A Shadow Bright and Burning (Kingdom on Fire Series #1)by Jessica Cluess
"Vivid characters, terrifying monsters, and world building as deep and dark as the ocean."
Victoria Aveyard, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Red Queen
I am Henrietta Howel.
The first female sorcerer in hundreds of years.
The prophesied one.
Or am I?
Henrietta Howel can/i>/i>/i>/i>/b>/i>/i>
"Vivid characters, terrifying monsters, and world building as deep and dark as the ocean."
Victoria Aveyard, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Red Queen
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.
"Unputdownable. I loved the monsters, the magic, and the teen warriors who are their world's best hope! Jessica Cluess is an awesome storyteller!"
Tamora Pierce, New York Times bestselling author
"A fun, inventive fantasy. I totally have a book crush on Rook."
Sarah Rees Brennan, New York Times bestselling author
"A glorious, fast-paced romp of an adventure. Jessica Cluess has built her story out of my favorite ingredients: sorcery, demons, romance, and danger."
Kelly Link, author of Pretty Monsters
Sixteen-year-old Henrietta Howel can start fires with a thought, but because women aren’t permitted to practice magic, she must keeps her power under wraps at the Brimthorn School for Girls, where she teaches in a magical version of Victorian London. After a sorcerer, Master Agrippa, visits the school, an attack by a “Familiar” of the (decidedly Lovecraftian) Ancients forces Henrietta’s hand. Agrippa believes that Henrietta is integral to fighting the Ancients, offering to train her for eventual commendation by a young Queen Victoria and a place among the royal sorcerers. She agrees, on the condition that her childhood friend Rook comes along. In a strong opening to the Kingdom on Fire trilogy, debut author Cluess makes the most of her setting, never shying from gritty details, such as the “burned and ravaged” London outside the wards that protect the sorcerers; the contentious history between sorcerers and magicians adds heft. Henrietta is pragmatic and bitingly funny, and she more than holds her own in a man’s world. Cluess gamely turns the chosen-one trope upside down in this smashing dark fantasy. Ages 12–up. Agent: Brooks Sherman, Bent Agency. (Sept.)
—The New York Times
"Henrietta is pragmatic and bitingly funny, and she more than holds her own in a man’s world. Cluess gamely turns the chosen-one trope upside down in this smashing dark fantasy."
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Jessica Cluess manages to hook the reader on the very first page. . . . The pages turn quickly and this first installment in the story is over before the reader will want it to be. The ending is perfect, too. Just enough of a conclusion to be satisfying, but also enough mystery to make readers anxious to see the next installment. Lovely debut novel by a talented writer."
Gr 7 Up—Sixteen-year-old Henrietta Howel has the power to burst into flames. She believes that she will be executed when she comes forward to defend a friend; instead she is invited to train as one of Her Majesty's royal sorcerers, among whom Henrietta is the only female. The heroine struggles to combat the enchantment of Victorian London, even though her male classmates wish to fight against her. With humanity at risk, Henrietta discovers the secrets of others and her own strength while she tries to defeat the Ancients, terrorizing demons. Readers who enjoy books about magic, fantastical monsters, and forces of good and evil will not be able to put this first installment down. While Cluess's debut novel might be reminiscent of J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter," it features a protagonist who proves to be more than just a chosen one with a wand. The work has well-developed secondary characters, including Rook, Henrietta's childhood friend, and while the author takes time to introduce readers to the heroine and her new surroundings, she keeps the adventure moving at a good clip. VERDICT Fantasy fans will rejoice and impatiently await the second volume in this new series.—Karen Alexander, Lake Fenton High School, Linden, MI
The only thing more terrifying than being proclaimed the chosen one is secretly knowing you aren't.Of the three orders of magic practiced in this alternative Victorian Britain, only sorcery is legal—and it's exclusively male. Fearing execution for witchcraft, 16-year-old Henrietta Howel has worked to hide her fiery powers, so she's astonished to be hailed as the fulfillment of prophecy, the first female sorcerer in centuries. Whisked off to London, surrounded by luxury (and handsome young sorcerers-in-training), Henrietta fights to master magic and protect her dearest childhood friend, knowing that she'll forfeit everything should her secrets be revealed. Every plot beat and character note here is utterly familiar; even the "subverted" tropes are upended in predictable ways. Henrietta is a stereotypical girl fantasy protagonist: uniquely gifted, haunted by childhood abuse, sympathetic to outcasts, "unfeminine" in her interests, believing herself unlovable even while adored by everyone except spiteful (and misogynistic) villains....Still, originality isn't the only literary virtue, and Cluess deploys every timeworn device with stylish aplomb. Her gaslit world besieged by Lovecraft-ian horrors possesses vivid life, and if Henrietta's hunky harem is populated by stock characters, their friendship still rings true. Despite frequent allusions to Henrietta's "dark complexion" from her Welsh heritage, the characters are clearly all white, save the black, outlaw magician she befriends; even with the looming romantic polygon, hints abound that this world isn't entirely heterosexual. Despite possessing every cliché in the genre, an elegantly addictive read. (Fantasy. 12-18)
Read an Excerpt
The sorcerer arrived on a Saturday.
