“Devastatingly magical and monstrously romantic.” —Stephanie Garber, New York Times bestselling author of CARAVAL
Henrietta wants to save the one she loves.
But will his dark magic be her undoing?
In the second book in the Kingdom on Fire series, Jessica Cluess delivers her signature mix of magic, passion, and teen warriors fighting for survival. Hand to fans of Victoria Aveyard, Sarah J. Maas, and Kiersten White.
Henrietta came to London to be named the chosen one, the first female sorcerer in centuries. Instead, she discovered a city ruled by secrets. And the biggest secret of all: Henrietta is not the chosen one.
Still, she must play the role in order to keep herself and Rook, her best friend and childhood love, safe. But can she truly save him? In order to try, Henrietta persuades Blackwood, the mysterious Earl of Sorrow-Fell, to travel up the coast to seek out new weapons. And Magnus, the brave, reckless flirt who wants to win back her favor, is assigned to their mission. Together, they will face monsters, make powerful allies, and discover that some old wounds are still full of poison.
Praise for Jessica Cluess's A Shadow Bright and Burning, Kingdom on Fire, Book 1:
“This is a novel that gives off light and heat.” —The New York Times
“The magic! The intrigue! The guys! We were sucked into this monster-ridden alternative England from page one. Henrietta is literally a ‘girl on fire’ and this team of sorcerers training for battle had a pinch of Potter blended with a drop of [Cassandra Clare’s] Infernal Devices.” —Justine
“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, #1 New York Times bestselling author
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London was waiting, and so was I.
Tonight was an official gathering of Her Majesty’s sorcerers--my first since being commended to the royal Order--and as the city’s church bells tolled seven o’clock, my stomach fluttered with nerves. We were a country still at war with monsters, but at that moment attacking hellbeasts were the furthest thing from my mind. The thought of going inside the palace made me wildly uneasy.
From out Blackwood’s carriage window, I watched the sorcerers as they rode up to Buckingham Palace on horseback or floated out of the evening sky to alight upon the ground with ease. They adjusted robes and ran hands through their hair as they hurried inside, trying to look presentable. I stayed hidden inside the carriage, my gloved hands folded tightly in my lap.
Two months before, when I’d arrived at the palace, it had been blazing with lights, ready for a grand ball. Now it was darker, more somber. It was a place of business. My business now.
“Your first Order meeting,” Blackwood said, sitting opposite me. “You must be excited, Howel.”
“Excited or numb with terror?” That was a joke. Mostly. “What should I expect?” I still felt awkward in my black silk sorcerer’s robe. It wasn’t designed for a woman. I was the first female to be inducted into the royal Order by a monarch, at least in recent memory. And so I fidgeted, pulling at the collar.
“I’ve never been inside.” He patted the handle of his stave. “Only commended sorcerers may enter. But I have heard,” he said, attempting to sound all business and knowledge, “that it’s quite impressive.”
“Something that might impress the great Earl of Sorrow-Fell?” I said. Flicking my gloved fingers, I shot a few embers at him. The cool night air quickly swallowed my fire. Blackwood laughed, bolstering my courage. He wasn’t much in the practice of laughter, though I liked to think he’d got more used to it after months of living with me.
“Do I have to worry about you bursting into flames every time you mock me?” he asked, wiping at his sleeve as the footman opened our carriage door. Blackwood stepped out and handed me down. I shivered. The evening was cool, a reminder that summer was nearly done.
“Don’t be absurd. I mock you far too often to set fire to myself every single time.” I took his arm, and we made our way to the palace’s entrance. Around us, sorcerers were greeting each other. I searched for my friends, Dee or Wolff or Lambe, but saw none of them.
Blackwood cut through the crowd gracefully, men twice his age stepping aside for him and nodding. I’d never have imagined this was his first Order meeting. He moved about in his robe with ease, as if he’d been wearing it all his life. Perhaps he’d practiced? Or it could be that he was simply good at everything to do with being a sorcerer.
