Review: Burning Bright by Melissa McShane


Overall Score: 10/10

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press

Release Date: August 15, 2016

Source: Received a free copy from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review


This book easily made my top 5 favorite reads for 2016. The writing, the characterization, and the world-building were all exquisite. From the moment I started the book, I couldn’t put it down. I read it during my breaks at work, while in line at the post office, and pretty much everywhere else I went. The only bad thing about this book is the fact that, since it was just released, I can’t immediately pick up the sequel and continue reading about Elinor’s adventures.

When the book opens, Elinor has just discovered her powers. Through this momentous event, the author explores shifts in family dynamics and Elinor’s suitability as a bride. Setting this novel in Regency England allowed the author to explore the role of women in society during that time period, which she did in a masterful way. The book is peppered with references to Elinor’s respectability and how public perception mattered more than truth. Her life was dominated by her father until she found the determination to escape and choose a path different those those he offered her.

Elinor herself is a marvelous character. She is strong-willed, independent, and gutsy (not to mention incredibly powerful). We see her on a journey of discovery, both of herself and of her powers. What I liked the most about this book is that Elinor experiences consequences for her actions. She goes to war against the pirates, does gruesome things, and has to find a way to live with her choices. At one point, she must struggle to survive on her own and she uses her intelligence and grit to make it through.

The romance in this book was exquisitely done, as was the dialogue. As a matter of fact, both were almost Austen-esque in their execution. The banter was witty and highly engaging and the softer, quieter moments were done just as skillfully. Elinor’s immersion into the crew was handled incredibly well and the reader came to care just as much for the secondary characters as she did. Regarding her romantic love interest, the slow burn of their romance was handled perfectly. Before there was any romantic interest, they developed a very solid friendship (Although I will admit to rooting for the pair of them the entire novel). Additionally, the concept of a romance is not introduced (except for a few sleazy men who end up burned), until Elinor has decided who she will be and the path she will take.

Overall, this was a highly enjoyable, engaging read. I already know that I will be buying a copy of this book and pre-ordering the entire rest of the series. I would recommend this to anybody who enjoys a strong female character, adventure, and magic.

Book summary

In 1812, Elinor Pembroke wakes to find her bedchamber in flames—and extinguishes them with a thought. At 21, she is old to manifest magical talent, but the evidence is unmistakable: she not only has the ability to start fires, but the far more powerful ability to control and extinguish them. She is an Extraordinary, and the only one in England capable of wielding fire in over one hundred years.

As an Extraordinary, she is respected and feared, but to her father, she represents power and prestige for himself. Mr. Pembroke, having spent his life studying magic, is determined to control Elinor and her talent by forcing her to marry where he chooses, a marriage that will produce even more powerful offspring. Trapped between the choices of a loveless marriage or living penniless and dependent on her parents, Elinor takes a third path: she defies tradition and society to join the Royal Navy.

Assigned to serve under Captain Miles Ramsay aboard the frigate Athena, she turns her fiery talent on England’s enemies, French privateers and vicious pirates preying on English ships in the Caribbean. At first feared by her shipmates, a growing number of victories make her truly part of Athena’s crew and bring her joy in her fire. But as her power grows and changes in unexpected ways, Elinor’s ability to control it is challenged. She may have the power to destroy her enemies utterly—but could it be at the cost of her own life?

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