Sarah, barely six years old, squeezed my hand as we walked the school corridors toward the headmaster’s parlor. I’d allowed her to wear her gray cloak indoors because the morning fires hadn’t yet been laid. Fog pressed in against the high windows, darkening the stone hall. For Sarah’s sake, I kept a smile on my face. My fear could not win today.
“Will he beat me, Henrietta? I mean, Miss Howel?” She often forgot to use my last name, but I’d only become a teacher two months before. Sometimes when I stood at the head of the classroom to give a lesson, I’d look at the empty place on the student bench where I used to sit, and feel like a fraud.
“A sorcerer would never harm children,” I said, squeezing her hand in return. Granted, I’d never met a sorcerer, but Sarah didn’t need to know that.
She smiled and sighed. How simple to reassure her. How difficult to reassure myself, for why would a royal sorcerer travel to Yorkshire for an audience with a child? Was the war against the Ancients going so poorly that he needed young girls, armed with sewing needles and a little French, for the front lines?
No. He had heard about the fires.
We entered the parlor to find two men seated before the hearth, sipping their tea. This was the only heated room in the entire school, and I rubbed my numb fingers in appreciation. Sarah raced past the men to warm her hands and, embarrassingly, her backside before the fireplace.
“Miss Howel!” our headmaster snapped, leaping up from his chair. “Control that child at once.”
I motioned Sarah back to me, and we curtsied together.
“Good day, Mr. Colegrind,” I murmured. Colegrind was a pale, hook-nosed gentleman with gray whiskers and a gray personality. When I was five, he’d terrified me. Now that I was sixteen, I found him repulsive.
He frowned. “Why does Sarah wear her cloak?”
“The fires haven’t been lit, sir,” I said, stating what should have been bloody obvious. Dreadful man. “I didn’t want her shivering before our illustrious guest.” Colegrind sniffed. I gave him my least sincere smile.
The other man, who had been surveying our scene with a cup of tea, rose to his feet.
“It’s all right,” the sorcerer said. “Little girls must keep warm.” He knelt before Sarah. “How are you, my dear?”
This man couldn’t be a sorcerer. I’d always pictured the royal Order as being filled with humorless men who wore simple robes and smelled of cabbage water. This gentleman was more like a grandfather from a storybook, with a shock of curling salt-and-pepper hair, dimpled cheeks, and warm brown eyes. He swept off his cape, trimmed with sable fur, and wrapped it around Sarah. She hugged herself.
“There, now,” he said. “Just the right fit.” He nodded to me. “You’re very good to take such care of her.”
I lowered my eyes. “Thank you, sir,” I mumbled. As he stood, I noticed something hanging in a sheath by his side. It was the length of a sword, but it had to be his sorcerer’s stave, the great instrument of his power. I’d heard of such things but never glimpsed one. I gasped without thinking.
Agrippa patted the handle. “Would you like to see it?” he asked.
Bloody fool, I was supposed to be unnoticeable today. For once, I was grateful for Colegrind’s interruption.
“Master Agrippa,” Colegrind said, “shall we proceed?”
The sorcerer guided Sarah to a chair while I remained by the wall, invisible as always. Schoolteachers don’t stand out naturally, and I was far too thin and dark-haired to make much of an impact. Granted, I didn’t want to stand out to Agrippa today, not if he’d come about the fires. I exhaled, praying that my heartbeat would slow. Please say that he had come for some other reason. The scenery, the terrible April weather, anything.
The sorcerer produced a toffee from his coat and handed it to Sarah. While she munched, Agrippa took a lit candle and held it before her. The flame flickered. Grabbing a fistful of my skirt, I squeezed to distract myself. I wouldn’t be afraid, because fear often summoned the . . .
I wouldn’t be afraid.
“Think of the flame,” Agrippa whispered. “Think of fire.”
No. As if responding to the sorcerer’s words, my body grew warm, desperately warm. I slipped my hands behind my back, knotted my fingers together, and prayed.
Sarah was clearly doing her best to be helpful, thinking so hard that her face turned bright red. The candle did nothing in response.
“Don’t lie,” Colegrind ordered Sarah. “If you hide anything, Master Agrippa will know. Do you want him to think you a bad girl?”
A bad girl. That was whom they hunted. Eleven years earlier, girls with magic would’ve been tolerated. Now, my God, only death awaited them. Awaited me. I curled my toes in my shoes, bit my tongue until my eyes watered. My fingers burned so badly. . . .
“Look at the flame!” Colegrind said.
I pressed my palms against the cold stone wall. I thought of freezing things, like snow and ice. Hold on. Hold on. . . .
Sarah burst into tears. Between Colegrind’s cruelty and my own physical pain, I snapped. “There’s no need to make her cry.”
The men turned. Agrippa raised his eyebrows in surprise. Colegrind looked as if he’d like to strike me down where I stood. With a sorcerer present, he’d have to contain himself, though after Agrippa left, I suspected I’d feel the headmaster’s birch cane. Beatings were his favorite form of exercise. But the burning eased somewhat, so my outburst had been worth it.