I was surprised how many of the sorcerers were young, my age or only a few years older. I knew I should have expected it--a group of tottering old men couldn’t be expected to win a war--but seeing others plucking awkwardly at their robes, laughing too loudly and then ducking their heads in embarrassment, made me feel less alone. We entered the palace through a large, arched doorway and turned down a carpeted hall before making our way outside again, into the grand courtyard. In the center of the yard, a great black dome awaited us. We filed through the door, and I gasped as we entered a room of pure night.
I’d been inside obsidian rooms before, but this was an obsidian cathedral. The ceiling soared above us, fifty feet at least. No windows interrupted the smooth, dark expanse of stone on either side. The only source of natural light came from the large, round glass ceiling. It allowed the moon to cast a baleful eye upon the proceedings. Sconces lined the walls, the flickering fire lighting the way to our seats.
Whoever had designed this room had taken inspiration from the Senate of ancient Rome: tiered seating, much like an amphitheater, went up several floors in a semicircle. Most of the younger sorcerers clumped together in the back rows.
It felt rather like the day I’d first come to Master Agrippa’s, only so much worse. At least when I’d first arrived in London, everyone had thought I was their great prophesied girl destined to bring about the end of the Ancients. Now as they turned to stare, we all knew that was not true. I had played a key part in destroying one of the seven monsters--Korozoth, the Shadow and Fog--but at the cost of shattering the protective ward around the city, leaving us all vulnerable to attack.
Yes. Feeling all the sorcerers’ eyes upon me, it was definitely worse.
“Howel, ease up. I prefer to keep my arm.” Blackwood’s voice was tight with pain.
“Sorry.” I relaxed my grip and began the calming exercises Agrippa had taught me months before. Imagine a stream of cool water running down your hands. The exercises kept me from going up in flames at bad moments.
The room was rather bare, all things considered. The only other things of note were a raised dais, upon which stood a backless obsidian seat--for the Imperator, I shouldn’t wonder--and a large square pit with four compartments. One compartment held burning coals, one a pool of water, one rich earth, and one was empty save for a floating white feather that perpetually hovered inches from the ground. I’d read about this; it was an elemental square, like an altar in a church. Holy to sorcerers.
Everyone who entered walked up to the square, knelt, and touched their forehead to the edge. Was it wrong to find the whole thing a bit silly? We moved toward the square. Blackwood genuflected, and then I followed.
Kneeling before the elements, my body settled into profound stillness. I could feel the quiet whisper of the earth resonating through me, could sense the fire that pulsed below the surface of my skin. It was as if a cool, invisible hand had been laid on my shoulder, assuring me that I belonged. Gently, I touched my head to the cool obsidian. When I stood, I felt a bit dizzy and grabbed on to the edge. A sorcerer in his late twenties helped me to stand.
“It’s a bit of a rush the first time you experience it. You’ll find your feet,” he said, not unkindly. I thanked him and then went to join Blackwood. He was seated in the second tier and looking about at the crowd expectantly.
“I don’t think everyone will be here,” he mused as I sat down. “But whoever’s in London will come.”
I might see some of the boys after all. It had been months since Lambe had been in town, and I’d barely spoken to Wolff since the commendation. God, I hoped they’d be here tonight. Them, or Dee . . . or Magnus.
Then again, perhaps I didn’t need to see everyone.
“The Imperator should begin with formally inducting all the newly commended sorcerers,” Blackwood said. “But he might not. I’ve read that Imperators past--Hollybrook, for example, who held the title from 1763 to 1801--sometimes required a small blood oath. Apparently it was a grisly mess.” Blackwood’s eyes seemed to glow as he looked at the Imperator’s still-empty throne. “Don’t be afraid to speak up if you wish. There’s no formal structure for these sorts of things. Whitechurch is our leader, and he may ask for specific advice from the Masters, but everyone in the Order has a right to question or offer opinions.”
“You know quite a bit about the Imperator’s office,” I said.
Blackwood looked a bit sheepish. “I confess it’s a job that’s always interested me. Though there’s an unofficial rule that says Blackwoods can never be Imperators--we’re too influential already.”
