Date Released: January 3rd 2017
Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy
Synopsis:"Henrietta Howel can burst into flames.
Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she's 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.
But Henrietta Howel is not the chosen one.
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?"
Reading from our protagonist Henrietta Howel, the supposed chosen one, was not something I enjoyed. I had a lot of issues with her character, especially with her consistency. While an orphan, she claims to be a proper lady and upholds the customs of Victorian England such as wanting a suitable marriage and not ruining her reputation by being seen with young men while unchaperoned. And yet she’ll happily walk around London on her own without a thought (I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt here because she’s a Sorcerer), flirt with one of the other apprentices… but the worst part was the swearing. SHE SWEARS. A LOT. “Bloody”, “damn” and “bastard” are common words that fall out of her mouth. Like what kind of lady in Victorian England says these words on a daily basis as casual expressions? Hell even I don’t use bastard freely. This really ruined the atmosphere for me. Also, for someone who is so stubborn, she’s pretty damn gullible in believing other people’s claims. Some guy mentions her father’s name and she’s all into believing every single word that falls out of their mouth. She wasn’t a relatable MC for me.
I did enjoy the harem style with the one female among six male apprentices thing. The guys were all different and memorable. Flirty Magnus, sullen Blackwood (MY FAV), dreamy Wolff, shy Dee, quiet Lambe and funny Cellini. But my god Magnus was a flirt, it was funny at times and a bit much at others. Wolff and Lambe are adorable and I ship them for reasons. Then there’s the sullen and broody Blackwood. Lord Blackwood. Lord is right oh Lordy *fans self* I have a thing for the broody ones hehe. I mean there wasn’t even that much about him but I loved him nonetheless.
Romance you say? I had no feels for the love interest to be honest. I mean maybe it’s because I was watching Reply 1997 at the same time, a K-drama which portrayed its romance perfectly and had me feeling all the feels, but I didn’t see the chemistry between Henrietta and her supposed love interest. She’s kind of all over him but doesn’t admit it. Based on the above paragraph I’m sure you know who I ship her with.
The plot left a lot to be desired. The blurb promises lots of Sorcerer secrets and dark reveals with many twists but I didn’t find them to be that explosive or mind blowing. The end had a big build up and lots of action but I’m not entirely sure if there was meant to be a single big revelation because I didn’t see it. I enjoyed the fight but I wish it was more drawn out with more details (I’m fantasy trash ok so I’m used to fights that last whole chapters). I did like the whole premise of the Ancients though. I’m hoping this gets explored a lot more in the sequels - where they came from, R’hlem’s agenda and how the whole thing connects. This aspect definitely had me intrigued.
For a paranormal alternate Victorian England, the world-building was done poorly. The magic came too easily, there didn’t seem to be a proper magic system between the different types of magic-wielders and it really felt like a hodge podge of staff spinning, supposed concentration and ‘channeling’ the elements whatever that means. I also felt the descriptions of this Victorian England were lacking. It required more detail for me to feel how this was the same/different to reality Victorian England in our history. For the record, for 90% of the book I thought they were in Elizabethan England because they mentioned Elizabeth, the ‘queen’ and it wasn’t until the end when they mention Victoria that I realised the blurb was right. You might say 200 years should be easy to determine based on customs/the world, but that’s the thing - the speaking style, customs and glossed over London made it hard to determine which monarch we’re under.
Overall, I felt something was missing from A Shadow Bright and Burning. Hopefully, this gets resolved in the sequels as the story’s pace has been set and we gain some traction.