September 11, 2017

Book Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

When Henrietta Howel is forced to reveal her unique power—the ability to control flames—to save a friend, she fears she will be executed. Instead, she’s invited to train as one of Her Majesty’s royal sorcerers and 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, how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves? 

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess is an inventive and delightful fantasy set in alternate London. Its world reminded me somewhat of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell - full of stuffy male sorcerers who cling to outdated tradition and rituals.  Henrietta is the spitfire would-be sorceress prophesied to be "the one" who enters their ranks and by book's end, turns everything upside down. I quite enjoyed Henrietta's rebellious and witty personality; however, I was confused about the magical heirarchies of this world.  I was never sure what the difference was between a sorcerer and a magician, the distinction being a being significant plot point in the book. Nevertheless, this feminist magical YA gets a solid recommendation from me.

"At the Brimthorne School for Girls, we try to curb female waywardness and insolence."

"It struck me as odd that most sorcerer women belonged solely to antiquity, as if the glory of female magic were some crumbling myth to be debated by scholars."

"Because I've seen how a woman is treated when she dares to step outside her domain."

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