“They’d be mad not to consider you,” I said. Blackwood would be one of the best choices for a leadership role. Even though he’d only just turned seventeen, he had a cooler head than most men twice his age. He sat up even straighter, his green eyes brightening.
“Howel!” Dee bolted up the stairs toward Blackwood and me, as excited as an overgrown calf in clover. I didn’t care. Someone from my old Incumbent house was here, besides Blackwood. Dee ducked into our row, jostling a pair of sorcerers, and sat on my skirt. It took a couple of tugs to get it out from under him.
“Dee! I didn’t think you’d be back from Lincolnshire. Did you battle Zem?” I said, stifling a laugh while he tried to yank his robe into propriety. Dee’s red hair was a brambled mess. He must have flown here.
“I didn’t get up close, but the Great Serpent was at work burning down masses of fields. Suppose the Ancients want to destroy crops, what with the winter coming. I got to work in the rain unit, you know. Even managed some lightning.” His round face flushed with pleasure. Well, he should have been proud. Summoning lightning was a bloody challenge.
“You must have won a great victory.” I smiled at him.
“We put the fire out, at least. How is everyone at home?” he asked, painfully trying to sound casual.
He was clearly asking about Lilly, my maid. He’d liked her since we’d all lived in Agrippa’s house together, though he’d never made his feelings known. Normally I’d have been worried about a young gentleman chasing a maid--those sorts of things didn’t usually end well for the girl. But I knew Dee would sooner cut off his own hand than harm Lilly. And if he didn’t, I’d do it for him.
“Everyone is very well. Everyone,” I said with a wink. Dee blushed harder, if such a thing were even possible. His skin practically glowed.
“What was that about?” Blackwood whispered.
“I don’t have to tell you all my secrets,” I said primly, fluffing my skirt.
“Pity. I’d like to know them.”
I couldn’t tell if he was joking, and I studied him a moment. Blackwood’s profile was strong and distinguished in a shaft of moonlight, and the look in his eyes utterly distant. No matter how much time I spent with him, he could be as inscrutable as the dark side of the moon.
“All rise,” a sorcerer called at the door. Instantly, I was on my feet, alongside Blackwood and the rest of the room. We were silent as a black-robed man entered, walked up the steps of the dais, and seated himself upon his throne. Horace Whitechurch, Imperator of Her Majesty’s Order.
When I’d first met him, I’d thought him the thinnest, most unassuming old man, with white hair and wet black eyes. Now I could feel how his strength radiated outward. In this room, coupled with the power of the elemental square, I imagined him as the beating heart of a great body, his life force nourishing each one of us in turn. This man was strength.
“Be seated,” he said, and we all obeyed in a whisper of silk. “To business. I shall be brief.” He paused, as if gathering his words. Then, “There has been an attack on the queen.”
He said it so matter-of-factly. Sharp cries sounded throughout the room, echoing off the high walls. Blackwood, Dee, and I looked at each other with horror. Whitechurch cleared his throat, restoring silence.
“Her Majesty is well. She herself has not been assaulted, but a message was found in the queen’s bedroom,” Whitechurch continued. He took something from his robes and held it up for all of us to see. It looked an ordinary type of letter. “From R’hlem.”
Holy hell. The Skinless Man, the most fearsome, the most intelligent, the most ruthless of the Seven Ancients, left a message in the queen’s bedroom? This time, there was no outcry. The room, as one, held its breath.
Finally, one young man in front of us stood. “How can we be certain it’s from him, sir?”
“The message was found,” Whitechurch said, unfolding the paper, “pinned to the body of one of Her Majesty’s footmen.” My stomach tightened to think about it. “A shadow Familiar was found painting on the walls with the poor man’s blood.”
I unsheathed Porridge and held it in my lap. I swore that the stave warmed in my hand, as if giving me comfort.
A shadow Familiar, he’d said. Could it have been Gwen? I recalled her the night of our commendation, laughing wildly as she pulled Agrippa away into the air. My heart twisted. Even now, the thought of Agrippa hurt. He’d welcomed me into his home, trained me. He’d been the first to believe in me. True, he had also betrayed me, but that part didn’t seem to matter any longer.
