Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

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January 9, 2017 by Zoë

Henrietta Howel can set herself on fire and not be burned, which makes her a witch. Until it’s discovered that she’s a sorcerer. Unless she isn’t? A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess explores what happens when a girl is thrust into a magical world full of men, while England’s fate lies at the hands of the Ancients, who are bent on destroying everyone in the country.

The Good
This was a simple but fun fantasy novel set in Victorian England. To me, it called up a lot of the themes in Tamora Pierce’s early books concerning women taking on traditionally male roles and working for acceptance in what they do. Which, while done before, I still enjoy reading again.

The book moved quickly, with constant things occurring to move the plot forward. I was excited to find out what happened next, even if I was never too concerned about Harriet’s safety.

The Bad
On a whole, the themes in this book were pretty simple. This was just about a girl finding acceptance which, as I said, has been done before, and been done pretty iconically. What sets this book about is the magic and worldbuilding, which is unfortunately also where it falls a little short. There are three different types of magic wielders: sorcerers, magicians, and witches. These are all supposed to be distinct categories, but a major plot point is how easily one can be mistaken for the other, which doesn’t make sense to me if there really are such large differences between them.

Secondly, explanations to do with the Ancients are highly lacking. In part, I think this is because sequels were being set up and we’ll explore that more in the future, but this was endlessly frustrating. They’re supposed to be creatures that no one has beaten before, and yet Henrietta is somehow able to without too much trouble? Again, I didn’t really understand this.

Finally, what was up with Queen Mab and the random but brief references to fairies? How do they play in to the Ancients thing? Why do they care about England? What is their deal?

Also, love triangle with one of the points being a rather distasteful guy. (You were asking to be kissed!!)

The Verdict
There are a lot of fun, interesting things going on here, but they don’t always come together well, possibly because of the impending sequels. I’m still interested to see where this series goes though, especially because now we’ve gotten over the I’m-a-girl-and-I-can-do-things-too plot and can move on to more interesting things.

“Queen Victoria owns hobgoblins?”

I received a copy of this book through Blogging for Books for this review.

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One thought on “Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

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