A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
Published by: Random House Children’s on September 20, 2016
Review Source: Publisher, Netgalley
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Plot: Henrietta Howel is three things: 1. the first female sorcerer in centuries, 2. the possible fulfillment of a prophecy, and 3. surrounded by attractive male sorcerers and Victorian High Society. Queue shenanigans.
Review: *Sigh* I wanted this book to be so much more than it was. Here’s the pros and cons:
- Diversity of characters. It’s always refreshing to see a POC as the main protagonist, and I appreciated Cluess inclusion of different ethnicities, gender, and economic status in her cast.
- Touches on social / economic issues. The wizarding world of Cluess reads much like Victorian high society London, complete with economic classes and snobbery. While it felt historically true, the interesting part about her London is that it felt applicable to today. Economic inequality and civil rights are hot-button topics these days, and this book hits the scene just in time to tap into that.
- I had a really hard time finding my stride while reading this. Even with the action scenes it felt like the plot just limped along. I think I would have liked it more if there was a bit more buildup and plot twists.
- There is a lot going on in Henrietta’s London. There are monsters and magical caste system that breaks up sorcerers, witches, and magicians. There are also sharp economic divides that fracture London’s population. Things are explained, but done so in a textbook fashion. It made feel like I was reading a D&D manual more than once.
- I get that Brits at the time were more reserved than we are today, but I need something to work with. Everyone felt really placid, personality-wise. Minimal emotion, minimal connections. Even the steamy scene between two characters felt hurried and unwarranted. I didn’t click with anyone, nor did I root for them. Mostly, I just felt disappointed.
Overall, I felt this was a rather tepid read, which was a bummer because I know some have really enjoyed it. Sadly, it wasn’t for me.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Who Should Snag It: Only diehards of historical fantasy should put this in their TBR pile.
*I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.*