A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on September 20, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fiction, Historical, Fantasy
Pages: 416 Format: ARC Source: BEA
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?
I acquired this ARC from the publisher at Book Expo America. This does not impact my thoughts and opinions in any way.
With monstrous beasts that prowl and terrorize England, powerful sorcerers that struggle to keep the threats at bay, and a young girl just starting to hone her powers, Jessica Cluess’ A Shadow Bright and Burning is full of harsh truths, painful realities, and yet unerring hope. Henrietta Howel’s journey is filled with discovery and emotion and I couldn’t help but enjoy this tale.
Let’s start off with one of my favorite parts which is the magic system. First off there are three types of practitioners: sorcerers, magicians, and witches. Whether or not they are all equal when it comes to physical power is up for debate but there is definitely heavy prejudices against magicians and witches for mistakes made by a few. Sorcerers have all the political sway as well. The true difference between them though is how they call upon and wield their power.
Another fascinating point in this story was the Ancients plaguing cities and countries alike. R’helm, Korozoth, On-Tez, Callax, Zem, Korozoth, Nemneris, and Molochoron had such varied powers and descriptions making for some quite unique antagonists. All were brought into this world by mistake and now Victorian England is paying the price. I loved the mix of magic and petticoats, mystery and propriety. They were such a creative threat from the author and the juxtaposition with a historical setting was perfect.
Now onto Henrietta and her band of merry men so to speak. The MC is fiery in both persona and power but she also just wants to belong. The only friend she’s ever had, Rook, is an outcast in society but she refuses to leave him behind. The apprenticed sorcerers, Magnus and Blackwood specifically, were such contrasts but always looked out for Henrietta. I did enjoy all of them but the characterization was just missing that spark and I also worry for the state of romantic affairs going forward.
Overall I truly enjoyed A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess. It’s a wonderful debut with just the right amount of action, emotion, and romantic notions mixed in. While I wanted more from the characters, the setting and magic system actually made up for it. I definitely recommend this, especially for those who love history and fantasy combined and I’ll be excited to see what comes next in the Kingdom on Fire series!
So are you looking forward to A Shadow Bright and Burning? How do you feel about the Chosen One trope? Are you intrigued by the magic system? Let me know all your thoughts in the comments below!