“What became of the Familiar?” someone else called out. Blackwood was right: Order meetings were quite informal.
“We burnt the thing. It did not return to its master.” Whitechurch turned his eyes down to the paper in his hand.
A cold sweat broke out along the back of my neck. It was as if I’d gone back to that night months before, when I’d come face to face with the Skinless Man. It had been an illusion, and a damned good one. The monster had caught me by the throat and nearly choked me to death. Thinking about that one burning yellow eye in the center of his forehead, the bloodied stretch of his muscles, the . . . I nearly vomited.
The worst part of all this was that if one of R’hlem’s agents had gained access to the palace and the queen’s bedroom, then we were not nearly as safe as we’d hoped. After the ward came down, we’d erected barriers all around the edges of the city, barriers patrolled day and night. But clearly it hadn’t been enough.
At least the queen was unharmed. At least he hadn’t succeeded in attacking her. Unless it was R’hlem’s plan to instill fear in us.
I knew from experience that fear could lead people to do terrible things.
Whitechurch began reading, “ ‘My dear Imperator, I pray you’ll excuse the messy delivery of this salutation. One must always make an impression.’ ” Even though Whitechurch spoke those words, I could hear R’hlem’s voice saying them, his tone deep and soft and sinister on the edges. “ ‘It has been rather a dull summer, wouldn’t you agree? I admit that my dear Korozoth’s destruction was a bit of a puzzle to me. But if there is anything I enjoy in this life, it is a challenge.
“ ‘I’ve decided to give you fair warning: I am preparing an onslaught to bring your Order to its knees. I will show you horror, my dear Imperator. I will give you the very taste of fear. And you know that I am a man of my word.’ ”
Excerpted from "A Poison Dark and Drowning (Kingdom on Fire, Book Two)"
Copyright © 2018 Jessica Cluess.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Children's Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Must read, reminds me of the red Queen
Hold onto your behind, things move along at a decent clip in this sequel. A more than worthy sequel to the series starter, this installment ends in a place that was unexpected and left me needing the final book NOW. If you were on the fence about this series, pick it up. On a re-read, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I loved the characters and how easily I was able to pull them up from my memory of the my first read.
4.8 out of 5 Henrietta Howel was brought to London as the first female sorcerer in centuries. She was the chosen one who would help defeat the Ancients terrorizing England, but she's not the chosen one. Still, she must carry on for the public as though she is the one who will save them. It means that she and Rook will have a chance to be safe, though his dark powers are growing as he learns to control them, changing him into something she doesn't recognize. With permission from the head of the Order, Howel and Blackwood go in search of weapons that may help them in their war against the Ancients. Magnus, still trying to get back into Howel's good graces, is assigned to assist. Along the way they discover strange places, danger, and truth that has devastating consequences. This second book in Cluess's Kingdom of Fire series is perfectly on par with the first. The story moves on without any lag. The characters are so well-written that they jump off the page. There's a little more drama as potential romances grow, but it's so woven into the plot that it all feels natural, and leaves you a little unsure of who to root for. I have to point out Cluess's ability to lay groundwork with hints and clues as the story unfolds. A lot of things come to light in this novel, and I was able to predict a few of them by the clues left here and there, and still be satisfied in the reveal. There are still unanswered questions, and I still have some theories that haven't played out yet. I will definitely be reading the next book. A few content warnings: The use of magic is heavier than the first book as magicians take on a greater role. There is mild language. The first novel hinted at a gay relationship and it is confirmed in this novel. The characters are minor, and the scene is short, but I expect it to be brought up again in later books. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in return for an honest review.
