I needed a new audio book for my drive in to work and none of my library loans were in, so I went looking for something new. I chose A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess partly because it is teen fantasy and mostly because it is narrated by Fiona Hardingham, who I love.
A Shadow Bright and Burning takes place in England, primarily London of the corset and dinner jacket era. The English are at war with seven powerful monsters–the Ancients–who are destroying their cities bit by bit. Only England’s sorcerers are powerful enough to keep the monsters at bay, but even they can’t kill them.
Henrietta Howle can burst into flame and no one can know. Witches are considered dangerous and are locked up and killed. Witches and magicians have been outlawed in England, due to their part in the arrival of the Ancients 16 years ago. But Henrietta cannot control her power and when her best friend is threatened by the Ancients’ familiars, she cannot stay hidden.
Found out Henrietta fears the worst, but her fears are soon put to rest when she finds out that she isn’t a witch but a sorcerer and one the profits have foretold. Now Henrietta is the first female sorcerer in hundreds of years and must train and fight in a mans world. Her fellow trainees, all teenage boys, love her, hate her and admire her in different measures.
Will Henrietta master her power? Will she keep her best friend safe? And will the secrets that suppress her, keep?
Well let me start off by talking about the audio book itself. I love Fiona Hardingham! She narrates several of my favorite audio books. She has a talent for voices and I am ever impressed with her skills. The audio for this book was great. It pulled me in and helped to get me interested in a plot that I was ify about.
Now the story itself. It was good… but it felt very familiar. For a new YA fantasy, it felt like something I’ve read before. There were monsters, fae, sorcerers, witches, magicians, magical wards, prophecies, staves(wands)…you get the drift. All usual elements of fantasy stories. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but the plot has to be stellar to make up for this in my opinion.
There were parts of this book I really liked and the rest I just felt kind of meh about. I enjoyed any scene where Henrietta was with the Magician; their training was fun and exciting. I was less pleased with the constant reminder that Henrietta is a woman and therefore at the mercy of society. I felt that Henrietta should have done something about this instead of dwelling on it. I wanted a stronger Henrietta–maybe in the next book.
I also had a major problem with the romance in this story. Cluess hints at three different love interest: one unrealized, one with a too slow build up, and one we want to slap…repeatedly. I also didn’t quite believe the budding romance and the inevitable “who should I pick.” The only relationship I really itch to see more of is more of a budding friendship at the moment.
This was a fine audio book and I would probably pick up the sequels to listen to as well. Not a bad read but it needed a little something. 2.5 stars for me.
That’s all for now!