Monday, February 6, 2017

Review: A Shadow Bright & Burning (Jessica Cluess)

A Shadow Bright and Burning (Kingdom on Fire, #1)
Title: A Shadow Bright & Burning
Series: Kingdom on Fire, Book 1
Author: Jessica Cluess
Publisher: Random House BYR
Release Date: September 20, 2016
Genre: Young Adult Alternate Historical Horror Fantasy
Told: First Person (Henrietta), Past Tense
Content Rating: Older Teen (scary images, minor horror/gore, fantasy fighting, sensuality)
Format Read: ARC (publisher)
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I am Henrietta Howel.
The first female sorcerer in hundreds of years.
The prophesied one.
Or am I?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames.
Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she's shocked when instead of being executed, she's invited to train as one of Her Majesty's royal sorcerers.

Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is 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, what does it mean to not be the one? And how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?

Exhilarating and gripping, Jessica Cluess's spellbinding fantasy introduces a powerful, unforgettably heroine, and a world filled with magic, romance, and betrayal. Hand to fans of Libba Bray, Sarah J. Maas, and Cassandra Clare.

*          *          *

Review copy provided by publisher for an honest review. Thank you, Random House!

In a Sentence: An engrossing yet frustrating yet enchanting alternate historical horror fantasy with vivid characters and engaging prose.

It's rather fascinating how humans have the emotional capability to be engrossed in a book and yet at the same time frustrated with it as well. That was my constant state for most of A Shadow Bright & Burning - reluctant to put it down, but always upset about one thing or another. Usually it was main character Henrietta, a moderately clever girl in the beginning but flippant about serious matters and later so distractedly concerned with the opinions of others that she came to rely too heavily on them and rarely seemed to think for herself. Occasionally it was the setting, a mishmash of history and fantasy and gothic romance with an odd dash of the Fae thrown in (for reasons never explained) that I never really wrapped my mind around until the very end. And then there was the action, too short and choppy and rather nonchalant to excite me or make any kind of impact despite the thrilling things happening.

But in spite my frustrations, this was one of the best books I read in 2016. It started strong on the very first page, delivering an engrossing story with enchanting magic and chilling monsters I had not expected but nevertheless found sensational. While Henrietta was generally more frustrating than not, she was a vivid character with an entertaining journey full of unexpected twists and animated secondary characters that really made the story shine. And although the action fell disappointingly flat, the rest of the writing was expressive and engaging and brought the enigmatic world to life.

I didn't quite agree with how the book concluded (despite its logic, I guess), but by the end I realized just how fully developed the formerly frustrating world had become and how invested I now was in the story and its players. It took the full 400 and change pages but everyone and everything had grown on me, and I am now very excited to continue following Henrietta and her story in A Poison Dark & Drowning!

Conclusion: While frustrating at times, this was an engrossing story of magic and monsters that was one of my favorite reads of 2016. I definitely recommend it for anyone who enjoys alternate historical horror fantasy, and look forward to the next book with great anticipation!

Re-read?: Definitely

Scribble Rating
4.5 of 5 Scribbles


  1. So glad you loved this one! I really enjoyed it and I cannot wait to get my hands on the sequel :D Fabulous review!

    Brittany @ Brittany's Book Rambles

  2. This book sounds so amazing - and the cover for this one and the next book in the series are just downright beautiful!