ARC Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning

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“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?”

Release Date: September 20th, 2016


**I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

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I requested this gem on NetGalley and was pleasantly surprised to get it approved! The premise sounded interesting- magic, sorcery, bloodthirsty demons and exciting battles? Definitely something I would enjoy. Set in Victorian England, we first meet Henrietta at the Brimthorn School for Girls. The headmaster is cruel and Henrietta does not really have any friends, save for her childhood friend Rook. She also desperately tries to hide her powers as Henrietta is often subject to bursting into flames when her emotions get the better of her. In this world, female sorcery is forbidden and Henrietta worries for her life if she cannot keep her powers under control and hidden. As the synopsis describes, Henrietta is eventually discovered but instead of being executed, she is brought to train among other sorcerers in hopes of fulfilling a prophecy.

When I initially began this book, it seemed like it was set up like many other YA stories I have read: underprivileged girl discovers she has powers, she is swept up into a new world to develop these powers, there is a prophecy about said girl and she will save the world, childhood friend and new love interest create love triangle, girl works together with friends to save the world. However, I was very wrong! While it does have many of these elements, Cluess tells it in a unique way with many unexpected plot twists.

Henrietta is thrown into the magic world of Victoria London where she meets other fellow sorcerers, notably Blackwood and Magnus. While not initially accepted as a female sorcerer, Henrietta quickly proves to be a fierce, likable, sarcastic protagonist. All she wants is a chance to help fight in the war against the Ancients- ugly, bloodthirsty, demon-like creatures. We don’t really know where they come from or why they are terrorizing Henrietta’s world, although ideas are theorized throughout the story. Hopefully this will be something that is answered in future books. Agrippa, a fellow sorcerer and Henrietta’s mentor, believes her to be the center of a prophecy to help defeat the Ancients. However, Henrietta soon discovers information about herself that may prove she is in fact not the chosen one. This already deviates from our typical YA formula! Will Henrietta still prove useful in the war? What does this mean for her future?

In terms of the potential love triangle, I was very pleased that there was actually almost no romance. This book really focuses on Henrietta’s development and important friendships. There are some potential love interests and Henrietta is certainly close with her childhood friend Rook, but I was very happy to see that Henrietta decides there are more important things to worry about like the bloodthirsty Ancients terrorizing London. Rook is also an interesting character. He has grotesque, painful scars that are a result from being touched by an Ancient and is called an “unclean.” Most people don’t survive being touched by an Ancient, but Rook does. Are they just scars, or something more? I will be very interested to see more development of Rook in future books.

The world-building is solid, although I docked my rating slightly because I just didn’t quite understand the difference between witches, magicians and sorcerers. Witches and magicians are not looked highly upon, mostly because they are believed to have some role in releasing the Ancients. They didn’t really seem that different to me though! They all can do magic. The only difference I found was that sorcerers are a vessel for the elements while magicians and witches can create? Maybe this is an area that will be further explained as the series continues.

I also quickly tired of the misogynistic views of the book. There was a lot of “women can’t do magic,” “women can’t be rational.” I know it is set in Victorian London so I guess this is fits with the views of the time, but still, I got tired of it.

I adored the relationship Henrietta develops with her sorcerer friends. We see a lot of Mangus, a shameless flirt but nonetheless a loyal friend, and Blackwood, a broody Earl of Sorrow-Fell with too much responsibility on his shoulders. They all trained together and I thoroughly enjoyed watching Henrietta figure out her magic. Her column of fire is awesome!

This was overall an excellent first installment to a series. We got some questions answered, but there is still much more to anticipate. I would absolutely recommend this book if you are a fan of fantasy. I was very pleased!

4/5

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8 thoughts on “ARC Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning”

  1. This looks like a fun read! And I love the cover. I am probably most intrigued, however, by the promise of romance not being the central point. I like a good romance as well as anyone, but can we lay off the love triangles just for awhile?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I completely agree! There were some hints on romance and like I said, potential love interests but not much happened romantically between any of the characters. It was quite refreshing! It focused more on Henrietta’s development and the plot/world-building. I thoroughly enjoyed this story of you are a fan of fantasy 😊

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  2. I seriously need a little love in my books.
    Be that as it may, this sounds promising. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rook is “the one” based on the Harry Potter scar theory. Just an hypothesis, and I haven’t read the book, so I am probably totally wrong.
    Victorian London? Yep, anything Victorian would be misogynistic. It’s a period stereotype: women sit, look pretty, and decorate the house with their presence. That’s it…they’re ornaments.
    Sounds like a nice ARC…I just got approved for a book called Spindle on NG. But I renewed some library books, so I can possibly catch up on my ARC reads!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, I do love a romance in my books and this book isn’t completely devoid of romance! It’s just definitely not the focus and while nothing serious happens, there’s definitely hints of a romance. For me it was still satisfying. Rook also turned out to be a very interesting character and I’m curious to see his character arc in the next book. Good luck catching up on your arc reads!

      Liked by 1 person

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