book reviews by Althea

A Shadow Bright and Burning – Jessica Cluess ***

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A Shadow Bright and Burning
A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Henrietta Howel has recently become an instructor at the girls’ school where she grew up as a charity case. Unfortunately, her situation hasn’t changed much – the cruel and bullying headmaster still disrespects her, and she still lives in fear of revealing her abilities – abilities that she fears will brand her as a magician, and result in her being sentenced to death.

However, her situation is about to change. When she’s found out, she’s not denounced as a magician, but acclaimed as a sorcerer (yes, big difference, in this world), and moreover, hailed as the “chosen one” of a prophecy that will supposedly be instrumental in saving England from the monsters that were unwittingly summoned from another dimension and are wreaking havoc throughout the kingdom. Off Henrietta goes to sorcerer-school, where she’ll meet a variety of interesting fellow students – all boys – who may become rivals for her attention with her childhood friend, a stable boy whose brush with an evil monster may have left him with some strange abilities of his own.

But is Henrietta really the girl the prophecy spoke of? Is she even actually a sorcerer? If she isn’t, is England doomed?

If I wanted to be nit-picky, I could be, I suppose. It’s not the best-thought-out scenario I’ve encountered in literature. There are a few logical “but wait…!?” moments, and tropes abound.
But – I liked it. In my post-election mood, I needed something light, fun, and distracting, and this hit the spot. Recommended for fans of YA, faux-Victorian fantasy heroines, and magical school stories.

Oh, and those monsters I mentioned that are ravaging England? There are still more to defeat when this finishes up, so be on the lookout for sequels.

Many thanks to Random House and NetGalley for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.

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