Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

July 9, 2016 Books, Reading, Reviews 0 ★★★★½

Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica CluessA Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
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.
Series: Kingdom on Fire #1
Published by Random House on September 20th 2016
Genres: Historical Fantasy, Speculative Fiction, Teen Fantasy, Teen/YA Fiction
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
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I received this book for free from The Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Magic? Check. Victorian setting? Check. Complex female protagonist? Check. Eldritch monsters bent on destroying the United Kingdom? Check. This book is basically everything I wanted in a novel but didn’t realize until I’d started reading.

The story itself doesn’t tread a lot of new ground; the plot is a familiar one, with a hero who’s possibly a chosen one who must learn to use her magical powers and gain acceptance in a world that’s not her own. What I love about it, though, is that even though it’s a familiar (and to be honest, comforting) story path, it kept making turns that I wasn’t expecting. Henrietta questions her own origins and whether or not she believes she’s been chosen, but she also desperately wants to do what’s right even at the expense of her own safety. She’s torn between her desire to learn and her fear of failure, basically an excellent portrayal of the impostor syndrome so many young women go through. There are hints of a love triangle (or possibly quadrangle, depending on how you read into it) but it never really bloomed into the kind of love triangle that turns me off of a lot of YA/teen fantasy novels. Henrietta never loses her own agency, and the mooning is kept to a bare minimum

Cluess does a wonderful job twisting Victorian England into a land at war with horrific creatures, and I really appreciated being able to see the vast difference between the comfortable, protected world of the sorcerer’s inner London and the colder, dangerous world outside the safety of the ward. The Seven Ancients, the creatures waging war on England, are delightfully weird and creepy, especially R’hlem, their leader.

A Shadow Bright and Burning is a fantastic and fun read, full of magic and great characters, and I very much enjoyed it. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.