Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess


Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 416
Series: Kingdom on Fire #1
Release Date: September 20, 2016

Status: DNF (30%)


This book had a generic premise, when I think about it. But let’s be honest here, most YA fantasy novels have similar plot elements and a lot of them do pay off. Just because it’s a similar concept, doesn’t mean the book won’t have originality in other aspects. Sadly, this book didn’t have much originality in any aspects.

The premise of the book was that of an orphan girl with the power to create fire. But in her society, witches are killed immediately on being found out so she hides her ability. When her secret is discovered, it turns out that she’s not a witch, but a sorcerer. And one from a prophecy, at that. She is then taken to a house (full of boys) to help her hone her powers so that she can help win the war against the Ancients.

And we’ve read it all before. Poor orphans girls with hidden abilities, ‘chosen one’ trait, love triangle, big war, prophecies… The only thing even remotely different is the “Ancients”. The author could have built on that. She didn’t.

In fact, the author didn’t build on anything at all. This book was so incredibly derivative from other YA novels, mainly The Infernal Device and The Grisha Trilogy. The protagonist was a Tessa-wannbe, there was a Will-ish characters, one who was a combination of Jem and Mal, and the setting was similar to that of The Grisha Trilogy. And that would almost be okay if the author would do something good with it.

But the writing was all telling-not-showing sprinkled with some metaphors. There was no tact to it, no subtlety. Everything happened quickly and conveniently, one obvious plot device after another with no feeling behind it. Hell, even the song and prophecy didn’t rhyme!

The Tessa-wannabe was annoying as hell. She acted like she was all grown up and all-knowing, as if she was right about everything, and then she threw tantrums like a frickin’ five-year-old. And between her, the not-so-good writing, the story that quickly lost my interest, the predictability, and the upcoming love triangle or square or whatever, you can understand why I stopped reading, right?

In case you can’t though, I’ve left out my biggest issue with the book. The world building.

Simply put… there wasn’t any. We found out the setting was a historical society which didn’t respect women (has any historical society ever respected women?) and got a little history lesson about witches and magicians. But that’s it. The big bad villains, the Ancients? Don’t even know what they are. We found out nothing about the war, where it was happening, how it was happening, how and why the Ancients attacked… none of it. There were no supernatural norms developed, either. Like, I thought we were dealing with sorcerers and stuff, and then a hobgoblin showed up from Faerie? That scene felt so out-of-place because the hobgoblins didn’t fit in at all. It didn’t match the tone or the story.

You don’t just throw shit in like that!

Overall, this felt like someone playing it very, very safe by mixing different elements that readers are already familiar with and not trying anything new.


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