Khanh the Killjoy

Not as good as I had hoped

The Fiery Heart - Richelle Mead
My anxiety faded. I took a deep breath and met the gazes of all those watching me in the room. Who was I to do this?
I was Adrian Ivashkov. And I was about to kick some ass.

Actual rating: 3.5

Here's my very controversial take on this book: I wish Sydrian never happened. What can I say, I loved the sexual tension and the chemistry of Sydney and Adrian as they battled for and against their feelings for each other more than I love their actual romance.

Please don't take my rating and my statement to mean that I did not like this book. I really did. Richelle Mead's writing has always been exceptional (with the exception of one glaring instance that rhymes with Lameboard of the Gods, which we shall never mention again), the characters---all of them, not merely the side characters, are multi-dimensional and well-portrayed. Technically, it was a very, very good book, but I do wish that Sydney and Adrian were still embroiled in the midst of their complex mating dance, rather than together as a couple.

I have been anticipating this book for a long time, I have absolutely adored this series, and Sydney and Adrian have grown on me more than I ever would have known. I mean it, I loved both characters. Individually. As a pair, as a lovey-dovey couple constantly sneaking off for groping/make out sessions, planning sweet gifts for one another, having clandestine eye-contact in the middle of important meetings, sending cute texts to each other on their "love phone?" Not so much.

What I loved about this series overall was the characters of Sydney and Adrian, and watching them evolve into better people, thanks to one another. Sydney and Adrian were so instrumental in each others' growth, and as happy as I am to see them achieve happiness as a couple, I can't help feel that their overwhelming romance took place at the expense of the plot. Frankly, their love got on my nerves.

I never expected to like either Sydney or Adrian as much as I did coming into this series. Both characters were initially hard to love; we only saw glimpses of a very standoffish, cold, and deeply distrustful young Sydney in Vampire Academy. She was a stark contrast to the energetic, fiery Rose, and her narration was starkly jarring to me in the beginning of the Bloodlines series. Sydney grew on me as much as a character in a book ever could. I grew to understand her and admire her as she has grown into herself, as she has worked exceedingly hard to change the very core of the rational Alchemist that she is. We saw Sydney overcome her distrust of the Moroi, her fear of magic, her skepticism of Adrian, her obsessiveness with perfection, her insecurities, her body issues. It feels as if Sydney is fully matured in this book, she has changed so much, and I like her as she is, but she seems somewhat less compelling of a character in this book. I liked her with a little more mental insecurity, more issues within her head, not so perfect. Does that make me a bad person?

Without a doubt, Adrian is my favorite character in this book, and I loved the way this book was structured, because for the first time, we get to hear Adrian's narration. Adrian's mental and physical change was such a joy to read. I hate bad boys. Fuck rakes. Fuck jerks, assholes, douchebag romance tropes. Fuck all the Jericho Fuckin' Barrons of the world. But there is nothing so attractive as a reformed rake, and Adrian's transformation was as good as they came. In this book, we got to see even further how much he struggles, we see his mental instability as he deals with his overwhelming spirit use, his conflict as he tries to be someone worthy of being loved, of being a good boyfriend to Sydney, and a person who is in control of his own life.

And I gave myself a pat on the back because I was able to diagnose Adrian's mental illness before the book did. Thanks, DSM-V. I'm by no means an expert on mental disorders, but I felt Richelle Mead painted bipolar disorder in a realistic, convincing way within this book. The extreme highs. The despairing lows. The constant swings in between. The mental instability. The feeling that you are never good enough. The phases of mania descending into a stupor. It was commendably well done.

With that said, this book was too much Sydrian. The plot was just not there. The majority of the book dealt with Sydney and Adrian's clandestine love, their illicit meetings, their struggle to disguise their actual feelings for one another during their meetings with others. There was an underlying plot, several minor ones, in fact, and they were very well done. In fact, I wish for more of it, including more of Adrian's involvement in using Spirit to cure the Strigoi. But no, the plot just got overwhelmed by the gooey pile of mushiness that is Sydney and Adrian.

A very good book, but I found it a disappointment. But then again, this is Richelle Mead, and I have to confess, I expect very great things from my favorite authors. She still remains one of my favorite authors, but I just want more plot and less knocking of boots, however attractive those boots are, Adrian.