I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?
Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she’s 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?
A Shadow Bright and Burning cultivates an entirely new idea for fantasy lovers of all ages. The hierarchy of magic on both ends of evil and good balance each other out. All characters have their opposites and mesh together to create a perfectly uniformed team for all readers to love.
Henrietta Howel, the lead woman, embodies a leading woman independent of a romance, is stronger than ever before, and gives a new perspective on YA books. She stands up for her beliefs against one of the most intimidating characters in the book, George Blackwood. Henrietta puts her friends before the good of the entire city of London. I cannot think of the last time I read a young adult book with a teenage girl as the main character who did not sacrifice her friends for the “greater good.” Thank you, Jess Cluess, thank you. Her character is not overly confident but she is realistic. Henrietta Howel leaves me rejuvenated to stand up against societal rules and stereotypes and whatever prophecies there may be about me.
I can go no further in this review without discussing my brilliant boys. Yes, you read it correctly, my boys. Blackwood, Magnus, Wolff, Lambe, Dee, and Cellini are MY boys. Readers will easily fall in love with at least one of the boys and at most all of them. Personally, my favorite is Magnus despite one… non-likable decision he makes about halfway through the book. Next in line is Blackwood because his character makes a foreseen, but welcome, development. Lambe or Dee would be next for me because they both are cute/awkward friends with Henrietta throughout the novel despite anything that happens. I feel like I didn’t get to know much about Wolff, but he is definitely better than Cellini. Cellini we don’t talk about. (Can’t give too much away!) Each of the boys bring a certain character perspective in Henrietta’s constantly changing life while she trains to be a sorcerer. You couldn’t have had the book without all of them making some change in her.
Despite what I said before about Henrietta being a strong, independent woman away from any romance, there is a little bit of romance. Specifically three boys show potential for romance in Henrietta’s life. Who is it? Well, George Blackwood, Julius Magnus, and Rook are all prospects. Initially, Blackwood hates Henrietta, Magnus is a jokester, and Rook is the childhood best friend. If you have been around my blog long enough, then you may have noticed how much I like childhood best friends becoming the romantic interests. Second in line would be the boys who hate initially then fall in love with them. In A Shadow Bright and Burning, however, neither of these hold true. I fell in love with Magnus, the jokester. His character held so much depth with Henrietta. Then there was more than a few scenes with hints towards a romance, and I fell even deeper in love with the prospect. I cannot, however, be okay if Rook is a romantic interest in future books. Rook felt more as a brother than a romantic partner with Henrietta, for me. Overall, I would be okay with either Magnus or Blackwood for Henrietta.
Past the characters, Jess Cluess built a world like none other in London, England. Her fantasy world filled with magicians, sorcerers, witches, Ancients, and Familiars made my heart fall in love with a swoosh of wind from a stave. Each time a battle occurred against an Ancient or a Familiar, my heart stopped and shouted for it all to end with everyone alive. (Mainly Magnus and Henrietta, but shh…) The magic had its limits to be pushed and pulled. History told of how it came to be, and the limits were reiterated throughout the novel. Readers will easily be able to understand how A Shadow Bright and Burning’s world works fluently.
The end of the story leaves few loose ends to be tied up besides two questions:
- What happened to Henrietta’s father?
- How many Ancients will die in the next book?
Overall, A Shadow Bright and Burning will not leave readers disappointed in its magical ways or characters. The novel is evenly balanced between plot and character developments pushing the story along. Neither one or the other over balances the book to leave readers wishing for the other. I cannot wait for the next book in the Kingdom on Fire series.
About the Author: Jessica Cluess
JESSICA CLUESS is a writer, a graduate of Northwestern University, and an unapologetic nerd. After college, she moved to Los Angeles, where she served coffee to the rich and famous while working on her first novel. When she’s not writing books, she’s an instructor at Writopia Lab, helping kids and teens tell their own stories.