A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess is a blend of Victorian fantasy and Lovecraftian horror with all my favorite parts of each along with a moving discussion of sexism and fantastic pacing. I was excited about this book after reading the blurb but I had no idea how amazing of a ride I was in for! I cannot recommend this book enough to fans of alternative history fantasy and fantasy with something a bit different.
Note: I received an advanced copy of A Shadow Bright and Burning from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.
A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess (Kingdom on Fire #1)
Published by Random House Children's on Sept. 20th, 2016
Genres: Dark Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, YA
Page Length: 416 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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Henrietta Howel can burst into flames.
Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she's shocked when instead of being executed, she's invited to train as one of Her Majesty's royal sorcerers.
Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is declared the chosen one, the girl who will defeat the Ancients, bloodthirsty demons terrorizing humanity. She also meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, handsome young men eager to test her power and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her.
But Henrietta Howel is not the chosen one.
As she plays a dangerous game of deception, she discovers that the sorcerers have their own secrets to protect. With battle looming, what does it mean to not be the one? And how much will she risk to save the city--and the one she loves?
Exhilarating and gripping, Jessica Cluess's spellbinding fantasy introduces Henrietta Howel, a powerful, unforgettable heroine, and an entertaining world filled with magic, monsters, and mayhem.
- Despite being a complete scaredy cat, I absolutely love Lovecraftian horror. Apparently as long as there are tentacles, I’m not scared? I had no idea going in that the scary monsters roaming the land would be so clearly Lovecraftian, so imagine my utter delight! These giant and terrifying creatures were just the right blend of disturbing and unique to keep me thoroughly engaged.
- The magic system in A Shadow Bright and Burning seems pretty straightforward at first since the sorcerers do everything based on the typical four elements of water, fire, air, and earth. However, it turns out that magic has been changing over history and there are branches of magic quite different than the rather modern form of sorcery! I am hopeful that we find out even more about this cool approach to magic in future books :D.
- This book does a great job with diversity in the exact way that I’d hope. It’s not billed as a book about diversity or focused on diversity, but that doesn’t stop the heroine from having dark skin or two of the male secondary characters clearly caring deeply for each other. The diversity is just there because it’s normal, not because it is the central focus.
- Another secondary character that I love other than the two I am hardcore shipping is a mentor that appears later on. He is hilarious and goofy and clever and completely happy doing things his way and teaching his new pupil to be herself and approach magic how it works for her. Definitely my favorite character and made me laugh out loud regularly.
- The pacing of this story is done shockingly well without making me feel like there was too much jumping around in the timeline. As soon as one interesting interaction was resolved, the text elegantly shifted a few hours or days depending on what the story needed and without losing me in the process. Further, the plot twists upon plot twists had me dying to know what was really going on and really angry that I was pulled away to a company party when I had ONLY 30 PAGES LEFT!!!! Someone needs to explain priorities to my husband for me!
- I was really nervous throughout about how many different people had crushes on other people in various stages of unrequited-ness. No love triangle actually developed and the romantic interactions weren’t really the focus, but there is definitely potential for angst to develop later on in the series. I’m hopeful though!
A Shadow Bright and Burning is possibly my favorite YA fantasy of the year. Certainly my favorite of the first half of the year (when I read it). It combines everything I love into one giant ball of awesomeness. So if you love the things I love, do not miss this book.
Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
© 2016, Anya. All rights reserved.