Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning (Kingdom on Fire #1) by Jessica Cluess10:00
Series: Kingdom on Fire #1
Author: Jessica Cluess
Published September 20th 2016 by Random House Books for Young Readers
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?
This was a debut that I'd had my eyes on ever since the ARC reviews started coming in. I asked for the book for Christmas, and started it as soon as I got it.
In A Shadow Bright and Burning, Victorian London is under attack by the monstrous Ancients, that suddenly appeared to terrorise the country. The teams of royal sorcerers are fighting a losing battle, and when a prophecy is discovered that states a female sorcerer, the first in hundreds of years, will be the key to defeating these beasts, Henrietta finds herself being thrust into glamorous London. The problem is, she doesn't think she is actuallly the sorcerer they have in mind, because although she is skilled with fire magic, all other kinds allude her, and she might end up doing more harm than good.
If you've read my blog for a while now, you'll know that historical fiction is a love of mine, and the Regency and Victorian eras are some of my favourites. I just love the rules and environment of these eras, and I think it works really well with fantasy elements added - and this book didn't disappoint. We see the different parts of Victorian life - both the squalor and suffering of the lower classes, and the opulence and grandeur of the upper classes. Henrietta is from a mix of both; though she was born with some status, she was sent to a boarding school when her parents died, and resigned herself to a job as a teacher in said school, in the Yorkshire Dales. When she is taken from this world to the protection of London, and all the finery that suggests, she struggles with the culture shock, but soon recovers.
Henrietta, as a character, I really liked. She was a real character, and nothing about her seemed fake - other than when she was lying to the others, but we knew she was doing that. Even though she felt like she couldn't do what everyone wanted her to, she still tried, because she knew that the fate of Britain depended on her, and she would rather die, than do nothing at all and see everyone else suffer. She was also fiercely loyal to her friends, and made sure her best friend, Rook, an Unclean who had been attacked by an Ancient, was cared for, and didn't suffer.
There is romance in the book, and at times it was a bit annoying because I think we got up to a love square at one point. One of the love interests I wasn't keen on from the beginning - it didn't seem sincere. There's also a Mr Darcy-like character, who I can see perhaps having a bigger role in the future, because of what part of the prophecy said.
I really enjoyed this book, and can't wait to read the sequel. If you enjoy YA historical fantasy, this is a book for you.