Color me excited when I got a hold of a copy of A Poison Dark and Drowning to review! I even made myself reread book one, A Shadow Bright and Burning before I let myself read it since it had been such a long time. This being said, this is a 2nd book in a series....so there may be spoilers for book 1. Consider yourself warned. This book takes place not too long after the first book ends. Henrietta is living with Blackwood at his estate as his guest/friend. She is working to try to find a cure for Rook. The world is still in ever worsening danger. And the Ancients are demanding that the Sorcerers hand her over. This book is definitely action packed. And filled with a lot of twists and turns. Some of which I expected and others surprised me. And of course, new ones were brought up, and I have my suspicions on how they will turn out... As far as character development goes in this story, I am kind of disappointed in how some of the guys have gone. Actually I think I am disappointed in all of them. Except Rook. I still do not care about Rook. Two books have gone by and I still could do without him. He feels like a background character that isn't actually supposed to be a background character. But he feels so flat compared to other characters. Flat and boring. And I really hope the other guys get redeemed in the third book. I am really not happy with how either Magnus and Blackwood have developed/or failed to develop so far. And the love square? I am kind of really over that. A triangle is bad enough...but a freaking square? That is probably my biggest complaint with this series. Our heroine just seems to be ready to go to which ever guy will flutter his pretty lashes in her direction. She just keeps flipping and flopping all over the place with them. I still have my preference as to which one I like the best, and I have them ranked. But, I am very ready for her to decide and stop dragging that part on. And we did get some new characters and new bits of the world explained to us. All of which was pretty cool and interesting. The weird feeling between Magicians, Sorcerers, and Witches has a bit more development. We learn a lot more about the Ancients too. A whole lot more! It will be really interesting to see how book 3 goes for this series. I love the characters and the world. And I really want to see how they make it through their new challenges! This review is based on a copy provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts are mine and mine alone. My rating: 4.5 stars Find more of my reviews here: http://readingwithcupcakes.blogspot.com
This series is outstanding! Seriously, I love these characters and this story. Jessica Cluess magically combines romance and adventure to create this nail-biting Victorian fantasy. Each character has their own distinct personality that shines through in their dialogue and actions. The storyline is fast paced and had me pouring over every page to find out what happened next. A Poison Dark and Drowning didn't end on a cliffhanger, but I was not ready for the story to end yet! Which leads me to my only disappointment: Book 3 won't be out until Fall 2018. I voluntarily received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
A few hours ago I finished A Poison Dark and Drowning the second book in the Kingdom on Fire series by Jessica Cluess. The first book is about Henrietta Howel, who is believed to be the philosophized one. But she's not, so the entire book is about her pretending to be the chosen one. Although that sounds interesting the book wasn't that good. One of the biggest changes in this book were the characters. During the first book I hated all of the characters, but in this book some of them actually became likable. Henrietta was no longer a useless main character, here she actually accomplished difficult tasks. Henrietta discovers the chosen one and takes down the main antagonist, all by herself. She goes through a lot of character development throughout this book, which was refreshing. A lot of the side characters were better developed and actually interesting. When Magnus left for certain death I was actually upset, and on the opposite side from that I began hating Blackwood. After the scene where he confessed his love to Henrietta I could not stand him because he just seemed to cruel and forceful. This entire book was packed full of twists and unexpected outcomes. I really just want to write them all down here and spoil them all but that would be cruel. The only surprise I saw coming was the reveal of who the real "chosen one" was. Otherwise every other important change in the story was hard to see coming, and actually gripping. I was actually hurt and upset by some of the things that happened in this book, I was especially surprised by what happened to Henrietta at the end of the book (i'm not going to spoil that for ya). One of the weakest parts of this book was the writing. The story told more than it showed and the descriptions were dull and didn't give me many visuals. Speaking of visuals, I really have no idea what any of the characters look like. Each of their individual appearances were mentioned once in the first book, but never brought up again. Come on Cluess! You can't even add in a few lines about hair or eye colors? That annoyed me to no end because all of the characters were just blobs in my mind without any unique characteristics. All of the characters had their own individual personalities, yet they all lacked physical attributes. Overall I enjoyed this book more than the first one, but still there are a ton of improvements that can be added. At this point I'm not sure if I'll be reading the next book when it's released. Sigh, I was hoping for more in this book.
