Second books in trilogies are frequently weaker than their predecessors or successors. They are bridges between what was and what will be, and that often leaves them wanting in terms of plot and action. Fortunately for you, A Kingdom for a Stage was written by the immensely talented Heidi Heilig, so you don’t have to worry about this novel being filler. This is the kind of young adult fiction that makes the whole category look good. Heilig injects OwnVoices and anti-colonialist sentiment into YA fantasy in an evocative and powerful way. Packed with intense action and deep introspection—as well as scenes from plays, newspaper clippings, letters, and sheet music!—it more than lives up to the greatness of A Kingdom for a Stage. I’m genuinely not sure how I’m going to last another year before the third and final book comes out.
This is a book that would most definitely benefit from a direct re-read of its predecessor before diving in. Heilig tackles difficult issues very deftly in this series, including the horrors of colonialism and the struggles faced by someone with bipolar disorder. The depiction of Jetta's malheur feels deeply visceral and compassionate ... As with all middle books, A Kingdom for a Stage exists in a state of liminality. It's no longer the eager beginning, full of new ideas and promise, nor are there any satisfying wrap-ups to be had at its conclusion. We leave Jetta and her cause in a more uncertain state than ever, providing the perfect set-up for an intense and rousing conclusion to a series with a stunning premise and really subtle handling of difficult topics. I eagerly anticipate the final installment.
Action often takes a back seat to Jetta’s fears that her growing mastery of blood magic and her malheur, without treatment, will make her as monstrous as Le Trépas. Some readers may relate to aspects of Jetta’s bipolar disorder and appreciate mention of a ruler who has successfully managed his illness; others may be troubled by repeated references to madness and insanity. Chakrans have dark hair and eyes while pale Aquitans are blond and blue-eyed. Not as vivid or fast-paced as the first installment, but the cliffhanger finale may leave fans eager for more.