Daughter of the Burning City – AKA My Excitement

Hi! Hello! Salutations!

I hope all of you U.S. people had a good (and safe) holiday this week. I didn’t really celebrate beyond glancing out the window at the fireworks. So much work, so little time.

BUT I have a LOT of energy right now. Presumably it’s from the extreme amounts of caffeine I’ve consumed in the past week (editing life, gotta love it). However it is ALSO from how excited I am for Amanda Foody’s debut novel Daughter of the Burning City (which comes out on July 25th)(just an FYI).

Here’s a little bit about the book, from Goodreads:

A darkly irresistible new fantasy set in the infamous Gomorrah Festival, a traveling carnival of debauchery that caters to the strangest of dreams and desires.

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

Okay, but how awesome does that sound?

Anyway, in honor of this release, I thought I’d share some of my reasons that I’m excited for this book. Or a, “here’s why you should read DOTBC” post, if you will.

But (special announcement) I am not the only person here to gush about the book today. The wonderful, amazing, and extraordinarily talented Amanda Foody herself has been so kind as to agree to be a part of this post. (everyone be sure to tell her how awesome she is so I look super good and she wants to be my friend)(I’m kidding of course)(except she is awesome. Her twitter is pretty cool).

So, without further ado, here are our reasons.

Amanda’s Five reasons to read Daughter of the Burning City:

1. The spin on the carnival setting. I absolutely adore the Gomorrah Festival, the carnival where Daughter takes place. Not only does it have all your typical carnival attractions, from freak shows to menageries to excellent food, but it’s huge, as big as a city, and it’s known for all things debauchery. Also called the Festival of Burning Desires, you could find just about anything at the Festival…no matter how sinful, no matter how seedy. You just might stumble across a few of these attractions in the book.

2. The heroine. As a lover of YA fantasy, I read a lot about heroines who are totally badass—which I adore. But as a teenager, I’d grown a touch tired with girls who wield bow and arrows and don’t realize they’re pretty until that ball scene halfway through the book. We all love our tropes—that’s why they’re popular! But I set out to write a different sort of character. Sorina is a performer, not a warrior. She’s selfish, haughty, and at times, immature for her age. She longs to be beautiful in a way that, due to her unique facial disfiguration, she never will be, and a lot of her arc is coming to terms with her own acceptance and empowerment. Writing her, she felt like a real person, not a character in a tale, and that really helped pull me into the tragedy of the murder mystery, of a girl who felt so “freak-ish” that she used her powers to create her own family…only for them to be murdered.

So if you’re on the hunt for a girl who rocks her lipstick, who cries, whose bravery is more than rushing into battle, I’d definitely recommend Sorina. I threw my heart into her.
3. The LGBTQIA+ elements. A lot of the characters in Daughter represent the LGBTQIA community. Most notably, the love interest is on the ace spectrum, which plays a large factor into his character and their relationship. Sorina, the protagonist, is bisexual. Because empowerment and beauty and romance are all sort of intertwined at their age, their sexualities and preferences come into play a lot over the course of the story, since they’re both navigating something new, something uncomfortable at times, and something they never thought they’d have. I might not have written any super overtly sexual scenes (I can always save those for my next book), but their relationship, for me, always felt honest, real, and endearing. I like to think the reader will still be smiling and avidly turning pages even with some frank discussions about consent, comfort, and pleasure. 😉

4. Twists. There are some twists throughout the novel. Some you might be able to guess—one I wrote specifically to be guessed. Another one, as far as I’ve been told, no reader has yet to guess. Maybe you’ll be the first?

5. It’s a stand-alone. Ok—I’m a huge fan of fantasy series. I get hooked on characters and worlds and never want to leave them. But writing Daughter has really taught me the beauty of a single work. As a writer, I get to do something different with my ending; I’m trying to leave an impression rather than drop a cliff-hanger. As a reader, I love how a stand-alone manages to tell one, intimate story without needing to develop into a sweeping, multi-arc narrative. Stories like UPROOTED, THE SCORPIO RACES, THE NIGHT CIRCUS, and THE SECRET HISTORY all got me loving the art of the stand-alone. Plus, it’s good for our future TBR piles! (My next book is one of those sweeping fantasy series, and I’m currently plotting and writing book 2, so this perk seems extra perky to me at the moment.)

