Tuesday, 30 March 2021

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Review: A Kingdom for a Stage by Heidi Heilig

A Kingdom for a Stage by Heidi Heilig

A Kingdom for a Stage by Heidi Heilig


Published: 8th October 2019 | Publisher: Greenwillow Books | Source: Bought
Heidi Heilig's Website

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.
The StoryGraph

My other reviews of The Shadow Players Trilogy:
For a Muse of Fire

WARNING! I cannot review this book without spoiling the others in the series. Read no further if you're planning on reading this series and don't want it spoilt for you.


Having adored For a Muse of Fire, I was so excited for Heidi Heilig's second book in The Shadow Players Trilogy, A Kingdom for a Stage, especially as Heilig is one of my favourite authors. But while I really enjoyed it, I was a little disappointed - but my disappointment has absolutely nothing to do with Heilig's story or writing.

A Kingdom for a Stage is an important book for the trilogy; things are discovered, identities are revealed, Jetta learns more about her power, and she becomes more involved with the rebels and a key part in them trying to win back their country. It's fast paced, and intriguing, and complicated. There are times when it's completely devastating, and others where your heart is in your mouth. It feels like a second book in some places - putting things into place so the final book can happen - but while still being exciting and completely gripping. I honestly love this series and these characters, and revelled in seeing where the story took them next.

There's a lot about this book I can't talk about in much detail without giving away major spoilers, but there's one thing I did want to touch on in more detail.It was great to see more of Xavier and Theordora when Jetta is imprisoned, seeing how they think and what their plans are, but also how they can be kind of conflicted. Xavier is now General Legrand as Jetta killed his father at the end of the previous book. But he's also not his father. He wants to make him proud, and he makes choices and decisions with that in mind, but he's also not callously cruel. I very much got the idea if he had been raised by someone who wasn't so evil, he would have been a decent guy. But the subjugation of Chakrana and specifically the rebels, bringing them back under the control of the armée, is his duty. Theodora is actually pretty awesome. She's clever and so inventive, and just wants to create and learn, and she has created things that aren't meant for violence. But she's also the daughter of the former general and sister of the current general, and with her skills, she also has a duty to perform. Though she treats Jetta with more kindness and respect than anyone else. It was awesome getting to know them both better and understand where they're coming from.

Then Jetta is rescued, and the book focuses on travelling to safety, and learning what the rebels are up to and planning once they're there. And danger is imminent the whole time. I loved how Jetta got to learn more about herself and her powers. I loved discovering who the Tiger is, and just how awesome - if sometimes coldly strategic - he is. I loved getting to see the other characters again, especially Cheeky and Tia. I loved learning about Akra and his life now, after being brought back from the dead by Jetta. I loved seeing how everything that was happening effected Jetta's relationship with Leo. I loved being with these people and being in this story.

But there isn't a huge amount that happens in the great scheme of things. What does happen is integral to the story, there just didn't feel like there was a lot of it. It's not that the story was slow, or boring at any point, because A Kingdom for a Stage isn't either. It's not without action, there's actually quite a bit of it. It has a bloody earthshaking conclusion that is going to have epic consequences for the final book in thr trilogy. My issue, I guess, is the length.

The book is 446 pages long. It's a fairly big book, and experience tells me that a hell of a lot goes on in books that are quite long, so I was expecting more. And when I finished, I wanted more. The length is deceptive, because the font of the text is on the larger size. And a fair number of pages are the scripted chapters, the letters, the posters and flyers, and the sheet music, which adds to the length, but takes even less time to read. I flew through A Kingdom for a Stage in no time at all, because of the size of the font and ephemera, and it's not as long as it seems. If the font was smaller, it would probably be the length of your average novel, but because it's been formatted to seem longer, I was left feeling surprised that not as much happened as I expected. Honestly, the story itself is great, it's awesome, I enjoyed (if "enjoyed" is the word to use, a fair number of awful things happen) every second of it. My issue is the design and formatting of the book (and I don't mean the inclusion of the ephemera here, I think they're incredible). If the font was smaller, the book itself would be physically smaller, and so my expectations would have been different. So I did finish feeling somewhat disappointed. I think it's unfair to the readers, because it feels kind of misleading. And I feel it's also unfair to Heilig, too, because the book they wrote doesn't deserve my disappointment. It was brilliant! It's a weird one, because I finished last night thinking, "That's it?" and feeling a little short changed, but also having absolutely no issue with the story itself.

It took writing this review, to actually think about the story I read, to realise that my problem isn't with the story at all, and to separate my disappointment from it. I really, really loved A Kingdom for a Stage. It's fantastic, and really moves the story forward to a place that has left me really excited to see where things will lead in the final book, On This Unworthy Scaffold. Just keep in mind the length of the book deceptive.

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