A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
Star rating: ★★★★★ 5/5 stars
Summary: In an alternate Victorian England where monsters have ravaged the land, Henrietta is called upon as the chosen one to save everyone. Despite having magical fire powers she becomes more and more convinced everyone is mistaken about her.
Reasons for picking this book: Yes, yes, I’m cheating a bit. I mean England is technically an island but also not really. I just couldn’t think of any books set on an island that I wanted to read. But to be fair in this book they are fairly cut off from the rest of the world.
Review: Before anything else I wanted to say that I received this ARC from a goodreads giveaway.
I am so hype about this book! I absolutely loved every second of it. I did not want to stop reading and I need the sequel yesterday.
I’m trying to get all my feelings over this book into concise points that make sense but I just want to gush and gush over this book.
Let’s start with the world building, I thought it was brilliant. All the monsters are creepy and scary and very monster-like. I appreciate a certain level of horror in my monsters. I like how this is an alternate Victorian England with magic and monsters existing. I like the setup with the different magic users and I hope to learn even more about them as the series continues.
Henrietta Howel is my new favorite character. I LOVE her. She’s smart and loyal (almost to a fault) but she has flaws and has a hard time seeing her own worth. She’s also always looking out for the little guy. My favorite moment is when Dee confesses to her that he has a crush on her maid and her immediate concern is over consent. She’s worried whether he would make Lilly feel obligated to be intimate or lose her position. She questions him and once she learns he’s never told her how he feels she relaxes. That’s when I was completely sold on Henrietta.
I also love how Henrietta recognizes she has no time for boys and gets mad at herself for being distracted by them. I feel that’s so rare to see in YA. More often I feel that I see the love interest taking up more than the quest. She still dabbles but she also knows where her priorities should be.
I was a little confused why she couldn’t just wait to be commended the next year. It doesn’t seem fair she only has what was it nine weeks? to train as a sorcerer. I never completely grasped why she had to do it then and couldn’t get extra time. I wasn’t sure if this ceremony only happens once in a while or if you have to do it at a certain age.
Aside from Henrietta I loved the other characters as well. I wish we saw more of Wolff and Lambe in the book. I am convinced they are a couple and you can pry that ship from my dead hands, because if nothing else their names are perfect together. Magnus was entertaining and Blackwood is infuriating some moments but he really does care. His sister Eliza was fun, I liked how amused she was that Henrietta said no to her.
I don’t think I have any ship for Henrietta yet. I feel I might get more invested I the love story in the next book. I can’t wait for the next book, I’m actually a little sad I read this book so early because I love it so much and there is no fan art or merch or anyone really to talk to about this book. But I’m going to try to talk this book up as much as I can.
This is one of the best fantasy series I’ve read in a while. I had so many emotions while reading and I cried even which is rare for me while reading a book. it’s exciting from beginning to end, every moment I was waiting to find out what happens next while on the edge of my seat. I’m considering buying the hardcover when it comes out. I don’t normally intentionally buy more than one copy of a book so you know this is something special.
Recommendations: Do you love fantasy? Magic? Awesome main characters? Or just you know really anything, you should read this. I’m just so hype over it and I cannot contain my excitement over this book. It is so good! It comes out in September so I’d preorder it now.
Up next: The Princess Diaries – a book you haven’t read since high school