Kailey’s five reasons you should read DOTBC:

1. LGBTQIA+ Rep. Okay, so this was already brought up. But I’m really excited for it. As you might remember from my semi-recent post, I’ve been on the search for books with queer rep that isn’t necessarily gay or lesbian. I like seeing diversity in the books I read. DOTBC? Bisexual MC. AKA something I’ve been hunting for a lot lately. I’m kinda (ahem: extremely) excited for Sorina.

2. Different beauty. Again, already mentioned (sort of) above. Sorina has facial disfiguration that causes difficulties in her life. She has no eyes. She’s never going to be traditionally beautiful. I think it’s very important for girls reading YA to know that not every single girl is going to be the drop-dead gorgeous model often described as the heroine. The genre is moving towards more realistic depictions, but it’s still got a long way to go. Sorina is a good step in the right direction.

3. The world. If you’ve read more than this post, you know my love of YA fantasy. I’ve read more than my fair share of this genre, but I can’t think of a single one that takes place in a carnival. It’ll be worth the read just to see another new world and another new setting.

4. The novel aesthetics. Okay so this isn’t technically a reason but I’m making it one. Here are a few examples.

Convinced yet?

5. It’s a debut. Supporting an author this early in their career is not only great for them, but it’s good for you too. You’re helping them gain an audience every time you recommend their book. You’re showing them that someone out there is reading their work, reading something they’ve worked a long, long time on. But not only that, you’re getting the chance to watch them grow as a writer. When you find an author from their debut, and can read their subsequent books, you get to watch as their works explode into creations you could never have imagined getting better, but somehow they do. They always do. Amanda’s next novel comes out in April of 2018. And while Daughter is set in an entirely separate world from it, you’ll still get to see how much her writing has improved since then. And an improvement from Already Seriously Talented™ is going to be something we all want to read.

Okay, so those are our reasons. Hopefully we’ve convinced you. If we haven’t, sad face. If we have, here is where you can purchase the novel on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And, if you’re as awesome as I know you all are, you can follow Amanda on twitter (feel free to follow me as well)(we can chat about books and things).

Hope you guys are having a good night. I’m off to get some more editing done for Camp NaNo. It’s never-ending, I swear. Fingers crossed that it’ll be finished come Pitch Wars.

Oh, speaking of Pitch Wars, here is a link for information on it. And here is my post about it from last year. It probably isn’t too much help (it was my first year participating and I mixed up some of the details) but I’ll make a new post once the blog hop goes live later this month.

Must edit. Wish me luck.

Kailey

Camp NaNoWriMo & Editing

Hello people. It’s been a while.

Tomorrow begins Camp NaNoWriMo, an entire month of writing, editing, or working on a project in general. In my case, it’s 31 days of editing a project in preparation for Pitch Wars (new post on that later this month). I thought that since I’d be doing so much editing this month, I’d do a post about it.

Please note: my editing process is entirely my own. This is not my way of telling you how to edit. I just wanted to share what I go through when I sit down to work.

So, here’s how I usually edit a project.

  1. Re-read. I always go back through and re-read everything I’ve written. This is to get a feel for the story in general. Generally it’s been a while since I’ve seen the beginning of a story. This step helps me to slip back into my initial mindset, and take a quick look at what needs to be fixed most there.
  2. Make notes. Once I’ve finished going back through the story, I make notes on it. I use Word comments and track changes for this step. It allows me to see my thoughts as I go through the work. It also helps me, as I have these notes right there and don’t have to check other pages or flip between windows.
  3. Actually edit. Round one of going through and making changes begins here. The amount of changes I make depends on how much work I feel each section needs. This last project I only made light changes in the first round. Partly that has to do with the next step.
  4. Send it out to critique partners. Currently I have two CPs, and they’re both amazing. They aren’t afraid to tell me what’s wrong with my work, but they know how to keep me going as well. It’s a balance that they’ve perfected after dealing with me. I know I said this isn’t telling you how to edit (and that’s still true) but I would highly recommend getting yourself a good CP. It’s a decision you won’t regret.
  5. Repeat steps 3 & 4. It will depend on how much editing a work needs how many times I send it back out. I try not to bother my CPs all the time, because in the end it’s my work. And I’m the one who needs to make the decisions and do the writing. But having their advice at every stage is a wonderful thing that I’m very grateful for.
  6. Final read through. This is just to double-check that everything is ready. At this point all of the editing is basically done, but it never hurts to have one last look before sending it out for querying. Last minute (usually minor) changes can be made here, but that’s not what this step is for.