Agrippa said, “Miss Howel is right. There’s no need to fret, Sarah.” He shushed her crying and waved his hand above the candle. He collected the fire into his palm, where it hovered mere inches above his skin. He then took his stave—it was a plain wooden staff, quite ordinary-looking—and pointed it at the flame. Concentrating, he made the fire dance and swirl into different shapes before extinguishing it with one deft movement. Mouth open in astonishment, Sarah applauded wildly, her tears forgotten.
“You’re all done,” Agrippa said, giving her another toffee. Sarah took it and ran from the room as fast as she could. Fortunate child.
“I apologize for the inexcusable outbursts, Master Agrippa,” Colegrind said, glaring at me. “At the Brimthorn School for Girls, we try to curb female waywardness and insolence.”
He could try to curb me all he liked. But right now that was the least of my worries. My hands were beginning to burn again.
“I find a dash of insolence to be quite enjoyable from time to time.” Agrippa smiled at me. “Would you be so kind as to bring me the next girl, my dear? I will be testing every child at this school.”
If he was testing all thirty-five of them, he had to be searching for a witch. I groaned inwardly.
“Of course. I’ll return shortly.” I left the room, breaking into a run. I had to get outside. Pushing through the front door, I raced out the yard and up the hill. Just a few more steps and I’d be hidden from sight.
I collapsed to my knees as the fire spilled from my hands. Blue flames tickled my outstretched palms. I closed my eyes and sighed as I grabbed fistfuls of the damp grass.
Colegrind and Master Agrippa couldn’t know, not ever. Female magic—witchcraft—was criminal, and the sentence, death. As the flames slowed and sparks glinted off my fingertips, I felt someone sit behind me.
“There’s a sorcerer from the royal Order here to test the girls,” I told Rook, without turning around. Only my dearest friend would react with nonchalance when my hands were burning. Smoke hissed out from between my fingers. “He’s looking for the one starting the fires.”
“This is why you should only unleash it out on the moor. I’ve told you,” he said.
“I don’t always have that luxury, you know.” If my temper got the best of me, if something startled me, if Colegrind did something particularly loathsome, the fire would come upon me. I could never control it for long.
“The sorcerer won’t test you, will he?” Rook leaned his back to mine.
“As a teacher I’m spared, thank heavens. Can anyone down there see us?” I was fairly safe here, but not as far away as I’d have liked. If someone came up the hill unexpectedly, it wouldn’t end well.
“Not with me sitting around and ignoring my work.” I could tell from his tone that he was smiling. “Whoever looks up here will only find me.”
“Thank you,” I whispered, nudging his arm. “I should get back. They’ve more girls to test.”
“Think of the cold,” Rook said as he rose and helped me to my feet. His left hand gripped mine tightly, and he winced.
“Do your scars hurt?” I asked, pressing a hand to his chest. I could imagine the older teachers clucking at my “forward” behavior, but we’d known each other since we were children. Granted, Rook was attractive, with sharp, elegant features and blue eyes. His hair was still the same flaxen down it had been when we were eight. He looked like a poet or a gentleman, I’d always thought, even if he was only a stable boy. But most people would turn away from Rook, for all his beauty, if they knew what he kept hidden beneath his shirt.
The scars were terrible. They weren’t visible, as he took care to button himself up, but they were there. Most who suffer an Ancient’s attack die. Rook had been one of the lucky few to survive, but he’d paid dearly for his life.
“Bit more painful than usual. You know how bad it gets in damp weather,” he said. As if in response, thunder rumbled in the distance.
“Meet me after the girls are tested,” I said. “I’ll bring the paste.”
“You know how to make a fellow happy, Nettie.” He nodded, his eyes serious. “Be careful.”
“Always,” I said, and returned to the school.
Two hours later I knelt in the empty parlor. Tears filled my eyes as the cane landed across the back of my neck. Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, I counted. Three to go. I pictured banks of snow in winter. Thankfully, I’d gotten through the rest of the students’ tests with only an occasional flush of heat. Twenty. A warm trickle of blood ran down my neck and into my collar. I tried to rise to my feet, but Colegrind gripped my shoulder and kept me in place. Damn him.
“You were a wayward child, Henrietta. Do not allow your passions to lead you astray as a young woman.” I stifled a shudder as Colegrind’s hand trailed across my back. He’d taken to “noticing” me in such ways these past three years. Disgusting man.
“Yes, sir,” I said automatically. It was the single acceptable answer to Colegrind’s tirades. A slow heat prickled my palms. If only I could loose my anger and show him the response he deserved, but that was an insane thought. As I got to my feet, Agrippa entered the room.
“Beg pardon,” he said, and stopped. His eyes flicked to Colegrind’s cane, to me. I put a hand to the back of my neck to hide the marks, but I could tell he understood. His next words were cold and clipped. “Mr. Colegrind, there seems to be confusion with my carriage.”
“The servants are useless,” Colegrind said, as though we should pity him.
“Perhaps you might see to it yourself, then.” That was an order dressed as a request. Colegrind tightened his jaw, on the verge of talking back, and then thought better of it. He left, grumbling to himself. Agrippa came toward me, concern written on his face.
“Are you all right?”
He spoke so kindly that I felt tears forming at the corners of my eyes. I nodded and began neatening the room.
