I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
Series: Kingdom on Fire #1
Published by Random House BFYR on September 20, 2016
Genres: High Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Paranormal
I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?
Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she is brought to London to train with Her Majesty's sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she's the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city--and the one she loves?
I was so excited to receive the ARC of A Shadow Bright and Burning in the mail. I’d heard such good things and the cover was beautiful and the plot sounded so unique.
I wasn’t disappointed. I really liked it. So let’s talk about it, shall we?
First, I loved the main character, Henrietta Howel. She had this strong, fiery (lol) personality. (Sidenote: Why is “fiery” spelled differently than “fire”??? Okay, anyway). I just really liked her. I felt she was really believable and honest. She kind of has it rough. She starts out as kind of a governess at this strict school, and there are definitely some Jane Eyre vibes. There, she hides the fact that she’s a witch, that she can create and control fire that comes out of her when she’s upset. Because female witches are outlawed and executed—always. So when a sorcerer comes after hearing about a lot of fires around the school, she’s terrified. But he takes her under his wing. And she learns that she’s not in fact a witch.
That’s a good segway (before I get back to Henrietta as a character)—the magical hierarchy was really unique, and I loved it. There are basically three “types” of magic people: sorcerers, magicians, and witches. In that order. They used to work together and not have much distinction, but now they’re very separate. Set up very much like the class system, which I loved because that’s how Victorian England is. Very structured, very segregated. And it was interesting to see how that magical class distinction set itself up in this novel.
Also because I love Victorian England. A lot a lot. I’m an English major, and those have been my favorite books and time period to study, hands down. It’s like Sherlock Holmes and Charles Dickens and Jane Eyre and Jane Austen (Kind of. She was in Romantic time period, but wrote more like a Victorian). All the fun things. And this book fit in perfectly with this time period with the added bonus of magic.
And monsters. I haven’t talked about them yet. There are seven Ancients (basically evil magic creatures) that haunt and terrorize England. And it’s up to these sorcerers to fight them off. Henrietta goes to train with the sorcerers in London to get commended by Queen Victoria herself so she can help fight. And we get to see a lot of these monsters. The focus was mostly on one, but we’re bound to see more of the others in the sequels. They were creepy and descriptive and like nothing I’ve ever read before. Just creepy monsters.
Okay, back to Henrietta (I’m sorry this review is all over the place). Without spoilers, I want to talk about how I think she was placed in a really interesting position. From the beginning, she’s deemed as this “Chosen One” figure, only to realize that she might not be that one. And she has this internal struggle of what to do about it. Or whether to do anything about it at all. It was a refreshing take on the overdone “You are the Chosen One” trope that gets thrown around YA.
Okay, last thing. I love the relationships she develops with people in this novel. I’m thinking of two specifically, but there are a lot of great friendships in this story. Friendships that, maybe perhaps, might be more but is hard to tell because there’s also a lot of magical demons fighting them every two seconds.
I loved this book. Henrietta was unique and honest and true. She developed great friendships, with some ups and downs, of course. She questioned herself and she questioned those around her. She also fought for herself and for those around her. She stood up for herself as a woman in a world where women usually just stay sitting. All that and magic. So go read this book.