Part fugitive, part hero, fifteen-year-old Nya is barely staying ahead of the Duke of Baseer’s trackers. Wanted for a crime she didn’t mean to commit, she risks capture to protect every Taker she can find, determined to prevent the Duke from using them in his fiendish experiments. But resolve isn’t enough to protect any of them, and Nya soon realizes that the only way to keep them all out of the Duke’s clutches is to flee Geveg. Unfortunately, the Duke’s best tracker has other ideas.
Nya finds herself trapped in the last place she ever wanted to be, forced to trust the last people she ever thought she could. More is at stake than just the people of Geveg, and the closer she gets to uncovering the Duke’s plan, the more she discovers how critical she is to his victory. To save Geveg, she just might have to save Baseer—if she doesn’t destroy it first.
You can read an excerpt here.
This book is old fashioned fun, action and adventure from start to finish. Blue Fire is the second book in The Healing Wars trilogy and a welcome return to the fascinating world of The Shifter (Healing Wars #1) – but while this book is a delightful romp, I think it does coast in the wake of the first book.
Nya is a wonderfully interesting character. Her first person narrative is lively and fresh and the moral choices she faces constantly add a nice weight to her story. The double burdens of power and responsibility touch every aspect of her life, and though she shoulders them, they weigh on her mind.
As in The Shifter, Blue Fire revolves around the power of healers and the political forces trying to exploit that power. I just wish this book had opened things up, raised the stakes – instead if felt like another spin of the wheel without truly moving forward. Though the story does take Nya to a new city, Baseer, the heart of the conquering nation that ruined her life, the bulk of this book centers on Nya’s hectic rush to rescue her sister – again.
The Shifter did such a wonderful job of exploring Nya’s social and economic realities and painting the picture of a city occupied by a hostile force, that in comparison, Blue Fire comes up short – it lacks the same depth. The potential was definitely there, with the suspicion and hatred that exists between Baseeri and Gevegians, and with Nya having to come to terms with her “enemies,” but frankly it was talked about more than it was shown. There was some general suspicion and hostility between Nya’s group and the Baseeri she comes into contact with, but it was never causative, it never truly affected the story. Instead we essentially got three scenes: Nya’s freak out after her discovery of her family history, a tragedy Nya witnesses that forces her to realize the people she has blamed for her misfortunes are just like her, and the aftermath of that tragedy, where her Gevegian friends clearly don’t give a damn about what happens to the Baseeri . These were three fantastic moments, but they should have been part of a larger whole – I wanted to see the steps leading up to Nya’s revelation and the struggle to overcome prejudice on both sides. There was a lot of potential here that wasn’t realized.
Similarly Nya’s powers, such a huge part of the first book, weren’t explored further in Blue Fire. Instead the story stuck to the rules of the first book, and the answer to the mystery of what the Duke wanted with Nya wasn’t fully satisfying – honestly it felt a bit like a stunt, a convenient MacGuffin. The other mystery, about how and why Nya is so different, wasn’t really touched on at all except for tiny crumbs throughout the story about Nya’s father, and what his magical abilities were. I expected so much more, on both fronts.
Plot-wise, the action is nonstop, though things fall into place a tad too conveniently. Also the ending, while explosive, was fairly similar to the first book, and the emotional turmoil between Nya and her friends, when they prevent her from doing something they think is too dangerous, felt a little unbelievable, given how many impossible things she had done up to that point. I feel like there was a step missing, something that should have made clear why this last thing was so much more reckless than anything Nya has done before.
But even with all of the above, I was still completely caught up by this story and truly enjoyed spending time in Hardy’s world. Nya is a lot of fun, and the action kept me glued start to finish. I just think this story rushed past too much.
Still, I am very much looking forward to the conclusion of this trilogy. There is a lot to like about this series, and a ton of potential going forward. If you’re a fan of Maria V. Snyder or Kristen Cashore, definitely check out The Healing Wars.
Byrt Grade: A-/B+
As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…
Flashing and pushing pain into her foes, determined and seemingly fearless Nya catapults through the pages like a super-charged action figure, but her first-person narration reveals inner conflict when forced to use her healing powers to injure and kill. Again, Nya confronts impossible moral choices as she fights to find her beloved sister. Relentless, gripping adventure.
One of the best things about The Shifter was the world building, and it was just as good in Blue Fire. It isn’t easy to build an entire world from the ground up, incorporate a bit of magic, and make it totally believable. But this world feels not only believable, but real. The characters and their relationships continued to be wonderful in this second book. I love how Nya manages to be a fiery little thing while also maintaining some really good relationships. She knows that she can’t always do everything alone, and isn’t too proud to enlist others in helping her, but she’s also scrappy and never gives up.
I love Nya for a number of reasons, but mostly because I always understand her choices. She makes tough ones, ones that cause people to die. And she gets herself into and out of dangerous situations with complete plausibility. Part courage, part luck, part skill, part stubbornness, plus a whole dose of sass.