Book Review: A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING By Jessica Cluess

A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING by Jessica Cluess is the fantasy fix you didn’t know you needed!

A Shadow Bright And Burning introduces Victorian age England in the middle of a war against seven demon Ancients who seek to destroy and spill blood. The ones tasked to protect England are sorcerers trained in honing their magical abilities to stop the Ancients and save England.

The story follows sixteen-year-old Henrietta Howel who, educated in all things proper for a women of the Victorian age, went from student to teacher at Brimthorn School for Girls. She is tasked to help the repulsive headmaster, Mr. Colegrind, and the sorcerer, Agrippa, find the young girl starting mysterious fires around the school. After a day with no success she turns to the forest near the school where she and her childhood friend, Rook, are attacked by a Familiar, a soldier of one of the Ancients. Master Agrippa arrives to help them but its Henrietta who fends off the Familiar revealing herself as the one with the fire power.

Thinking she’d be executed for having such an ability, Henrietta is invited to train, as a sorcerer, with Master Agrippa and to fight for Her Majesty’s royal sorcerers. In accepting the invitation, she is taken to the lavish life of Victorian London where she meets a group of gentlemen also training to be sorcerers.A shadow bright and burning

As she learns more and more about her abilities she discovers that she is the first female sorcerer in hundreds of years which also declares her the prophesied one to save England from the Ancients. As Henrietta unravels more truth about herself, she begins to wonder if she really is the prophesied one.

Magic, sorcerers and demons, OH MY!

Jessica Cluess does a good job with this fantasy novel. She brings in the fundamentals of a fantasy story. Weaving in magic, sorcerers, demons, an obvious and not so obvious love story, and Queen Victoria.

You will definitely find many likable and different personalities in the book. As Henrietta begins her training as a sorcerer she joins a group of gentlemen who are also training as sorcerers. With this lot of men and with other characters in the book you can find every type of personality. You have Magnus the social flirt, Blackwood the brooding mystery man, Dee the socially awkward and Wolff and Lambe the quiet keep-to-themselves.

There is also Henrietta, the protaganist. She’s a young lady in a time period where women were only seen and not heard. Though we find that Henrietta is an out-spoken lady and further develops that characteristic as she begins to hone her sorcerer abilities. I loved the idea of a female character rising up and defying the standards of women. It’s slightly encouraging and as you go further into the book it becomes more evident that Henrietta follows that suit without question.

I found that you get a lot of involvement from all the characters. Most novels with so many voices won’t tend to do this. It was great to read and get to know them. Though each character has their fair share of page time I think this held back from getting an in depth read on them. I know it’s the first book of the Kingdom On Fire series, but from what we read in the story it seems that some characters may not show up again. (This is just my interpretation.) It would have been nice to explore more about these other characters even after having been hinted some part of where they are from and their personal lives. You can easily ‘like’ them but it would be nice to build a relationship with them as we do with many fictional characters

Cluess creates another world within England. She creates a fresh look on magic in the real world which is not easy to do. You find yourself curious and yearning to know more about what lies outside of England. What The Order of the sorcerers can do and how far they can go with their magic.Jessica Cluess

One thing I found myself especially fascinated in this world were the Ancients. Seven monstrous demons that ravage through out England causing destruction under the lead of one, their king, R’hlem. He is described as a skinless man with one yellow eye. The Ancients, I think, are one of the strong elements of the book. Cluess creates a thumbnail sketch of each demon allowing us to envision them and showing us their different powers. They aren’t your typical monsters of the dark and that’s whats very enthralling. Though much is left unsaid about them I feel it only leaves more to learn in further books.

A Shadow Bright and Burning captures your curiosity in the first chapter. It is a well told fantasy story. I think overall Jessica Cluess played it very safe. The fire didn’t burn as bright with this one. Personally, there were some moments that sparked interest, moments where feelings arose but the book never really hooked my readers attention.

For those who are looking for the next book to transcend their fantasy crave I think this book will be a bit dull for that. Readers wanting to get back into or start reading fantasy novels, Jessica Cluess’ first installment in the Kingdom on Fire series, A Shadow Bright and Burning is a perfect start.

A Shadow Bright And Burning is the first installment in Jessica Cluess’ Kingdom On fire series set to be released on September 20th, 2016. Purchase your copy on Amazon.