“Mr. Colegrind’s angry that we didn’t find the one starting the fires,” I said, placing a chair against the wall. “It’s been a hard three years for him. He was certain the culprit would be discovered.” I felt a twinge of pride; the old fool was disappointed again.
“Has it really been going on for three years?”
“Oh yes. Mostly it’s been patches of fire around the stables, but several of the headmaster’s favorite coats have met ‘accidental’ deaths.” I worked to keep glee out of my voice. “I would give you a list of those who dislike Mr. Colegrind, but I fear that wouldn’t narrow your search.” I knew it was bold to speak this way, but Agrippa laughed. “How did you hear of us, sir?”
“My Order keeps its collective ear to the ground for cases like these,” he said. I turned to look at him. He seemed to be choosing his words with care.
“Cases of witchcraft?” I nearly stumbled over the word.
“In a sense.”
“What you did with the fire was brilliant,” I said, straightening a corner of the rug. “I mean, putting on that show for Sarah.”
Agrippa laughed. “I appreciate a good audience.” The rain became a dim roar on the roof. I winced as I listened to it. “Really, are you all right?” Agrippa asked, noticing my reaction.
“They say that rain usually brings Familiars with it. Or, heaven forbid, one of the Ancients.”
At this, Agrippa sobered and nodded. “There’s nothing to fear. The only Ancient who favors this weather is Korozoth, and he’s near London at present.”
Korozoth, the great Shadow and Fog. They called him the fiercest warrior of all the Seven Ancients. “Have you ever fought him?” Thoughts of Agrippa rising into the air against a giant black cloud flashed through my mind, as thrilling a picture as I could create.
“On several occasions. This doesn’t frighten you?” He said it with a laugh. I’d sat down in a chair, entranced.
“No. I always want news of how the war’s progressing.” I knew I should wish him a speedy departure, but my curiosity got the better of me. I’d spent countless childhood evenings awake in my bed, watching shadows and moonlight form images on the ceiling. I’d imagined them as monsters, pictured myself meeting them in battle. Miss Morris, the head teacher, had sniffed and informed me how unfeminine those dreams were.
“How old were you when the Ancients arrived?” Agrippa said as he took a seat opposite me.
“Five.” I remembered hiding under the bed when the news first came, listening as my aunt shrieked orders to our maid. We had to pack only what we needed, she said, because we must travel by nightfall. Clutching my doll to my chest, I whispered that I would protect us. Now I nearly laughed to think of it. My doll, my aunt, my old life in Devon—all had vanished.
“You’ve never seen one of the Ancients, have you?” Agrippa asked, returning me to the present.
Meet the Author
JESSICA CLUESS is a writer, a graduate of Northwestern University, and an unapologetic nerd. After college, she moved to Los Angeles, where she served coffee to the rich and famous while working on her first novel. When she's not writing books, she's an instructor at Writopia Lab, helping kids and teens tell their own stories. Visit her at jessicacluess.com and follow her on Twitter at @JessCluess.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Abandoned at a boarding school at a young age, Henrietta Howel’s goals in life are simple: teach the younger girls, avoid the lecherous headmaster, and keep her magic a secret. Then a Sorcerer comes to the school and the sequence of events forces her to reveal her secret. Instead of being burned at the stake for witchcraft, Henrietta is lauded as the chosen one who will rid England of the monsters and the first female sorcerer since Joan of Arc. But what if, despite everything, she isn’t the chosen one? Wow. A Shadow Bright and Burning is like a cross between Jane Eyre and Mortal Instruments. It is set in Victorian England—not even an alternate history but ruled by newly crowned Queen Victoria. Then there is the magical aspect, with Sorcerers, Magicians, and Witches. And let’s not forget the seven demonic monsters terrorizing the nation. The blend of the magic culture with British high society was seamless, including both the fantastic wealth and privilege of the nobility with the prejudice against the lower classes, heightened by magical privilege. I loved the setting! The plot was fascinating. It turned the “Chosen One” trope on its head, much to my satisfaction; it can get old, after all. The villains were diverse and unique, featuring both humans, magical humans, and monsters which made it clear that the normal people can be as much at fault as the horrendous monsters. Things were not always as they seemed at first glance. I also enjoyed how the romantic relationships in the story were portrayed. At the risk of giving away too much (aka. Spoiler Alert), I enjoyed that the romance was not exactly the stereotypical player-guy-changes-for-main-character idea. That stereotype always seemed a bit farfetched to me. I mean, if the man sleeps with everybody, why would he stay faithful to the one girl who is, for no apparent reason, different than every other girl he has ever met? So I liked how this book portrayed my thoughts on the matter exactly. He liked her, but he would not give up his future or his ways for her. It was annoying the way he tried to use her, but I wasn’t shipping him with her anyway. I can only hope she finds her real match in the next book or two. (End Spoiler—and sorry for the rant.) Content Disclosure: dark magic, sexual references, an almost-sex scene, and some swearing. A Shadow Bright and Burning was a thrilling read that I would happily recommend to fans of YA Fantasy. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books. All opinions are expressly my own.