A Poison Dark and Drowning is one of the rare sequels that I actually liked more than the series opener. Jessica Cluess continues to subvert the chosen one trope in an absolutely delightful manner. As in the first book, the characters were intriguing and I loved that we found out more about the world. I have a feeling that this series is just going to keep getting better with each installment. This book picks up just a short while after the events at the end of A Shadow Bright and Burning. Henrietta is now living with Blackwood and his sister while desperately seeking a cure for Rook. The entire country is now actively at war with the Ancients and casualties are mounting. The plot of A Poison Dark and Drowning is a wild ride that kept me engaged and intrigued throughout. While some parts were predictable, there were some twists that I didn't see coming. This book did an excellent job of setting up the next book in the series without devolving into feeling like a set-up novel. The first book was about Henrietta, Blackwood, Magnus, and the other boys discovering their magic and forming friendships. This one threw them into a brutal war and chronicled how they changed because of it. The character development was excellent, particularly for Magnus and Blackwood. Much of the character growth came about in the aftermath of foolish decisions as the characters witnessed the consequences of their choices. A wonderful female character was introduced in this book and she quickly become one of my favorite characters in the series. She is absolutely amazing and I adored the friendship that sprung up between her and Henrietta. While I liked the characters, the world, and the plot of this book, I found the romance to be problematic. Part of this was due to the fact that Rook was reduced to a shadow of a character in this book. While I think the author did this intentionally to mirror his degeneration, it made it really hard to care about the romance between him and Henrietta because he had zero personality. Also, even though my ship ended up happening, I wasn't a huge fan of the way it played out. The love interest that I'd fallen in love with in the first book changed so drastically at the end of this book that they almost weren't recognizable as the same person. However, I still have faith in Cluess so I'm intrigued to see how she'll further develop the romance. If you enjoyed A Shadow Bright and Burning, I think you'll definitely enjoy this one. This series is a fun and entertaining read that will entrance you. I'm very intrigued to see where the story will go next! *Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This. Book. I have so many words and none all at once. I suppose that’s what happens when you read one of your most anticipated titles of the year. Y’all may recall how much I adored the first in this series, A Shadow Bright and Burning. It was, by far, one of my favorite YA fantasies of 2016 and the wait for A Poison Dark and Drowning was terribly long and emotionally painful. But I digress. Where the first book had a stronger focus on the friendships forming between Henrietta and the other sorcerers as she learned more about her particular talents, this book fell on the darker side of things. The Ancients are waiting and the sorcerers are short on people. The stakes are just plain higher but the events of the world around them seemed to be less important compared to the relationships between Henrietta and the others. I didn’t like this book as much as the first. When I finished it, my emotions were just dead. A lot happened but not at the same time. The characters mentally went through the ringer though events of the story going on around them progresses slower. But after letting my thoughts stew for a bit, I realized that I didn’t feel the same clinging desperate need for book 3. Don’t get me wrong, I loved this book. . . but not as much as the first. Much of this comes down to the characters. Cluess made a push for the romances in Henrietta’s life (even though nothing really HAPPENED romantically. . .). There’s Rook who I never really liked to begin with and liked even less this time around. Then there’s Blackwood which was a ship I could have gotten behind but. . . he changed. Characters change, for sure, but I didn’t like the direction he took. Controlling, dominating, almost possessive in nature. Whatever happens next, I want Henrietta away from him. Still Team Henrietta/Magnus all the way. But Henrietta is still my fave. I wish I’d seen more of her curiosity and intellect in this book but such is life. Her and a new female character (y’all will love her) are going to be powerhouses in this world, I can tell, and I am ALL there for that. It’d be nice, though, if the story wasn’t predictable. The characters felt a bit fake this time around because we know they’re smart from book 1 but they made one stupid choice after the next when the answers seemed so obvious. Maybe it was just me, but APDAD felt more like a trope-y YA fantasy rather than the amazing debut I read in ASBAB. All in all, though I know I had a few more critical remarks than raves, I did love this book, devouring it in hours, and can’t wait for book 3. It just suffered a bit from sequel syndrome but I have full faith in Cluess to bring the heat in the next installment!