Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

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Overall Score: 9/10

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Random House BFYR

Release Date: September 20, 2016

Source: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Book Summary (From GoodReads)

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?

Review (Slight Spoilers)

This book, despite its length, was a very quick and easy read for me. It was thoroughly enjoyable and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys young adult historical fantasy. This book takes place in a Victorian London that has magic. However, after a witch and a magician opened the portal between worlds and unleashed the Ancients (demons that some theorize represent the seven deadly sins), only sorcerers are allowed to live and continue practicing magic.

The world-building in this novel was excellent. There was never a huge dump of information but rather the mysteries of this alternate world were unveiled throughout the story. This was likely due to the fact that Henrietta, a girl from a small town orphanage, was being introduced to the city for the first time. I also really enjoyed how the author portrayed the discrepancy between the rich and powerful and the poor. She introduced a variety of different opinions and had the characters argue their views.

Having Henrietta not actually be a magician did raise some rather interesting questions and lead to what was perhaps my favorite part of the novel. Her lessons from the magician showed us more of the world and her powers than any of the training she did with her fellow sorcerer trainees. Her different relationships with them were entertaining and I did enjoy seeing the way one romance developed. However, the love triangle (or square depending on how you look at it) took away from the rest of the book for me. Without spoiling anything, I think the slow developing romance that focuses more on similarities and training to fight the Ancients was the only one that I really cared about and could see the chemistry for (okay, I got a little emotionally attached and picked a favorite).

Overall, this was a highly enjoyable book and I will happily read all future installments in this series.

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