4.8 out of 5 Henrietta Howel is a sorcerer. The first female sorcerer in ages. Her power is rare and dangerous, and there are some who believe she is the one who is prophesied to defeat an ancient enemy. But is she? This YA fantasy is excellent. Set in an England filled with magic during the rule of a young Queen Victoria, you’ll feel as if you are there yourself. Cluess’s characters are well-written and the story keeps a steady pace as everything unfolds and Henrietta learns who she can really trust. This is the first novel in the Kingdom of Fire series, and with a few questions left unanswered, I will definitely read the next. A couple of content warnings: the story focuses on sorcerers, so there is a lot of magic. Some Christian readers may not like how closely linked magic seems to be to the church, or how the church is sometimes portrayed. However, it is fantasy, and it is Victorian England. So, the stances taken by some of the more “religious” characters aren’t that out of line. There’s also a little mild language. Content upside: it was refreshing to read a YA novel where sex isn’t laced throughout the story. Potential romances abound, but (at least in this first novel), Henrietta is more focused on finding her place. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in return for an honest review.
Maybe five or so years ago this book stood a chance. But, come on, there's not a single thing in A Shadow Bright and Burning that we haven't all seen before. Limited world-building and a plethora of potential love interests fuel this derivative Victorian fantasy. It begins with a familiar premise: an orphaned, mistreated girl called Henrietta lives a miserable existence until she is discovered by a sorcerer who claims she is a prophesied chosen one. He whisks her out of the life she has known and takes her to train her powers with other sorcerers. Almost everything is borrowed from other series. Harry Potter being the obvious example, but there's some Mortal Instruments/Infernal Devices in there too, as well as others. The magically warded secret area of London called "London Proper" is reminiscent of Diagon Alley, and Rowling's influence rears its head again when Rook knows dark magic is coming because his scars hurt. The author could have avoided this by developing her own take on both of these, but everything is skimmed over. Very little is explained. Much of this world remains a mystery to me even after finishing the book. When we do get some background information on the world, its history, and its magic system, it comes in the form of forced, unnatural conversations. The characters are clearly only discussing it for the purpose of educating the reader and it feels so out of place. There's hints at attraction with at least three of the male characters. Though the Mary Sue heroine is adamant that she is unattractive and that everyone is DEFINITELY NOT in love with her, evidence abounds to the contrary. Other characters can see that Rook is in love with Henrietta but "Omigosh, no!! They're just friends!" even though she describes him like this: Granted, Rook was attractive, with sharp, elegant features and blue eyes. His hair was still the same flaxen down it had been when we were eight. He looked like a poet or a gentleman, I’d always thought, even if he was only a stable boy. The book just doesn't do anything new. Even the attempts to put a new spin on the super special "Chosen One" trope result in a spin we've seen several times already. And I simply couldn't find anything to read for. The book moves through a cycle of Henrietta practicing her magic in repetitive elemental displays, flirting with one of the boys, and doing something dumb. By the latter I mean that she always finds a way to rush into any magical attack, against the orders of the most powerful sorcerers. I guess if you're still not over the whole "special chosen girl fights monsters and flirts with boys" thing, then this could work more for you. Me? I'm tired of it. Also, one last minor thing: every sorcerer gets a stave, which is basically a big magic wand, and their magic is tied to it. Losing it is VERY BAD. However, if you want me to appreciate the seriousness of losing one's stave, don't name it Porridge. “The pain of losing Porridge, the mere idea of it, threatened to crush me." Ooh, that's very sad. But mostly funny.
*** I recieved a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books! *** Action packed, dark, magical, and has a beloved cast of characters. I loved this book SO MUCH. Henrietta Howel has been chosen as the first female sorcerer in a world where female magic users are illegal. She must learn how to control the power she has been surpressing for years in time of her commendation for Queen Victoria. With secrets, desires, and a crazy amount of pressure to save the world, Henrietta must make the hardest decisions she has ever made. This is the first book in the Kingdom of Fire series! This book needs to be talked about more! Cluess has created a cast of characters I instantly became attached with. Her world building is outstanding, there were clever plot twists, and I couldn't get enough of this world she created. This world takes place in a time where class is imporant, a bad reputation can ruin you, and the main character must fight monsters in a corset. She touches on topics such as abusive leaders in schools, blackmail, obligation, lust, the different and tragic living conditions of others in the world, self doubt, and also self empowerment. She wrote this dark, but magical tale so beautifully, and I'm eager to read A POISON DARK AND DROWNING in September. Thank you so much, Blogging for Books, for giving me the opportunity to read this book without having to worry financially. If you love to read young adult fantasy books I highly recommend you pick this one up!
