Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Book Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

ISBN: 0553535919
Published: September 20th, 2016
Publisher: Random House BFYR
Received: Blogging for Books
Read from January 4th to 13th, 2017
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?


(I just noticed that Henrietta refers to herself in the synopsis as the "first female sorcerer", which confuses me since she knows from the beginning of the book that she isn't. She's just supposed to be the first since Joan of Arc, not the first ever... Oh, well. Moving on.)

A Shadow Bright and Burning has me conflicted. There were certain aspects I liked and others I very much didn't like. I'm going to briefly go through some of those things, trying to keep it brief since I also filmed a video review for this book where I touched on most of this already.

I did like the plot for the most part. I found it intriguing, and I particularly enjoyed that it's set in an alternative Victorian England where everyone knows about magic and the sorcerers have to be acknowledged by Queen Victoria or lose their powers. Henrietta, the main character, has to confront a lot of sexism as a female sorcerer, and I enjoyed seeing how she confronted said sexism throughout the book

That being said, I do wish there had been more female characters. Aside from Henrietta, there are less than a handful of female characters who play important roles, and only one of them has more than two or three scenes. As I greatly enjoyed each of those characters, that was disappointing. I did enjoy most of the male characters as well, but I would appreciate a greater female presence, especially when so much of the book involves Henrietta confronting obstacles she faces being a woman.

Speaking of the male characters, I liked most of the "good guys", but I couldn't stand Magnus. Since he's the first of the boys that Henrietta befriends when she comes to London, this really impeded my enjoyment of the book. Henrietta spends more time with Magnus than anyone else, which annoyed me when I was far more interested in all of the other characters more than I was Magnus. I wish she had spent more time with the other boys, especially the two who she spends so little time with that I can't recall their names but who I loved as characters. To me, Magnus was to conceited and all around obnoxious. I thought so from the first scene he was in, and he never managed to win me over. (What's particularly ironic is Henrietta starts off having a negative impression of Blackwood that's much like my impression of Magnus, but I never disliked Blackwood.)

After reading the first book, I want to read the second, but I'm not so sure how I'll feel about it. It's a situation where I think it's up in the air whether I'll like the series or not. A lot hinges on where the second book takes the story and if I like the path it takes. For right now though, there's enough that has me intrigued to keep going.

I received this book through Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

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