A Shadow Bright and Burning
By: Jessica Cluess
Release Date: September 20th 2016
Publisher: Random House
Format: Print ARC
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 fell in love at first sight with this book’s cover and the title. When I heard this was a fantasy book I knew it was for me. What I didn’t expect was the Jane Austen parallels throughout the novel as well as how fun a book this was.
I expected this to be more of a run-of-the mill fantasy with magic, a fantastical land etc. Ok, yes, had I read the summary I’d have seen that it takes place in LONDON and not a completely made up world. I loved that the setting ended up being Victorian London with dashes of magic and some really evil bad guys lurking around.
I felt this novel was fast paced and kept my interest from start to finish. I found the characters to be likeable and Henrietta was a wonderful main character to follow and learn the world with. She also so happens to be a rarity in that she is the lone female capable of magic. Once her abilities are recognized she’s whisked off to a school for magic and the story really gets going.
Henrietta refuses to go to the magical school unless her childhood friend, Rook, was allowed to go with them. These two characters have a history with one another and Rook’s character was very interesting. He had always been looked down upon and really isolated because of an event that happened when he was a child. I was mesmerized with the details surrounding him and this event.
Who doesn’t love the setting to have a magical school? Her Majesty’s Sorcerers are a small group and, of course, since Henrietta was the only female student she ran into trouble with not being accepted and feeling she’s not capable. I enjoyed reading about her own struggles with coming to terms with her power and the idea that she could be prophesied. Can you imagine the stress and pressure if you were prophesized to save everyone and yet you didn’t really feel you were the right person for the role?
Through Henrietta we meet the other sorcerers and each vary from one another and treat her differently. I wasn’t sure who she should trust or not though I had my suspicions fairly early on. One character in particular really mirrors Austen’s Darcy. I think you’ll know him easily and honestly I wish that the author would have made him a bit more varied from that classical character. I felt that because he so closely resembled Darcy I had trouble taking him for his own character. Regardless, even though I got strong Darcy vibes (or maybe because of it) I couldn’t help but love him.
You would think that one gal being surrounded by all these sorcerers and her male best friend from home there would be a lot of romance in this book but there wasn’t. There are a few hints here and there but really I was surprised by how little presented itself. I’m not entirely sure where things will go in the next book but I’m excited to see (and I have someone I’m rooting for her to end up with).
You can’t have a fantasy without the bad guys and the Ancients were really original and packed a punch. I truly didn’t know what to expect of them or their impact so this upped the tension and my worry for the characters.
I really enjoyed A Shadow Bright and Burning. I felt it was a strong beginning to a new series and I’m really excited to see where things go. This novel successfully played on some typical fantasy tropes but it felt fun and original.