Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Sorcerers and Monsters in A Shadow Bright and Burning

A Shadow Bright and Burning (Kingdom on Fire, #1)Author: Jessica Cluess
Series: Kingdom on Fire, #1
Released: September 20 2016
Publisher: Random House
Length: 407 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Amazon

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 Henrietta Howel, a powerful, unforgettable heroine, and an entertaining world filled with magic, monsters, and mayhem. 

A Shadow Bright and Burning, Jessica Cluess’ debut novel, lures us in with a gorgeous cover, but easily keeps our attention with stupendous worldbuilding and an abundance of witty charm. A trip to Victorian London, enriched by sorcery, ancient monsters and a grumpy hobgoblin, is precisely what I would recommend to all lovers of historical fantasy.

A Shadow starts quite explosively, and the pacing rarely allows us any reprieve. Our Henrietta is in constant danger, always afraid of being discovered and executed. As the only woman among the sorcerers she faces many challenges and constantly fights prejudice. She is attacked not only for her unusual abilities, but for the simple fact of being a woman in an exclusively men’s world.

For her worldbuilding, Cluess drew inspiration from many sides, but managed to assemble something fairly unique and captivating. Her world is truly the lifeblood of this story, outshining everything else, including the characters. Added to that, her ability to write witty, often laugh-out-loud funny dialogues makes it all run smoothly, and provides endless entertainment for us.

The romantic subplot drags the story down a bit, and I suspect this would have been a much better work without it. Henrietta has two romantic interests, her childhood best friend, unsuitable in every way, and a charming young sorcerer who takes few things seriously. Neither of them seems like a good choice for Nettie, and although our hearts want to root for Rook, her childhood friend, there is simply no chemistry between them. I have a feeling things may take an unwanted direction in the future, and I sincerely hope Cluess will realize that her story works better without the melodrama.

A Shadow Bright and Burning is clearly the first in a series, but it ends on a hopeful note, allowing us to wait for the next book calmly, but eagerly. Romance aside, this is a wonderful and imaginative story with plenty to offer to younger and older readers alike.

A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.


  1. Lovely review as usual. I haven't heard of this one but you make me want to read it. Too bad about the romance. I know of far too many books that would have benefited without the romance.

  2. I will definitely need to read this one. ;) Great review!

  3. I have had this book on my TBR since it was first announced by the author! I really liked the blurb but am yet to get to this book due to my ever increasing TBR pile. Ah I see what you mean about the romance. It's happened in a whole lot of books I read recently. I've got nothing against romance as long as it doesn't affect the main plot negatively..Great review!


  4. The unique and captivating world building along with the explosive beginning def has caught my attention

  5. Two romantic interests, you say? I'd say I'll pass but I think I have a copy of this book somewhere. Oh, well.

  6. It sounds like an interesting one there. I'm ok for the romance so it should be better for me. I'm quite curious about the worldbuilding

  7. OOh nice! I still need to read this one even after picking up an ARC earlier this year. Sigh...day jobs or any job really, are so tedious! LOL! Glad to see this one was good! I've been hearing the romance is a little dull, but glad the rest shines beautifully! Nice review!

  8. I'm all about the Victorian England setting and world building. I hear it's similar to Infernal Devices by Clare which I absolutely loved so I may give it a shot. Not sure of the romance though.

  9. I love fantasy but I have not read any historical fantasy to be precise! This would be the first plus I love the book cover.

    // Paper Boulevard

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