If Historical Fiction and Fantasy had a baby this would most certainly be it! First off I have to say how awesome this cover is and after reading the book it fits perfectly. So, A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess is book one of the Kingdom of Fire series. Book two: A Poison Dark and Drowning is supposedly due out sometime this year which I cannot wait for, I need more now! This series takes place in like 19th century styled England but unlike real life 7 grotesque monsters known as the Ancients are waging war on the Earth, the only thing fighting against them are the sorcerers. This book introduced you to Henrietta Howell, the first female Sorcerer in many years, but is she really who they think she is? This book is Howell’s story of friendship, trials of life and death and overall is a masterpiece of girl power. Jessica addresses a time old problem where women are brought down, thought less of, even believed they are easily manipulated, along with their persecution. This novel made me fall in love deeply with all the main characters, it also had a Pride and Prejudice feel about it, when it comes to a few of the lovely characters. The writing is exquisite and the best part of the whole experience, besides the amazing plot, great characters and pure amazement of the web she has woven in this story; is the message that anyone no matter their gender, station in life, race, you name it can rise above it all. If you love great fantasies or historical romances, with badass characters, alot of mixed romance within and above all a book full of true problems and morals that still are being addressed today, which makes it all that more real. Please pick it up, I promise you won’t regret it. I of course gave this 5 out of 5 stars and have added it to my favorites series list. I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review. This is my honest opinion about the book
pooled ink Reviews: This book blends Victorian life with the magic of sorcerers, witches, and magicians. A proper orphan girl descends upon the elite London society, challenging the woman’s place and power in the world. She is not so bold as to question her mentors, but when pushed she sets her foot down and clenches her fists to hide the unacceptable anger blooming there. In short: It takes a lovely rose and sets it on fire without so much as a blink or flutter. Overall I really enjoyed reading this book and I’m curious enough to long for more. I definitely think it’s a good read for fans of English magic, olden times, a dash of Jane Austen romance, or even for those looking for stories in a similar vein as the Harry Potter series. Creative, interesting, whimsical, and action-filled, A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING has proven to be a good addition to the YA magical fantasy shelves. I am definitely ready to see where Miss Howel’s path will lead her. Read my FULL review here: https://pooledink.com/2016/11/22/a-shadow-bright-and-burning/ (I talk and muse all about Cluess' wonderful characters!)
Interesting characters and story development.
For starters, I'd like to say that I think the cover of this book is absolutely gorgeous. You'll learn in the book what the flower on the cover means and I love that the characters chose it! Going into this book the only thing I really knew was that this was a fantasy/magic read. I saw this ARC swimming around on #booksfortrade on Twitter and just knew I had to trade for it. I'll have to admit, what drew me in was that cover! Magic, monsters, and a strong female character? How much better can it get? I really enjoyed this novel, I thought that the plot was amazing and it kept me turning the pages! Henrietta Howel, the main character is a witch, or is she? Howel has spent her life hiding her powers, in fear of being caught and killed because of them. One day, her best friend is attacked by monsters sent by the Ancients that are inflicting war over their realm. She is forced to use her powers to keep her friend alive, even though doing so means revealing her true identity to the one person she fear to do so in front of the most. Little does Henrietta know that that person has been looking for her for decades, and not to kill her. She is then taken in to learn that she isn't a witch but a lady sorcerer. View the rest of my review on my Blog! http://booking-around.weebly.com/home/book-review-8-a-shadow-bright-and-burning
Loved this book! It's filled with magic, lust, and danger.
The first book in an exciting new YA fantasy series, A Shadow Bright and Burning, grabs your interest from the very first chapter, and never lets go. The story is set at the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign, when the aristocracy ruled and women had few if any rights. First time novelist, Jessica Cluess, has done a good job of capturing the flavor of the era. The imagery, particularly in the descriptions of the horrifying Ancients and Henrietta’s magic, is so vivid. The female protagonist is a strong character with lots of spirit and determination. Well plotted, the story never bogs down, and when it ends you’re left wanting more.
Thought it was pretty good can't wait for the next book
Original posted at Sarcasm & Lemons: http://www.sarcasmandlemons.com/2016/09/arc-review-shadow-bright-and-burning-by.html in depth A Shadow Bright and Burning was one of my most hotly anticipated books of this year, and for good reason. It's a whimsical, atmospheric historical fantasy in the vein of fantasy classics, Harry Potter meets H.P. Lovecraft meets Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. While it doesn't quite eclipse its predecessors, Cluess' debut is a strong addition to the canon, full of spark and good feels. The concept and world really resonated with me. The setting is alternate universe Victorian London, where sorcerers and magicians are commonplace and seven megaton mythical beasties--the Ancients, patently and lovingly inspired by Cthulu--assail the nation. I wish Cluess had played up the Victorian culture more. There are many nods to the lower status of women, class issues, etc., especially with Henrietta being the first female sorcerer in centuries. However, it's an exploration Zen Cho did better in Sorcerer to the Crown, a very similar book (think magical England, sorcerers, rare female magic-user) with a stronger plot and ethnically diverse cast. In fact, go read it. Now. That's really my main issue with this book, wanting more. Deeper exploration into the themes of freedom and status. More diversity in the cast--as in, Henrietta was described as dark-skinned, but it was basically never mentioned again and felt thrown in? And then there's the matter of the other sorcerer boys, most of whom are so indistinctly drawn that I kept getting them mixed up. So when certain characters did certain "huge" things, I didn't care all that much because I didn't feel invested in them. I also thought the chemistry between Henrietta and Rook was rather flimsy, more like I was being told they cared deeply for each other rather than seeing their deep friendship alive on the page. I also wanted more Fenswick and faeries, because Cluess created such a lively character there but never took full advantage of him. Before you think I'm just naysaying, I'll tell you why I liked it anyway. It's fun. The magic is hardcore elemental, which I love, with the twisted magicians' magic thrown in. The writing is very pretty at times, and hysterical at others. I found myself laughing quite often at the witty banter between Henrietta and Magnus, the loving gruffness of Hargrove, and a variety of tongue-in-cheek lines presented in perfect deadpan. There's an Alice in Wonderland snark about it that's very appealing, with a Lovecraftian darkness that gives an otherwise whimsical story some depth and bite. And while characters like Lambe, Wolffe, and Dee were interchangeable and Eliza--basically the only other female--was totally thrown in, others were strong. Henrietta herself is fearsome and proud, resourceful and with enough edges to make her likable. Magnus is totally adorable, even though his character feels a little distorted towards the end. And I really came to care for Blackwood, the duty-worn earl who begins as Henrietta's biggest critic. Overall, it's a solid book. Some pruning in places and additions in others would have made it stronger. I'd love to see more exploration of the Ancients and their magic in the sequel, stronger characterization of the side characters, more nuanced discussion of the themes (oppression of women, prejudice against magicians and faeries, classism) that are so important .