That’s pretty much my entire editing process. I haven’t gottent through the full range of steps for my current project. I’m in step 4 at the moment. Since I’m preparing this project for Pitch Wars, I’ll have to write a query letter at some point. Right now I’m just focused on getting this right. This process works for me, and I hope that your process works for you.

I’m about to head out to see a friend and convince her to submit to Pitch Wars (which I will hopefully be doing for all of you later this month). Have a good weekend!

Kailey

Change of Plans

Remember a few months ago when I was like “I want to read more diverse books. I’ll get you guys a list”? Yeah, about that . . .

I know originally I said I’d be providing a list of books with neurodivergent main characters. I still am (sort of), but I’ve decided to add in a few more things to keep it interesting. So I’m actually going to have MULTIPLE LISTS!! (cue the confetti)

First up we’ve got our list of neurodivergent MCs:

Next I thought I’d provide you with a few books with some lovely trans characters:

  • Transformed: San Francisco by Suzanne Falter & Jack Harvey (amazon) (goodreads)

Thirdly we have our beautiful aces:

And finally allow me to present you with a list of books that have gorgeous bisexuals:

Thanks so much to my friend Caitlin for helping me compile these lists! You should all go talk to her. She’s cool I promise.

Yeah, okay, I know. This list is pretty pathetic. Do you want to know why? Because if I sat here and typed up every book I found, none of us would be going anywhere for a long, long while.

Here’s the deal: I found a lot of information. When I started researching, I was pretty overwhelmed. These books are definitely out there you guys. You just have to look for them.

I was so excited to share these titles with you. I actually started writing this post almost two months ago. At the time I had a more optimistic idea about it. And then I stopped and thought for a minute. There was no way I could read all of these books before posting this. It would take so much time, and I did want to get this list here for you. And the idea of posting a list of books I (or in this case someone I trust the opinion of) haven’t read? To me that is a terrible idea. They could be offensive or badly written or not representative in a good way. So, I went with listing a few books that Caitlin has read (along with a couple I have) because I trust her opinion on this and know she would never lead you guys astray.

But don’t think I’m just going to leave you guys at that. Nope, I found exactly what I needed in a Twitter thread. So, without any more babbling from yours truly, here is a list of trans #ownvoices authors, as recommended by Ana Mardoll on Twitter.

Here is a link to the neurodivergent #ownvoices tag on Twitter.

Here is a link to the bisexual #ownvoices tag on Twitter.

Here is a link to the asexual #ownvoices tag on Twitter.

I’m also going to plug Tristina Wright here because I’m so excited for her book 27 Hours it’s crazy. It’s got plenty of representation too (see you thought it didn’t fit in this post but it does)(I sometimes get stuff right).

If you guys want to do more research on this, I recommend just typing that into your searchbar to start. Yeah, you’re probably going to run into problems sooner rather than later, but it’s a place to start. And I would like to really, really stress the importance of supporting #ownvoices creators. Seriously. This is so important. I can’t even begin to explain how much it matters that you support your #ownvoices creators.

(Have you noticed I keep using the hashtag? Have you taken the hint and plugged it into your favorite social media yet? You should. Just saying.)

I know this isn’t what I promised. To tell you the truth, I don’t know what I thought this post would be. But I hope you explore the titles here and find some of your own that you love.

Well, I have editing to get back to. Bye!

Kailey

 

Island Of Exiles

HI WORLD HOW ARE YOU DOING?

Did you guys appreciate my excitement and all caps? You really should have. Excitement is a beautiful thing.

So it’s currently 10:57 as I type this I am on spring break and life is good but here’s the thing: I DON’T CARE BECAUSE I FINISHED ISLAND OF EXILES AND IT WAS BLOODY BRILLIANT! (I hope that’s a thing people say)(I’m sorry I’m such a dork).

I’m going to get right into this because I have so much to say about this book. It was truly fantastic.

SO. Island Of Exiles.

First off, let me just say that Erica Cameron is one talented writer. I had the opportunity to read the first few chapters on Wattpad before I could get my hands on the book itself. This was good, as it kept me happy until I was actually able to get to a bookstore (thanks mom).

WOW. Writing = phenomenal. Plot = fantastic. Premise = brand new.

Basically, I knew I needed to get my hands on this book. Now that I have, and have attacked it with the appropriate amount of gusto (aka I read it in one sitting last weekend and only came up for air to hang with my dad for an hour because it was his birthday) I am SO ready to give you my review.

Obviously I hated it. Oh, wait, I spelled “loved” wrong. (I know, my jokes are bad. You’re still here though aren’t you?)

Getting down to the review portion of this post now. For real this time.

