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Uncovering the secrets within For a Muse of Fire

By Matthew Hope
June 6, 2024

“For a Muse of Fire” by Heidi Heilig is a fantasy story set sometime around 1870, in an alternate Asia. The protagonist is bipolar, and must navigate a war-torn world to find a cure for her “malheur” (bipolar disorder).

Jetta is a skilled shadow player — someone who manipulates puppets behind a screen called a scrim. A fire (or flashlight) is placed behind the puppets, pointed at the scrim. The puppets are maneuvered between the source of light and the scrim, casting shadows on the scrim. However, this is impossible to do without string or sticks, which also leave shadows on the scrim. Jetta’s claim to fame is that her shadow plays have neither string nor stick. She and her family are the most famous shadow players, and to find a cure for Jetta’s malheur their family must put on a shadow play for the Boy King to allow them passage to a distant land, where a cure for Jetta’s malheur resides.

However,  Jetta has a secret. She can trace the symbol of life on anything and send spirits into it. That’s how she does her shadow plays without string or sticks — she puts spirits into them and teaches them plays. However, this magic is outlawed.

Overall, I think “For a Muse of Fire” is a very nice book. I believe it has decent plot points, maybe not as much characterization as other books, but the general imagery is well done. At just over 500 pages in length, I believe this is a well-written book.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a little bit longer of a read, and any fantasy aficionados. There were a few errors, but there was nothing too major.