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