I want to get it out that I was prepared to love this book. I’d heard a lot about A Shadow Bright and Burning from others that received galleys/ARCs. The cover was gorgeous. The plot sounded solid. I was definitely a bit wary when I got to the part of the synopsis that said that she’d be living in a house of all gentlemen the and wondered if this would be one of those books where all the gentlemen would be smitten with this woman who’s the answer to all their prophecies. I was very pleased when that didn’t seem to be the case. Like I said – I was prepared to love this book. I was nearly a third of the way through when I declared this statement, but then I got a little over halfway and things began to fall apart. The romance between Henrietta and one of the sorcerers partially ruins the story for me and gets in the way of me fully enjoying her awakening as the heroine of the story. Don’t get me wrong. This story has a lot of potential. It has great elements going for it and the overall structure of the story is decent. I was so into this idea of the prophesied one and it being this woman that this band of sorcerers have been looking for for years. I like that Henrietta came from a dark and harrowing background where her childhood was difficult and these reasons are why she is as humble as she is. Despite all of that, I found her development lacking. I feel like Cluess is determined to write about this character in a way that too much mirrors other heroines we’ve seen before in the YA genre (specifically Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices). There was a nagging part of me that wondered about this, but when I saw other bloggers point this out – it was like a lightbulb went on. I do want to touch upon the fact that I appreciated Cluess’s inclusion of diverse characters. When I first came across the description of Henrietta’s skin color, I had to read it a few times before realizing that yes, this character is a WoC! I thought, “How great!” I admire the fact that her diversity is not at the forefront of the story nor is she singled out for her skin color (of course, her class is), but I thought this was a great move on the author’s part that would bring in more readers who want more than the typical stories they’re used to in historical fantasy. All in all, my feelings about this story remain mixed. I have a very intense love/hate relationship with A Shadow Bright and Burning that I believe will carry me through to the conclusion of the series because I genuinely want to know what will happen to Henrietta and her band of sorcerers.
A fun, entertaining adventure set in Victorian England with a teen sorcerer apprentice, Nettie, who scrambles to find her place among the all-male academy. Along the way, she's battling Ancients (monsters mistakenly unleashed on the world years ago), trying to protect her long-time friend, Rook, and discovering the secrets surrounding her family. A true page-turner for fantasy fans!
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess Book One of the Kingdom on Fire series Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers Publication Date: September 20, 2016 Rating: 4 stars Source: ARC sent by the publisher Summary (from Goodreads): 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. What I Liked: I actually didn't know much about this book before reading it. I'd seen many positive early reviews for the book, and usually hype turns me off. But I decided to give this book a shot anyway, because, well, fantasy. I love fantasy, and YA fantasy tends to be good. I'm pleased to say that I did enjoy this book, and I look forward to reading book two. Henrietta Howel can set herself on fire. But females with any sort of magical power are executed, typically. When she is discovered one day, she is taken from the school she teaches at, and brought to study and learn her power. There are six young men also in training to be sorcerers. Henrietta is told that she is the chosen one, the girl-child of sorcerer stock. But Henrietta is not the chosen one. She discovers this, but cannot risk the sorcerers finding out. But the war with the Ancients (monsters) is even more dangerous than her secrets. What an intriguing, engaging story. I had no trouble reading this book, and I practically flew through the 400+ pages. Once I started the book, I was hooked. There are no lag at any point, no spots of boredom. I couldn't read it fast enough, to be honest! The author got the pacing right, perfect for the story. I really love that Henrietta isn't the "chosen one". I'm kind of sick of prophecies and chosen ones and such, and so it was kind of relief to be told upfront that she wouldn't be the chosen one. It takes a while, until the end of the story, for everyone else to learn of this. But we're still not aware of who the girl in the prophecy actually is. Fascinating! The story is brilliantly played out. Henrietta goes to Master Agrippa's home, and begins to learn how to control and wield her powers with Agrippa, as well as six boys also in training. Time goes on, and Henrietta is utterly failing at lessons. Why? Read the rest of my review on my blog, The Eater of Books! - eaterofbooks DOT blogspot DOT com :)