In my Windwitch review I mentioned how I loved that romantic love was not the focus. Yeah, Island is much the same way. Romance has a presence, but it is small and not nearly as important as the other relationships. Family carries a lot of weight for Khya and I loved seeing that in a genre that tends to dismiss familial reltionships at times. Khya’s reltionship with her brother Yorri was at the core of the novel and it shaped the story around it beautifullly.

While love might not be the most important thing, I saw a little bit of it here and there. Tessen, who is my new favorite character in the entire world, is the male love interest for Khya, but that doesn’t mean he’s got her running after him. Truly the opposite. The dynamic between these two is intense and left me wanting more more MORE of them on the page. But, even then, it is not romance that holds them together. It’s a complicated, electric dynamic that filled in the peripheral and central stories.

The landscape was also a character in itself. It had a very Australia feel, from what I know of the continent. I couldn’t picture this story set anywhere else, otherwise it would have been a very different plot altogether.

One more thing that fits into the world in a different, but just as important, way: LGBTQIA+ representation is spilling off the page. In Island, bisexuality is the norm and asexuality is accepted without blinking an eye. There are three genders, male, female and ebet. I don’t want to mess up an explanation about ebets so I’ll leave the explaining to Erica Cameron. But, simply put, ebets are intersex.

See what I mean about representation? And, trust me, it is necessary to the overall story. Cameron weaved this into her world-building seamlessly and made it essential to her story.

The way this book was written hooked me in. I love when language is put to use in a detailed and deliberate way. Overall this read quickly and I had trouble putting it down to do my actual, class-required reading.(plot twist: I didn’t. I finished the book first, then did my work. Don’t tell my profs guys). 110% recommend.

Sorry for getting this review up so late. It seems like a theme with my posts lately, sadly. I’m working on it.

Okay, I’m off to enjoy my spring break with-surprise-a book! Bye!!

Kailey

Windwitch

Salutations, world of internet people. How are all of you beings today?

My strange self is glad to be posting this, finally. Wait, you don’t know what this is? Didn’t I say it while I was being weird? No? Oh, well it’s

MY WINDWITCH BOOK REVIEW

*throws confetti*

So, you’d think for being so excited about this book, I would have read it in one, two days max. NOPE. I only just finished it (literally thirty seconds before I started writing this) and I’ve had it for about a month. Now, I understand that’s pretty normal (especially for a busy person) but I dislike this.

One thing that sucks about being a crazy busy college student is that one does not have as much as free time as they’d like. Welcome to real life, I know. However, this semester has been busier than most for me. It has seriously cut into my reading time. Which sucks, because that is my de-stress time. And I have really needed some de-stress time these past couple of months.

Sigh. Alright, pity party/tangent over. The reason I mentioned it at all was because I felt bad for not having this review up sooner. I always feel bad when I go silent on here, even if only a few people actually read these posts. So, I’m sorry for not having time for this sooner.

Now then, onto the book review.

First let me just say this: Windwitch did not disappoint.

Holy hell I am so happy. I am so in love with this book.

So when I first talked about how excited I was for this book I mentioned how much work the author put into it. After reading it I can confirm: she poured her soul into this novel you guys. I felt the blood, sweat, and tears in every word. 

Let’s get into a few details (no spoilers though)(I won’t ruin this for anyone who wants to read it)(and you all should DEFINITELY read it).

First of all, we got to hear from Vivia’s POV, which originally I was concerned with. Don’t get me wrong, I was crazy excited to hear from her. I think my original reaction was something like “yay we get to hear from the evil one!” I cannot confirm or deny if Vivia is evil or not, but I can say my original skepticism of how she would fit into the story was shattered about two sentences into her first chapter. I flat out LOVED having Vivia’s POV thrown into the mix. It helped fill out the story and give the readers a new perspective.

Second: Merik, my love, my precious windwitch, your story was beautifully executed. It wasn’t what I thought it would be. But it was everything I could have hoped for and more. I have nothing more to say than this. 

Third thing: love stories are not the focus. Hell yes love stories are present! And I know love was not the focus in Truthwitch either. I like this. I am thrilled by this. I am all for a good love story, but sometimes it feels . . . overdone. There is love present in this novel, but it’s not the same romance story we’ve all seen a million times. Love does not always have to be passion and romance. Sometimes it’s best friends fighting for one another across continents. Sometimes it’s a spoiler and I can’t share it with you guys but read the book and find out.

