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fiery The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead | Rating: ★★★★★

"Don’t take the high ground and assume you already know what you’ll do. The truth is, when it comes to someone you love, you’ll find there isn’t anything you won’t do."

The Fiery Heart, the fourth and fittingly fiery installment of the wildly popular Bloodlines series, spin-off to Vampire Academy, takes on a different tone than its predecessors. It’s refreshing. Darker. Edgier. Sexier. After finishing it, in just over one sitting, I found that it’s my favorite in the series thus far–in spite of the heartbreaking finale that leaves us with one question in the form of a cliffhanger.

But we’ll get to that soon. Richelle Mead kicks things up a notch this round and we see even more growth in Sydney Sage. Sydney has grown to be one of my favorite characters in many, many years, and is perhaps one of Mead’s finest developed in all the novels she’s produced.

Sydney Sage is a phenomenal lead character. She’s everything one could hope for in fiction. I love how we’ve seen her go from isolated and cold to something far more superior and warm. There’s just something incredibly pleasing to look at her in this installment and to look back at her first introduction in the Vampire Academy series.

Whereas the first trio of novels in the series focused on her facing changes in belief and shaking her upbringing off bit by bit, The Fiery Heart focuses less on her conflicting beliefs and newfound opinions and freedom and more on this new direction her life could go in.

We’ve got a girl who, for the first time in her life, has friends and a family who love her for her. She’s opened her eyes to what is really corrupt in life–and it’s not just one thing and certainly not her friends–and is finally embracing a new, rebellious side to herself.

She is also, thankfully, pursuing her magic on a more deeper level and is able to explore her romantic feelings for her new boyfriend–Adrian Ivashkov. Adrian and Sydney are a gift when they are together. Their dynamic is equal parts fun and serious and they genuinely make each other better people, without changing who they are on the inside.

Adrian and Sydney are an otherwise unlikely pairing, yet when they come together… it’s magic. It’s impossible not to see how well the two fit with one another and I loved seeing how they connect further in this one. Certainly The Fiery Heart is more steamy than the other three books–Mead knows how to push the envelop in her genre–and it screams of passion.

Which I appreciate. This isn’t some fling. It’s real, it’s raw and it’s gorgeous to see unfold. I liked that their problems in between moments are unfortunate and settled rather quickly and maturely. There’s a balance in the two and I just cannot get enough of them together.

And then, when everything changes, and Sydney is caught in an unfortunate (and heartbreaking) altercation–reeducation, here we go, ugh!–it’s like everything comes crashing down and we remember fully the taboo when it comes to their romance. It’s a harsh sip of reality from an otherwise sweet and romantic and sexy read.

Although Sydrian (how cute is their name?) face their fare share of goodness and crap in The Fiery Heart, and are certainly the main focus, that’s not all we get to our story.

First, let’s start with Sydney’s family. Both real and fake. If you thought we’d seen the last of Sydney’s father, you’re mistaken. I cannot stress enough how much of a piece of shit I find Sydney and Zoe’s dad to be. We already knew this–but I think seeing how brainwashed Zoe is, now that she is an Alchemist and assigned to work with Sydney, just solidifies this opinion even more.

Especially in the way he talks down to his daughters. Be that the calories they eat, what they’re doing wrong in their jobs or life, so on and so forth, he is one Sage I would gladly push through the flames or something. Don’t even get me started on the final chapters, when Sydney is taken, and he and Zoe have the gall to act heartbroken over her having fallen in love with a Moroi.

I loved Sydney’s reaction (her sass to her father about her relationship with Adrian!) and her sacrifice–essentially saving Eddie from an uncertain fate, because he is her friend and she loves him, and I appreciate that her last words (not last-last words, but you know) were directed towards Adrian. The center will hold. They are the center.

Sydney Sage is a far better person than him, but obviously we’ve got a long way to go until she can get her happy ending. If at all–we just never know. I hope for Zoe to escape his clutches, so to speak, because you see this glimmer of hope and although she is the one to turn Sydney in you can’t help but feel there is more to her than we could know and that maybe, just maybe, something can help her see a way out of this life.

The best thing for Zoe Sage would be to have her mother retain full custody of her in the divorce. I’m scared that this won’t happen, though, given their father’s pull. And if that is the case, it’s probable that Zoe will be lost to her father’s influence and hello, gross.

As for the others at school–Trey and Angeline are having some serious problems getting over one another and I gotta admit I really like them together. I was glad to see them working together and patching things up because in a way they remind me–almost–of Sydney and Adrian in terms of balance, not personality.

It’s always fun to see Trey and Sydney’s friendship, too, and I like that it’s fitting that they’ve all kind of found each other because each character is different but there’s something about their group dynamic that is very pleasing, and the proof in that is the Strigoi incident near the end of the novel.

Aside from Zoe Sage, we’ve also got a few other additions in the characters. Nina and Olive, Neil and such. Newbies who are quite entertaining. We’ve got some returning characters, too, as well as some visiting characters we haven’t seen in a while including Rose, Dimitri, Lissa, Sonya, Abe, Keith (briefly), Marcus and Christian.

So for Vampire Academy fans, you’re in for a treat! A lot of our returning characters are from where it all began and it's exciting to see, honestly.

Other topics tackled: Sydney's studying and experiment for the greater good, exploration of power, spirit in the blood, Adrian’s mental health issues and the toll that spirit use takes on him, Strigoi being turned back to their original form and what it means for their blood, what may make Sydney’s blood taste bad to the Strigoi, Eddie and Jill’s feelings for one another and so much more.

So. Much. More!! The Fiery Heart is a fantastic and addictive thrill ride from start to finish that will leave you swooning, panting, jumping, crying and laughing. It’s Richelle Mead at her greatest, which is kind of always, and it’s just a blast to read.

I can’t wait to see where we go next.


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