A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
Series: Kingdom on Fire #1
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on September 20th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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Henrietta can burst into flames.
Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she’s shocked when instead of being executed, she’s named the first female sorcerer in hundreds of years and invited to train as one of Her Majesty’s royal sorcerers.
Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is declared the prophesied 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 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, how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?
When Henrietta Howel has to use her punishment-by-death power to save her friend, she’s swept off to London to study under the tutor-ledge of Sorcerer Master Agrippa. He believes that she is the girl prophesied about, the female sorcerer who will help bring an end of the seven Ancients ravaging England. But is she really the Chosen one?
As Henrietta works on harnessing and controlling her fire powers with the 6 young men who are also in Sorcerer training, she learns more and more about the demon-riddled Victorian England she lives in. She and her best friend Rook are at tensions, Henrietta being swept into an upper-class world where sorcerers rule the roost, Rook stepping into a servants role in the Hyde Park residence. As well as trying to find a good balance between herself and her best friend, Henrietta has to come to terms with living with a horse of boys, especially the ever-flirty Julian Magnus. She meets Magicians who make her question whether she’s in the right place or not, Lords of estates who are not what they seem, and demons in her dreams.
When it comes down to battling the Ancients, will Henrietta be ready, or will her pull towards another magical class be the best of her? Is she really the Chosen One everyone hopes and believe she is? Dun dun dun.
“Knowledge is as powerful as fire. The brighter it burns, the more it devours.”
Okay so I really liked A Shadow Bright and Burning. There’s a lot of chatter on the internet – there always is – about how similar this book is to a vast range of other books – including, but not limited to, the likes of The Infernal Devices, Harry Potter, Red Queen – but when I was reading it the only similarity that caught my attention and made me think was that of their staves. They’re like wands, but in some ways more like a Shadowhunter’s stele. Which was totally fine! You’re typical Sorceror image is of an old guy with robes and a pointy magical stick, right? Right. So it only made sense that the sorcerers in A Shadow Bright and Burning would have something similar. And after all, there’s nothing new under the sun, amiright?
Similarities aside, the characters in this story were wonderful. I actually really liked Henrietta as a main character, and just wanted the best for her. Rook was a wonderful best-friend character, and with this own struggles he almost had a story line of his own. I suspect this will play out a lot more in the next book. The best-friend vibe was turning into love-interest nearer the end, though it was an obvious connection from the beginning. The other love interest was Magnus; the flirt, the teaser, the passionate kisser. And then, my friends, there was a third: Lord George Blackwell, the one who is hated at the beginning and stands there brooding the entire first half.
Despite Magnus’ advantages in an uncalled-for sort of way, he was my definite favourite from the three, but I suspect Blackwell is where the story is going. Rook, while a lovely best friend, seems to be headed down a dark journey and I don’t know how that’s going to fly later down the track, in terms of Henrietta and him.
“It’s easy to poke fun at the world and think yourself clever, but it’s much harder to stand silent and endure.”
The plot was your typical YA fantasy sort of plot: seemingly plan, normal girl with a power heads off to do some training because she’s special. There she meets a boy (or two…or three), she meets people who tell her things she didn’t know, there’s a internal struggle, an external battle, the Chosen One might not be the Chosen One ,,, but she’s special anyway and yay let’s save the day.
However! I really did enjoy it. I loved that it was based in Victorian England (which is one of the things I loved about the Infernal Devices, and where one of my only connections came from), I like how parts of England were being controlled by the Ancients, some were warded, some were under attack. It was a different England to what we would perhaps normally see.
There were obviously things that I didn’t like – there always is – such as Henrietta naming her stave Porridge – what the heck even is that!? I get that Cluess was trying to be light-hearted and funny when it came to Henrietta naming an important piece of her new life, but Porridge? Really!?
The second in this series, A Poison Dark and Drowning, comes out later this year, and I can’t wait to read it! I have some theories about a few things, but won’t tell you for fear of spoilers.
Anyway. Enough of that. If you’re after a great YA fantasy set in Victorian England with demons and magicians and fire and love and loss, then you have to pick up this book. I read it in one sitting, it was that amazing.
Have you read A Shadow Bright and Burning? What did you think?