Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

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?

Rating: 3/5 Stars

"Knowledge is as powerful as fire. The brighter it burns, the more it devours."

It’s been such a long time since I’ve written a review! To be fair, it’s because it’s been a really long time since I actually finished a book, but combine a heavy work load with an annoying reading slump and you’ll have me.


Truth is, I have three books that I’ve read until the half and then… never felt like continuing again (EoS remains at the 30 something page mark). The thing with my reading slumps is that they work in mysterious ways; sometimes I read a page of a book, get mad because I’m not SUPER DUPER into the story (It’s only first page, what the hell does my slump expect?) and quit. On other occasions I start reading a book, but at a certain point I lose interest and stop.

Either way the result is the same, I just can’t finish a book which leaves me frustrated, which makes the reading slump worse because I simply don’t want to pick any book.

Then comes A Shadow Bright and Burning. It had been one of my most anticipated 2016 releases, at least until negatives reviews started to roll out and I dimmed my excitement a bit in order not to get my hopes crushed. On Sunday I started reading a bit, just because I like to remind myself how much it sucks to be in a reading slump because I’m that much of a FREAKING MASOCHIST, when something weird happened:

I actually enjoyed reading.


WHAT??! My brain could not comprehend what was happening I mean, after so long?? Was it even possible??? I proceeded with caution, sure that this wouldn’t hold and I would get to the fifty percent mark (if I even made it that far) only to drop it.

That was Sunday, and on Monday I finished it *throws confetti*

I do have very mixed feelings with the book though. It has simple and engaging writing, and although it seemed it was going to be full of tropes the story did a wonderful work of turning them around (though not all, some still remained). However, the book is far from perfect and although I did enjoy it there were things that annoyed me to no end.

Let’s see a brief summary of what I liked:

-No girl-on-girl hate (it seems so little, but you can hardly read YA these days without coming across girls hating each other for no reason other than misogyny).

-A boy and a girl being friends with absolutely no romance involved!

-The girl actually likes having power and wants to do something with them (unlike the “I don’t want to be special trope” that seems to plague other books… *glares at Shadow and Bone*)

-A nice twist on The Chosen One trope.

-There were many twists, some which I didn’t see coming.

-Simple and engaging writing. It might not have been the most elaborate of styles, but the author has the ability to create good stories, an ability that may be overlooked until you come across someone who does it well.

-A POC main character.

-Critics to misogyny in society.

What I didn’t like:

-The unnecessary love drama. I think I’m disappointed about this the most because it seemed like the story wouldn’t take this path… and then it did. Fuck love triangles and all their glory.

-Magnus. I didn’t hate the guy, but the ONLY reason he was in the story was to create said unnecessary love drama. In the end I just started to roll my eyes whenever his name would appear on page.

-Sexual abuse is used to make a character look even worse (apparently it wasn't enough that he beat and starved little girls, the poor orphans just ahd to have it worse) and show how bad the main character was treated, but it's never mentioned after or its aftermaths.

-The story could resemble a lot to Shadow and Bone at the beginning.

-After the first half I felt the story started to go a bit downhill.

-Characters decided against doing something logical because it was “bad”, then did something ten times worse because… they were idiots.

-I started liking Henrietta, but soon her character began to lose focus and I didn’t know why she was fighting anymore.

-Sometimes the critics to the society and how misogynistic it was could get off topic, ramble too much or over-shadow the plot.

-Characters decided to ignore obvious signs of warnings because “they didn’t want to deal with that” and then regretted not acting sooner *bangs head against wall*

I started the story liking Henrietta. She actually enjoyed her power but was afraid of what it would be done to her if found; witchcraft is illegal in women so the punishment is death.

I liked how she made the people around her question their judgement, while also accepting that she could make mistakes and discriminate, and would learn from it.
It was fun to see her being ingenious and find new ways to keep her secret hidden; despite what everybody believes, she’s not the prophesied one (this is not a spoiler it’s in the blurb) and her real nature would make her a pariah and would face execution. She was honest in her intentions, she wanted to help the world get rid of the beasts killing people, but she also wanted to remain alive and safe, and keep her friend alive as well all of which could only be accomplished by lying.

Nevertheless, by the middle of the book Henrietta’s motivation became unclear. Was she doing all of it to be safe? Or because she wanted power? She could become very selfish and that didn’t make me like her more. Add that to the love triangle that for SOME REASON just had to be in the story, and I could get very annoyed with Henrietta; she would swear she loved someone more than anything, and then make out with another guy the next day. I didn’t understand what she was doing or why, and when she started to feel sorry for herself and complain of the problems SHE had caused… it just got worse.

The story starts really simple, and you think this is going to be just another fun quick read full of tropes; the kind you have read a thousand times before. But to my delight the book surprised me, it took a lot of those tropes and destroyed them making a quite unique story… and sometimes not so much. I know, it’s weird.

I recommend this who like light fantasy novels with a few twists and fun writing.

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