A Shadow Bright and Burning – Jessica Cluess


I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she is brought to London to train with Her Majesty’s sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she’s the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city–and the one she loves?


My Rating: 4 Stars

Thus far, the month of December has been good to me! I haven’t read a single book that I didn’t enjoy. A Shadow Bright and Burning was no exception. While there were a couple of things that I didn’t love, as a whole I found the book to be a fantastic start to a series I look forward to continuing.

Henrietta is a great heroine – she is confident in herself without being cocky, strong willed without being rude, and her inner-dialogue has a way of endearing her to her readers. I felt as though the story were being told to me by a good friend with a gift for words. While I liked her as a narrator, the book was really made for me by the supporting characters.

As I wrote in the last review I posted, I have a weakness for men named Magnus – the Magnus in this book is certainly no exception. Although Henrietta may have found Magnus annoying upon their first meeting, I was immediately smitten. He is a light and witty character and acted as much needed comedic relief. As the book progressed, he also proved himself to be a dedicated warrior and a fiercely loyal friend. He may not have been my favorite secondary character, but he was definitely a close second.

Henrietta’s introduction to Blackwood may not have been ideal, (alright, it was about as far from ideal as humanly possible) but, I liked the way that Cluess wrote their relationship progression. He certainly didn’t start out as my favorite character, but by the end of the book, I found myself wishing that he were Henrietta’s romantic interest. I also loved not only his relationship with his sister, but her relationship with Henrietta. Compared to the tightly laced Blackwood, she was a breath of fresh air.

I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5 for a couple of different reasons. It was clear from the beginning of the book that Rook was a major part of Henrietta’s life and would play a large part in her story as well. However, I felt as though he didn’t get enough actually time in the story. He and Henrietta had such a deep, and loving relationship, but I never quite got to see how it developed. There was only one flashback to their childhood and it was at the end of the book. Their other interactions were rife with tension that seemed to come from out of nowhere. I understood why Rook began to pull away, but where did Henrietta’s sudden feelings come from? At the start of the book, before they go to London, their friendship seems so normal. As soon as they reach London – BAM – tension. It made sense that Rook felt disconnected or not good enough for Henrietta given the change in her station, but there was never any indication of romantic feelings between them before they made the trip.And what kind of love does Henrietta feel for him? Friend love? Family love? Romantic love? I couldn’t tell, and the author never clarified.

The only other part of the book that gave me pause, was the betrayal. The character by whom Henrietta was betrayed didn’t even seem to be a major part of her life. He was mentioned only in passing a few times, with no noteworthy interactions prior to his betrayal. I was expecting one of her inner circle to be the person to turn against her and was honestly surprised at how small a part it played in the overall plot (especially given its mention in the book’s blurb).

My Takeaway: As a whole, A Shadow Bright and Burning was a fast read with an original premise. With the exception of a few minor details, I found the plot to be well thought out, the characters endearing, and the narration by Henrietta well done. I look forward to the next book in the series!

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