Author: Jessica Cluess
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover, 416 pages
Publishing Information: September 20th 2016 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Source: ARC for Review
Henrietta can burst into flames.
Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she’s shocked when instead of being executed, she’s named the first female sorcerer in hundreds of years and invited to train as one of Her Majesty’s royal sorcerers.
Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is declared the prophesied 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 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, how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?
I picked up A Shadow Bright and Burning not really knowing what to expect other than a story about a female sorcerer. This book ended up being just what I was in the mood for — it’s a light and fun fantasy with very amusing characters.
When we are first introduced to our main character, Henrietta Howel, she is a teacher in an English school for girls. However, when she is forced to save her best friend from an attack, she reveals that she has the ability to burst into flames. Soon, Henrietta is declared to be the first female sorcerer in hundreds of years and she also learns that it has been prophesied that she will save the world. As Henrietta trains with her mentor, Agrippa, to prepare for a test that can change her entire life, she learns that perhaps she is not the girl in the prophecy. The more that she learns about herself, the more that she finds she is entangled in a web of lies and secrets.
Henrietta is a stubborn young woman who is willing to do all that it takes to prove that she is, indeed, “the chosen one.” Henrietta is incredibly determined and will not allow anyone to tell her her that she cannot be a sorcerer because she is a woman. I liked Henrietta but I would say that felt more connected with the side characters. This book has an amazing cast of side characters. You have Magnus, who is kind of the joker sorcerer, Blackwood who is the Mr.Darcy character, Hargrove who is a wacky magician, and Rook who is Henrietta’s best friend. I liked seeing how these different characters developed throughout the story and I especially loved Magnus and Hargrove’s banter with Henrietta.
One of the most fascinating parts of the book was the Victorian setting. A Shadow Bright and Burning is set in a version of London that is protected by wards. The wards help prevent the Ancients (awful monsters that emerged as a result of magic gone wrong) from attacking the city. As a woman in London, Henrietta must make sure to protect her reputation (no going out in random alleys with men) and she has to break down a lot of stereotypes about women. I will also say that one really neat thing about the book is that it pulls on strands of real history — Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary are referenced and to become a sorcerer, Henrietta must past a test in front Queen Victoria.
If you read a ton a fantasy, you’ll find parts of the book predictable but still quite fun. This book reminded me a bit of Harry Potter, My Lady Jane, and The Dark Days Club. It definitely has an interesting combination of magical elements. You learn in the book that sorcerers are the elite race of magic-holders but witches, magicians, and fae-people exist as well. There is quite a bit of racism and lots of tension among the various races. I really hope we get more information about the world in later books because it’s incredibly interesting.
Overall, A Shadow Bright and Burning is a solid start to a new series. If you’re looking for a fun fantasy, with a lighthearted romance, and great cast of characters, I think you would enjoy this one. I would especially recommend this book if you’re new to the fantasy genre and are looking for more of a “gateway” fantasy book.