously, she also doesn’t like using the spirits for violence, as would be used in times of war, and Le Trepas giving her new insight on it makes her more afraid. Alongside this is her fear of her medicine dosages always at risk of running out; so we have a character who is fighting war on two fronts.
I also loved the secondary characters in the story – Leo was of interest from the last book, and in this book, you get to him being conflicted with his actions even more. His desire to help Jetta with her powers and with her illness doesn’t always line up well, like when he has to betray her to help her; I still feel there were better ways to communicate that to her. The other two characters I liked were Theodora and the Tiger, who have a nice star-crossed romance subplot going on, but also have a good arc with what and how they help the Chakrana side. The Tiger’s own story about his family history was an interesting addition to the plot, and was crucial to the ending. Akra’s guilt over serving in the army and the resolution of his arc was done well, as was Jetta’s father’s disability. Just the simple fact that Jetta’s powers could be used to drive mobility aids, as suggested by Theodora, was a good addition to the story. The narrator, Emily Woo Zeller, is brilliant in bringing out all the characters – I think somewhere mid-way while I was busy sketching away while listening to this and was so in the zone, I sort of forgot for a minute that it wasn’t a cast of actors, but a single narrator doing the voices!
The central conflict of the Aquitan occupation and their colonialism wiping out the culture of Chakrana was well-written in this book, too. The ways in which machines were used in this novel was interesting, as was exploration of the mythology behind the necromancy. The build-up of the world has been extensive, and yet I love the addition of more details to it. The ending brings a change in the scenario of the war, but also gives the characters a new villain to face in the next book, so can’t wait to see what happens!
Is it diverse? Bisexual and mental health rep (bipolar) in main character (ownvoices), biracial love interest, queer and PoC characters, including trans rep
Previous book in the For a Muse of Fire series
Released on October 8, 2019