But that brings me to point number four: there are some killer potential love interests in here. I can’t decide which couple/potential couple I ship the most. Ugh. So many options. So much cuteness.

Some quick and random things I loved: the writing, the world, the writing,the characters, the writing, the meticulous attention to detail throughout the entire book, the lovely and emotionally stacked writing . . . have I mentioned I love her writing? Susan Dennard is fantastic.

Okay I hope this was helpful. I know it was basically me screaming BUY THIS BOOK but it is worth it. Read the book. Then come talk to me about it so we can freak out together.

Okay, must sleep. *throws more confetti* Byeeeeeeeeee!

Kailey

Mental Illness Visibility in the Creative Arts

Hello. It’s been a while. I hope everyone has been fighting the horrors the world has been throwing at us and reading a good book or two. I know I have.

Update on my life (I’m going to pretend you all care for a few minutes). I am neck deep (fun expression, good band as well) in Windwitch and I am so upset I haven’t had the time to devour it yet like I wanted to. Rest assured it will get done. As soon as it does I’ll have a review up for you all.

I have not been writing nearly as much as I’d hoped. At least, I haven’t been writing for anything other than school. I wrote a speech the other day that had to be fictionalized. That was an adventure. Let me say, I do not think I have a future in speech writing. I think I’ll stick with fiction.

Also, I saw Twenty One Pilots in Chicago last weekend. (I know what you’re thinking: “What purpose does this have on a book blog Kailey? Why do you always go off on tangents Kailey?” I promise this has to do with my topic today. And I go on tangents because I have a lot to say that isn’t always relevant but I enjoy sharing anyway). On this subject let me just say something about that band: they put on a show. I’ve been telling everyone I know how it’s the best live show I’ve ever seen. I’m pretty sure everyone is really sick of hearing about it (minus my friend who brought me with her)(she’s a massive fan and this band means so much to her)(I’m trying to get her to meet them but it’s not going too well)(story for another time though). 

One of the reasons I say this was such an amazing show was because of the energy in the room. I have been to a lot of shows. I’ve seen a lot of crowds: good, terrible, and everything in between.

I have never seen anything like this. 

There is a moment when Tyler Joseph is singing “we’re broken people” and the crowd is singing along with him. The ability for thousands and thousands of people to take up this chant, not as an admittance of guilt but as an empowering truth, it blew me away. It really made sense to me then, why everyone loves this band so much. Yes, they make good music. Yes, they are phenomenal performers. But the reason they speak to so many people is because they have paved the way for everyone to admit that it’s okay not to be okay. They have done what people loathe to do and talked about mental illness, brought it into the world in a way that shows the reality, not the romanticization, of it.

This is something that I feel like needs to be done more. Yes, there are people out there who are open about their struggles. More and more people open up every day. In the world of creativity, I would argue doing this is more important than ever.

There is a long history of people in the creative arts struggling with a mental illness of some sort. Addiction, depression, and alcoholism are just three of the most commonly associated diseases that come to mind when people are talking about artists or writers. But the problem is, no one talks about this until after the fact. It’s the same with ordinary people. So many people cannot or will not talk about their struggles because there is still such a stigma surrounding mental illness. No one, save for a brave few, is willing to take on the judgment that comes with opening up about their problems.

I don’t think I need to tell you all how much I hate this. It makes me very, very, very, a thousand times very mad. However, I know you guys don’t read these to hear me rant. (Side note: I’m not sure why you read these posts but thank you if you do.)

Obviously this issue means a lot to me. Like the two men in that band, I want to help people. I want to reach out and show people that not everyone is okay, and that’s alright. Some people’s brains are just different and that isn’t their faults.

My very first manuscript is about a girl struggling with demons. It’s been a project four years in the making and probably another four at least before it’s  going to see the light of day, if it ever does. But I will not stop writing about this issue because it is one that needs to be addressed.

Off the top of my head I can only name a handful of books that have characters or struggles like the ones I’m talking about. This is potentially due to my lack of exposure to such books (as much as I’d like to I cannot read every book out there). I would argue though that it’s also due to the lack of people writing about these problems. I see more and more upcoming books that have characters like mine and who suffer from similar problems as so many in reality do. I cannot wait to read them. But there needs to be more. 

Like the men in Twenty One Pilots we need to talk about this. We need to show the world that this is what we look like, this is who we are, and that this is not our faults. That is why I write what I write. One day I hope to have helped even a fraction of the people that they have. 

