Goodreads: A Shadow Bright and Burning
Series: Kingdom on Fire #1
Source: City Book Review
Published: September 2016
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?
A Shadow Bright and Burning uses some YA fantasy tropes, but still manages to be a fun and creative read. Though readers will be introduced to character types they may have seen before–the overly charismatic flirt, the wise teacher, the girl prophesied to change their world–minor twists and tweaks will allow readers to still fall in love with them all. Henrietta herself may be the biggest draw here. Sure, she’s the “chosen one” and a bit of a special snowflake at times, but she also has real flaws and real doubts, which she combats with a spunky attitude and a willingness to work hard to achieve goals.
The plot follows Henrietta as she trains to become a sorcerer, the first female one in ages, and looks forward to a future where she can help her kingdom fight the monsters that have taken over the seas and most of the large towns. The pacing is occasionally slow, but this often made up for with interesting characters and world-building. There’s a nice Victorian vibe to the book, as well, and the opening scenes in Henrietta’s orphanage may bring to mind echoes of Jane Eyre–if Jane Eyre were in possession of some powerful magic.
Speckled in with the adventure are some serious conversations: the divide between the rich and the poor, the hard decisions the sorcerers must make about which lives to save, and the prejudice facing all magic workers who are not sorcerers. Henrietta’s world has magic, but it’s not often beautiful. It’s dark and full of secrets.
A Shadow Bright and Burning, overall, is a solid fantasy adventure. It has a determined protagonist, real danger, and a hint of romance to come in the sequels. YA fantasy fans will probably enjoy this take on magic.