Review of A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING by JESSICA CLUESS
(first in the KINGDOM ON FIRE series, review based on an advance reading copy)
Henrietta has long hid her magical powers, terrified of the repercussions if the wrong person discovers a woman with these gifts. Then she learns of a prophecy that a female sorcerer will save her land from the demons tormenting it and suddenly her shameful secret uplifts her status and becomes something to celebrate. There’s a major catch, though. Henrietta suspects she’s likely not the woman of the prophecy…but if she admits that then everything she’s longed for will be taken away again.
This is a fast paced, fun novel with a strong emphasis on romantic tension. Henrietta enters a world dominated by males, which means she has a lot of male attention directed her way. I liked how the author showcases so many different types of relationships and attraction. I found Magnus in particular a very believable hypocrite. Having been raised primarily by women, he’s a proud feminist and women’s advocate and yet at the same time he’s a shameless womanizer who often diminishes women to objects of attraction.
The magic system sometimes felt a little too arbitrary for my taste. Why does it work one way for some people and another for other people? Fingers crossed that further books in this series flesh out the inner workings a bit more, but as it is from this first book I often found the magic felt a little too limitless and out of control. Checks and balances usually make for a better magic system, especially when there’s a clear cost for every gain.
All in all, though, a fabulous, addictive first book and I look forward to reading on in the series.