I was inspired last weekend. I saw something I could never have even dreamed of. It was a reality that I want to see spreading, through books, music, anything, and everything. It was beautiful to witness, and certainly put a fresh energy into my writing. And this is just the beginning. I’m excited for what is to come.

So, that’s my incoherent, strange rant for the day. I hope this made some sense at least. Organizing this post was a struggle but I hope it came out alright. 

This definitely turned into a more pro-Twenty One Pilots thing than I had planned. They’re a great band and I hope you guys listen to them. If nothing else, do it for their lyrics. It’s some of the best song writing I’ve ever seen. Use it to inspire your own writing.

I am picturing people reading this going “Yes I already know that. I’ve been listening to them for years. What rock did you just crawl out from under that you just found out about them?” Well, to tell you the truth I’ve only been listening to them for a few months, and even then only because my friend invited me to go with her to this concert. BUT I was hooked in right away. So yes I know I’m super late to the party but I’m here now! (If you’re a super fan I’m sorry don’t hate me)(so many fans at the concert gave me looks guys. I was so afraid. They are intense human beings)(but they were all super shocked when I started rapping almost every song alongside them hehe)(okay I’ll get back to the point now).

This was a really long and confusing post but I hope it made some people happy, or thoughtful, or that it made sense to you in some way. If anyone can think of some good books that have characters that are neurodivergent feel free to comment them below (they don’t have to be YA but if they aren’t please specify)! I’ll be making a post soon of recommendations of books that showcase these stories, and would love some input if anyone has it!

And, as always, I must go do work now. I will leave you with this lyric that speaks to me from (naturally) the Twenty One Pilots song “Fake You Out”:

Our brains are sick but that’s okay.

Kailey

P.S. – I know this was really heavy about the band. I blame the concert partly. Almost a week later and I’m still buzzing from that show. But their message really is relevant to what I’m trying to say here. I am sorry if I went a little overboard though. Okay. Bye.

A Shadow Bright and Burning

Hellooooooooooooooo!

That was a lot of o’s, I apologize (but I’m not changing it. I like it). Anywho I hope everyone who is reading this is having a fabulous day/night. As I write this I am packing to go back to school (semester starts Monday. Send help). College is still hard (shocker of the century right?) but I’m really looking forward to a couple of my classes this semester. I’m taking a poetry workshop and a class about female writers, in addition to a bunch of other classes. So things are about to get VERY busy for me. 

Don’t worry, I won’t let it alter my reading or writing schedules (I sincerely hope). I just wanted to share, because I felt the need to do so.

Time to move on from all that boring school talk. So last night I finished A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess. And, remember how I said I wanted to do more book reviews? WELL, I decided to make this my very first (short) book review of the new year! So, let’s get down to it.

This is a spoiler-free review.

From Amazon: 

“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?”

One of the first things I noticed about the book is the relationship dynamics. There is a mixture of friendships and love interests and the lines are often blurred and overlapping. While this is common in YA, the relationships weren’t the central focus of Shadow. They were motivation and important to the main character, Henrietta Howel, but there was only one that could be considered central to her goal. I liked the lack of “real” love interests. Some might argue Henrietta’s friendship with Rook is a love interest but I disagree. The bond there is strong no doubt, but desperation and a need for closeness does not make a true love interest to me. Their friendship triumphs over what romantic love they might possess, in my eyes.

Another thing I noticed was that the idea of a female sorcerer is nearly ludicrous in this world. Women are viewed as not being capable of handling magic. This, to me, is a thinly veiled representation of women in power in reality. I understand that this is at the core of so many YA novels as well, but I think it could’ve been done a little better. I think it would’ve added to the story. While I did not appreciate how transparent this was, overall I enjoyed the book. 

One note: in my opinion it’s a very plot-driven story. The characters are strong but not as fleshed out as they could be. As Shadow is the first in a series I’m sure they will be more developed as the books go on. According to Amazon, book two comes out in September. I’m hoping to see more character development in the sequel. As it is, the most eye-catching character to me was Blackwood, and he was one of the more silent characters Cluess chose to focus on.  

As far as books go I would rate it above average, but not fantastic. I gave it four out of five stars on Goodreads. Still, I recommend it if you enjoy YA fantasy (I know, I know, you’re thinking “more YA fantasy? Really?” Well guess what: YES). It might not crack my all-time favorite list, but it is for sure worth a read. 

I hope you guys found this helpful. If not, I’m sorry about that. If you’ve read Shadow already let me know what you thought in the comments!

I have to get back to packing, unfortunately. I hope everyone has a very bookish day/night!

Kailey