A Shadow Bright and Burning (Kingdom on Fire #1)
Author: Jessica Cluess
Genre: YA Fantasy
Release Date: September 20, 2016
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
I am Henrietta Howel.
The first female sorcerer in hundreds of years.
The prophesied one.
Or am I?
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 a powerful, unforgettably heroine, and a world filled with magic, romance, and betrayal. Hand to fans of Libba Bray, Sarah J. Maas, and Cassandra Clare.
A Shadow Bright and Burning is the explosive first book in a new young adult fantasy series that will have readers devouring each page and demanding more. I honestly haven't been this excited about a book in quite awhile, so I'll try not to fangirl too much. Where to even start? After reading the description, I liked the premise and thought it sounded interesting, but I wasn't sure how much I would actually like it. Well, I didn't like it - I LOVED it. Every single aspect of the book is nothing short of amazing and it all comes together seamlessly to create one of the best books I've ever read. I am so happy that this is just the first book in a new series, because I think I would die a little bit if it were just a standalone. I fell in love with all of the characters, the world they live in, and the war they're trying to win.
The characters were all well rounded and had their own unique personalities and traits - especially our leading lady, Henrietta. She was a really wonderful main character and I loved getting to know her throughout the story. Henrietta has some fantastic qualities - she's smart, determined, down to earth, opinionated, and stands up for what she believes in. She has her faults though - just like the rest of us. There was something about her during the first half of the book that just rubbed me the wrong way, although I can't put my finger on exactly what is was. She was very humble and uncomfortable in her new life in warded London, but sometimes her thoughts and behaviors felt fake or something. It's hard to explain, but it bugged me enough to mention it here. She really comes into her own throughout the story, and I loved watching her grow as a person. There's a bit of romance wound into the story, but it made the book more enjoyable and didn't detract from the main plot. Let's just say that I don't really have "book boyfriends" or whatever you'd like to call them, but my heart melted for Rook in so many ways. He's sweet, loyal, and would die for Henrietta.
The world building was nothing short of epic. This alternate history of Victorian London was so richly detailed that I had no problem visualizing it. Even the otherworldly Ancients and their creepy Familiars were easy to conjure up in my mind. The author used lots of vivid imagery and detailed descriptions to bring Henrietta's world to life right from the very beginning. I easily slipped into her world from the first page on, and I didn't come back out until I had finished the book - which actually ended up being only a few hours total. Another aspect I adored was the use of the first person point of view. I'm a huge advocate for this writing style, as I believe it allows the reader a much more intimate connection with the narrator. The story is told from Henrietta's perspective, and we get to really know her during the course of the book. We're privy to her innermost thoughts, fears, hopes, dreams, memories, and so much more. By the end of the book, it felt as though I had experienced everything right alongside Henrietta.
There are so many other things I loved and could ramble on for a long time, but it wouldn't be doing any justice to the novel. This is one of those magnificent books that you can't properly review because you know anything and everything you say won't come close to explaining how you feel and why. All I can keep saying is that I absolutely loved this book and I'm already dying to read the next one, to see where the author will take the story next. I know I'll be re-reading this book more than once while I eagerly await the release of the next installment. I can't recommend this novel highly enough to fans of the genre, as well as readers who enjoy paranormal and historical fiction. Guys, you need to read this book. NOW. I promise you won't be disappointed!
*A HUGE thank you to the wonderful people at Random House Children's Books for sending me a copy of the book for review!*