Friday, December 2, 2016

Me on A Shadow Burning and Bright

Title: A Shadow Bright and Burning
Author: Jessica Cluess
Release Date: September 20, 2016
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (Random House imprint)

Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, Henrietta Howel is 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. 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?

A Shadow Bright and Burning is a dangerous magic, one of shadows and demons, one of sorcerers and magicians. It's the story of a young woman trying to become something many claim she is and her navigating that demand while the fire inside of her rages on.

Henrietta is a familiar sort of heroine: a meek young woman from a poor and humble upbringing, an orphan with only a loyal friend for support and hopes for the future. The book begins with her in a place she's not technically safe in but it's a roof over her head and her friend Rook by her side. It's a horrible place, but she's alive. Then the sorcerer comes, looking for a student at the school Henrietta teaches at. Then the Ancient and the Familiars come. Then her fire is revealed, and she's whisked off to London to learn the ways of being a sorcerer. But in a city like London, danger lurks around every corner.

I found the world-building intriguing. The inclusion of magic and the Ancients in a Victorian-esque London. The different kinds of magic, the disgust and feud between sorcerers and magicians. The Ancients and the Unclean. All different kinds of magic and impossibility live here in this world. Underneath the magic, there are a number of clear and familiar overarching themes and sensibilities here. Like class inequality, how the rich hold themselves above the poor. Like gender inequality, how a number of trainees and sorcerers find it foolish to teach a young woman the ways of magic like how they teach Henrietta. How it would be better for her to know her place, which would be under their overbearing and pompous male thumbs. Because how dare a woman think she be equal to a man.

I was rather surprised by this book, and rather surprised as to how much I enjoyed it. It was exciting and tense, the Ancients were wonderfully creepy and disturbing, and a number of the sorcerers were rather obvious and spiteful in their dated misogyny. Not all, which was helpful to Henrietta. Sometimes you really need to put aside your views on women in power if you want to live. I'm curious as to what will happen in the next book, as it looks like Henrietta will be in more and more battles to come, and which secrets will be uncovered. Because there are quite a few.

(I borrowed an e-book copy of this title from the library.)

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