Upon reading the summary of this book I was immediately intrigued and excited to read it, and it did not disappoint. Jessica Cluess has created an alternate version of Victorian England in which sorcerers, witches and magicians exist and the country is plagued by otherworldly creatures of magnitude. I quickly discovered that I was unable to put it down, as the plot sweeps the reader away into this world of magic. Cluess's writing skills are excellent, filled with descriptions that did not overwhelm but still managed to convey the time period excellently. Her characters are exceptional in their depth and behaviors, easily understandable from the moment they are introduced and yet still full of surprises from time to time. The plot itself is thorough - full of intrigue, excitement, and action, as well as moments of discovery and understanding that kept the pace at just the right speed. Despite some typical tropes appearing (the protagonist, Henrietta Howel, being more interested in 'manly' pursuits that typical 'feminine' ones, a love triangle of sorts, and her obliviousness about her best friend's feelings towards her for most of the plot), the story and plot felt original and exciting and kept me engaged the entire time I was reading it. This book is not without its flaws, unfortunately. The beginning felt a little rushed, and there were moments throughout where there were transitions that seemed too short and sudden. There were also some character issues as well, I found, particularly concerning the characters Magnus and Rook. Magnus, (spoiler) for example, was wonderfully written from the moment he was introduced, and his behavior easy to understand. However, towards the end, there was a moment where he did something that felt somewhat out-of-character to him, and went against what I had come to know him as. This moment, of course, led to consequences for the protagonist that were necessary for the plot; however, I had trouble adjusting to this sudden change in character that I had not felt from him before. This could be attributed to Henrietta's perspective of him and her lack of full insight to his complete and true behavior, but it still left me feeling unsettled. (end spoiler) Rook, on the other hand, was less of a character and more of a raison d'être for Henrietta. He was not present often, and when he was I did not discover much about who he was as a person - his thoughts, feelings, opinions, behavior, etc. - but only what he meant to Henrietta, which, even then, did not feel like much since she never really said much about his personality. Towards the end I began to understand their relationship a bit more, but for something that is so integral to the plot of the story, I felt that it should have been made more apparent throughout. Overall, though, I really enjoyed reading this book and cannot stop thinking about the characters, who really made this story come to life. Full of much originality, great characters, and an engaging plot, A Shadow Bright and Burning is definitely the start of a wonderful series.
4.5/5 Stars A Shadow Bright and Burning personifies why I love the fantasy genre so much. It is exactly what it promises its readers—a powerful female MC, swoony boys, and fantastical magic—all set in Victorian London. Sounds amazing, right? This book gave me so many Howl's Moving Castle feels with its steampunky and enchanted world. The writing has an old world charm with magic laced throughout the words. Can you tell the magic was my favorite part of this book? xD There are multiple ship options in this book and it makes my heart a little wary. Especially since I like two of the possible options! Despite there being multiple ship choices, romance is definitely on the backburner in this story. The book mainly focuses on Henrietta—our heroine—learning more about herself and her powers. I did want a little bit more from the plot and think some things could be better defined but all in all, I truly enjoyed this book and hope you guys will check this one out! Full Review:http://www.bookrambles.com/2016/07/a-shadow-bright-and-burning-by-jessica.html
I didn't really know what to expect when I picked up A Shadow Bright and Burning to start reading it. I just liked it because of the cover. I mean...how can you not like the cover? Just look a that gorgeous thing! So it isn't hard for me to say that I got more than I expected. But, honestly, I never expected there to be Faeries in this book. Never. I was so pleasantly surprised to find them! A Shadow Bright and Burning is about Henrietta Howel - a girl who can burst into flames. Henrietta has kept it a secret, for in her world witches are killed. And that is what she fears she is, a witch! However, one day a sorcerer makes a call at the school for girls she has been living at since she was 5 and is now a teacher at. He is looking for a girl who can burst into flames and since there have been rumors of strange fires popping up at the school, he is hoping that he will find the girl that he is searching for. As it turns out, Henrietta isn't a witch. She is whisked away with the sorcerer Master Agrippa to be trained as the first female sorcerer in hundreds of years. But more than that, apparently is the girl spoken of in a prophecy to save the world from evil creatures that destroying the world. Oh, and of course there are boys. A few of them actually. So, I think it would be an understatement to say that I loved this book. I mean, I devoured the dang thing. I just couldn't help myself. I had to keep going. And then, when I got to the end, I didn't want it to end! I loved the world that Jessica Cluess built up in A Shadow Bright and Burning. It is a world at war with evil creatures running around and killing people. There are sorcerers, magicians, and witches! And faeries! Faeries! So much magic! I loved it! And it is all set up in Victorian like England. It is so perfect. Not only did I love the setting and all the magic, I also loved the characters. I have strong feelings in one way or another for the main cast of boys. And, yes, of course I have a favorite! And I loved the character of Henrietta Howel herself. While I found her strong for the majority of the book, I really enjoyed seeing her development through the course of the story. One thing I really want more of though is the faeries. I don't think there was enough of them in this book! Also, I need answers to some questions that Jessica Cluess left dangling. So now I have to wait (very impatiently) for the next book. My Rating 5 Stars Find more of my reviews here: http://readingwithcupcakes.blogspot.com/ This review is based on an ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone.