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Wednesday, August 02, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: A Shadow Bright and Burning (Kingdom on Fire #1) by Jessica Cluess

Synopsis from Goodreads
I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she is brought to London to train with Her Majesty's sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she's the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city--and the one she loves?
Buy from Amazon (UK) || Book Depository
Published September 20th 2016 by Random House BFYR
Series: Kingdom on Fire Book 1
Source: Bought

My Review

(4 Stars) 
I have to admit it was the cover that drew me to this book – it’s just beautiful! I then of course read the blurb and I loved the idea of this play on the ‘chosen one’ prophesy, so I went off and bought it. Since then the hype of this book faded from social media and it has sat on my bookcase for many months until this week.
A Shadow Bright and Burning started off reminding me a bit of the beginning of (what I remember of) Jane Eyre with the rural Victorian boarding school, forgotten by the world  ruled with an iron grip. With Henrietta the outcast student who became the teacher who learnt and dreamed far beyond her station.  After a visit from Master Agrippa Henrietta is thrust into a Victorian London at war, which reminded me a bit of the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but as well as swords and guns this war is fought with magic and instead of Zombies they battle the Ancients.
I initially thought this book was a case of too much information in the blurb, because I got to about page 100 and there was no hint as to why “Henrietta is not the chosen one’. But this book managed to surprised m, as Hargrove puts it “You’re a cuckoo in the nest. If they learn the truth, they’ll push you out and break your neck,” (page 220). And suddenly it not just about the pressure of the prophesy she is meant to live up to, but also about hiding her true nature. 
Henrietta is a great character and reminded me a lot of the outspoken classical characters like Lizzy Bennet and Jane Eyre. She stands up for those who are looked down upon, and befriends the lowest of the lows, even in the face of the aristocrats who have taken her in.  
I personally loved Blackwood, her fellow student and head of his household with a legacy darker than I could have guessed. He is a mysterious character which has so much depth. Blackwood plays the snobby rich boy act perfectly but under it he seems to have a compassionate heart.
Overall, this was a gripping Victorian fantasy, full of secrets, magic and danger from both the Ancients as well as the sorcerers. A inventive story which leaves me with many questions and hopes for the sequel.