Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning (Kingdom on Fire #1)

Victorian England meets mythical monsters while societal rules are overthrown by SORCERERS/MAGICIANS/WITCHES galore!*


A Shadow Bright and Burning (Kingdom on Fire #1) by Jessica Cluess

Published by Random House on September 20, 2016

Genres: YA Fantasy / Pages: 416

Format: Book / Source: Library

Rating: 3 stars

Goodreads * Amazon * Book Depository

Publisher’s summary:

I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she is brought to London to train with Her Majesty’s sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she’s the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city–and the one she loves?

*I mean, can you imagine how HARD it would be to arrange a proper tea time?? What with Sorcerers being called out at all hours to save the city and needing to sleep in late. Let alone when to schedule balls?!? (*I may love books set in this time period*)


The main characters

Henrietta Howel is a teacher at a school for orphaned girls when the Sorcerer Agrippa comes searching for the prophesied one that is whispered about in Sorcerer circles. Fearing she’ll be burned as a witch, she hides her flames until the familiars of one of the Ancients (evil mythological monsters) attacks her best friend…. and Agrippa is nearby to help her fight off the familiar. Nettie is fiercer than a Niffler gathering coins when it comes to her loyalty to Rook, her bestest friend, which I adored…. even if it once or twice veered towards a love triangle angle (but not too often thank the pumpernickel.)

Rook is a precious cinnamon roll who is sorely forgotten about for half of the book by our Nettie while she is learning all the things (or at least making an attempt). Having grown up together at the school, Rook was attacked by one of the Ancients when he was really young and bears painful scars that act up, especially when the aforesaid Ancient is nearby. He is loyal right back at Nettie, but really needs to work on his self-confidence because he’s always expecting her to abandon him. *offers up cake and marshmallows to the poor boy*

The rest of the men -> WHERE ARE ALL THE GIRLS?? Ummmmmm…. we get a love-square-type thing going on in this book with Rook and two other sorcerer trainees that eventually brings in one of the trainee’s sisters, but THAT’S IT. And there are a lot of them. Agrippa, Blackwood, Dee, Magnus, Palehook, etc. etc. While there are a lot of them, they do have mostly easily separated personalities and roles in the plot, but not quite enough to warrant a whole paragraph all on their lonesome. 😉 Although I am open to baked good bribery *please send all cookies to Dragon Lair 20-46, The Night Court, Prythian*


The good stuff

  • MAGIC – there are loads of different magic “styles” mentioned in this book. Sorcerers, Magicians and Witches are the key three, but I loved HOW MUCH it’s talked about/important to the plot. It could easily have gotten derailed in this type of setting into balls and afternoon tea (neither of which do we get…). This leads to plenty of explosions. 😀
  • Have I mentioned the number of explosions or times Nettie has to set herself on fire?? *checks review* Nope, NOT NEARLY ENOUGH. There is lots of fire and fighting and banter while fighting.
  • There is DEFINITELY doubt about Nettie being the prophesied one as mentioned in the summary, but as I failed to read the summary (I might have seen the word SORCERER and immediately borrowed it from the library without reading anything else….), this twist was a nice surprise.


The bad stuff

  • Nettie’s choices sometimes made me want to steal Rook and leave her to her own pool made up of poor judgement tears. I actually STOPPED reading for a good week and a half, irrationally waiting for her to make a better life decision (because this totally works on book characters guys >.<)… that didn't happen.
  • This book would’ve been ten times better if we’d gotten some chapters in Rook’s perspective. NOT JUST CAUSE I ADORE THE BEAN. But because he’s the only “servant” really who has a huge part to play in the plot. There has to be more to the worldbuilding than what we saw and he would’ve been the PERFECT character to describe it/venture out and find it.
  • The plot felt safe. Like ridiculously safe. There were lots of nice firey battles, BUT the greatest risk Nettie takes is STAYING WHERE SHE IS when it becomes obvious she might NOT be the prophesied one. Instead of running away with Rook and fighting the Ancients on her own terms……. <- this might be where I stopped reading temporarily in frustration.

Let’s Talk!

Have you read this book?? Do you like it when characters play it safe? I took dark photos with this purely because FIRE….. do you think it fits?
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5 Comments Add yours

  1. Cait @ Paper Fury says:

    I do want to read this one…buuuut I’m worried I’ll be slightly underwhelmed.😂 I don’t like plots that play it safe!! I need things to be dark and murderous haha, and the sound of the love square and not many epic female characters is a bit of a worry. *sighs* What is it with romance amping up from a triangle to a square?!? Who decided that was a good idea.😂 STILL. It’s on reserve at my library so I’ll get to read it at some point! I loved your review. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Becca says:

      This book would’ve been FABULOUS if it had been more dark and murderous/less safe. 😂😂 and without the love square (maybe the person who came up with it was practicing their math skills?? 😂🙈) I can’t wait to hear what you think about it! Your reviews are always so much fun to read!


  2. Zoe says:

    OMG I completely agree with everything you’ve said here! The love square threw me off, but the magic was really interesting. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ❤


  3. Sarah says:

    I really want to read this – but not sure how If I would enjoy all that romantic entanglement. Still think I will check this out though – great review!


  4. Shelbi says:

    This review is hilarious! And although I am still a little unsure about how high this book is on my TBR, I will definitely read it because I like the sound of Rook… (teehee, I’m already a little bias)


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