1 star · book review

book review: The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco

I think I’ve said all that I need to say on my goodreads review

I did not enjoy this book. Was it better than the 1st book in the series? In some ways, yes. In other ways, it has the same problems I had with the Bone Witch.

1 star

Faster-paced than the previous installment, but somehow still finds new and novel ways to disappoint me in ways I’ve never been disappointed in before.

Honestly, I have to ask who hurt you for the world-building to be so blatantly set on characerizing Daanoris (Bone Witch pseudo-China) and Drycht (Bone Witch pseudo-Middle East) as backwards sexists and bigots. The writing is too puerile to depict them as anything else than sexists who are wrong wrong wrong in everything they do. Tea commits so many political faux pas, I’m surprised she got through asha training in this state. She literally cannot open her mouth without having to comment about how backwards Daanoris and its emperor are… if you are perchance in a situation where you disagree with their policies but cannot voice them in public because you are a delegate, then talk shit behind their backs when no one can hear you.

There are literally no women besides Princess Yansheo (who is basically an NPC with a name) in Daanoris who could even be present to provide their take on the inner workings of their own damn country. Instead, we have to listen to Tea give her hottakes about a country she’s never been too while demanding the natives to be tolerant of her not understanding their ways because she’s a foreigner AND being offended when they say how strange her country’s ways are. Girl, it has to go both ways. you can interpret as you will, but it is a fact that they depict Daanoris and Drycht with way more bias (in text and subtext) than Kion or any of the other countries.

I honestly worry about the next book because in this book, Tea and company invade Daanoris; so naturally, we should progress to invading Drycht as suggested in the end of the Heart Forger. I hope I am wrong in my prediction that they’ll dethrone whoever’s in charge and replace them with someone more palatable for Tea and company’s agenda/worldview. The way Drycht was depicted in the Bone Witch was pretty Islamophobic. I don’t want a repeat of Tea’s hottakes about all that in book 3.

While there is queer representation in this book (Shadi + Zoya and hinted Khalad + Likh), the writing provides such a poor amount of characterization to ANY character that I wouldn’t be happy recommending this to anyone looking for queer characters with substance. There’s also the issue of the villain(s) being bad in EVERY WAY. We can’t just have an evil guy who might be a good father. NO, he has to be an evil guy and a homophobe too. This book somehow conflates Likh wanting to be an asha, a traditionally female-only position, with Khalad being queer/a heart forger. It’s not the same. I understand how silver-heartsglass bearers could be considered to be on the fringe of society, but I honestly do not see the in-world justification for why they are discriminated against when they do important work???

I honestly I want to say this book is fake woke, though I’m sure that’s not the author’s intention. I feel the way this writing calls out sexism is very shallow – only calling out the blatant sexist attitudes and not choosing to explore how pervasive sexism in a society can be. Yes this is YA and there is no obligation to do it, but there are definitely YA books that don’t shy away from that subject matter.

This book also needed at least one more round of edits. The amount of errors I found with the puntuation and grammar was unprofessional. In fact, there was one instance where “its” was used correctly but then “it’s” was used when “its” was the appropriate choice – ALL THIS OCCURED IN THE SAME SENTENCE. Whoever was editing needs to pay attention to the manuscript and learn the proper usage of a semicolon and just get reacquainted with general sentence structure. Seeing as this book contains less descriptions of hua and poetic stylization, there’s no excuse for having an unpolished final product. Simple fixes like… describing the toad-like daeva as a reptile – you don’t need to be a zoologist to know toads are amphibians.

Characters – Like I kept saying, Khalad is the character that feels most like an acutal person, but he is overshadowed by Tea’s heinous narration and lack of proper characterization. The book is called HEART FORGER, why isn’t the story actually about him? All the rest of the chacters have the occasional characterization, but by in large Tea just TELLS us stuff instead of letting the writing SHOW us things about the cast.

I would have liked for Khalad and Narel’s relationship to be explored more. In a book called the Heart Forger, they don’t really focus much on the heart forgers. They do moreso than in the Bone Witch, but that wasn’t much to begin with.

Kalen is actually alright in this book. I feel like he is a spiritual successor to the idea of an endgame Chaol in many ways. He actually goes against Kance and baby, I was proud.

I didn’t hate Tea in the Bone Witch, but lord did she test my patience here. The Fox and Inessa drama was so boring… can’t they just find a sperm donor if they want kids? Simple solutions, my friends. Simple solutions.

Plot – Stuff actually happens in this book! Yay. The 1st book was definitely a glorified prologue to this one. I think the story suffers from lack of disctinction between the faceless villains. A lot of the time I didn’t know the difference between Druj and Usij. Who are these dudes? I didn’t even know Usij was a Faceless … or a prominent figure among the Faceless until way too late. We are just told they are EVIL and not given any complex motivation besides wanting immortiality. There are some reveals that I admit not to catching on until they happen. The cartoony dialogue between the hero and the villains brought that enjoyment down because it was cliche af.

The story still suffers the constant swtiching between past and present versions of Tea. I saw another reviewer say they skipped the Bard chapters, so I tried that too and the book was a much faster read. I went back to read them every few chapters to catch up, but the flow was much better if you had a large chunk of chapters in one time frame.

Worldbuilding – God, I can’t stand how it’s done here. We are told facts about the world that we didn’t know beforehand, but it is usually information that we SHOULD know but is so conveniently left out, so when we learn about these facts, they feel like WOW ACTUAL WORLDBUILDING, but really it is a lack of worldbuilding and we are happy with the scraps.

I still have similar problems with the world building as I did in book 1 – such as linguistic inconsistencies within the individual nations and reliance on real world stereotypes for Drycht and Daanoris.

On a positive note, I do have to say at least the Daanorian emperor had a yellow dragon as an emblem and at least on the surface you can be sure this is based off imperial China. Not sure what era it was supposed to be, but mentioning it went through a period of isolation was a nice touch, though the political structures of most of the nations in the Bone Witch world don’t feel very anchored. Perhaps this is because there’s a lack of a depiction of the ‘commoners’ living their lives and interacting with whatever government they live with. We largely follow characters from high society. If we do see lay people, they’re poor, sick, and/or silent. The lack of information from this disparity of representation can create a feeling of immenseness for some because there’s always more to learn, but to me it conveyed a feeling of vacancy.

Overall, I would say this is an improvement from the 1st book for those who like a more fast-paced story.

  • There are more plot developments here and the Tea-Kalen romance was not the worst thing by a long shot (more by Kalen’s strenght as a character compared to the rest, if anything).
  • However, the storytelling falls into similar problems as seen in the Bone Witch in addition to the lack of complexity in portraying the different nations and their people; the queer-coding of Khalad and Likh because they have silver hearts-glasses and are not Deathseekers (somehow wanting to not be in the traditional male occupation automatically means they are both queer?); and the villains as interchangable moustache-twirling evildoers that do not capitalize on the seemingly interesting origin story of the False Prince.
  • The lack of characterization, concrete world-building in terms of the society and magic, and the tell-not-show nature of the narration takes away from the potential of this series.

But if you can look past those things and treat this as a fluff read, I think it’ll be a quick read. Otherwise skip it or check it out from your library if you are still curious.

idk BUT IN MY UNFILTERED OPINION I wanna throw this back into the return bin where it belongs.

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