Author: Sherry Thomas (Twitter)
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Publish Date: September 17, 2013
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she's being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he's also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to avenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal. But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.
Iolanthe has a powerful gift, and with it comes a powerful and extraordinarily intense destiny. She is prophesied to defeat a magic tyrant whom has long tormented her realm, but she's young, green and doesn't handle her temper well. Titus knows that she is the one that they have waited for, and he swears to protect Iolanthe at all costs, but such a promise does not come without its challenges. And love could very well ruin, rather than save, everything.
It's been a long while since I've read a young adult fantasy novel that has inspired me to write a true review. I often find them to be long-winded and redundant, so I actually hesitated to pick this one up. Sherry Thomas, however, surprised me with The Burning Sky - in the best possible way. Rich prose, a fantastical story alive with drama, magic, powers, deception and intrigue and a host of characters that inspire and fascinate us. The Burning Sky is a solid and engaging fantasy tale in which many a reader will easily lose themselves.
The Burning Sky was interesting to me in many ways, but perhaps most of all was the setting. Set in 1883, the novel takes place primarily at Eton College, we're given a very real and tangible backdrop which plays host to magic, incredible mythological beasts and powers beyond our wildest imagination. This unique and realistic setting grounds us, making readers feel as though, despite its fantasy genre, it could almost be real. The characters, however, are what brought the novel alive for me. Iolanthe was every bit the heroine. Full of immense power and responsibility, this girl is also believably flawed with real and tangible insecurities which make her more accessible to the reader. I also found a great relief in the fact that she had an intense gut reaction to the revelations of her destiny. While some novels might thrust their heroine into complete compliance with their fate, Iolanthe doubts her destiny and panics, giving us yet another reason to root for her to understand just how incredible she is. Titus was an enigma at the start of the novel. Seemingly arrogant, strong-willed and often quick to react to situations, I wasn't sure that I would be able to see any positives in his character, but through his encounters with Iolanthe, I gained better insight into his demeanor, as well as his end-goals. Moreover, as we discover more of his character and his motivations, we see that he's created a very careful mask with which he protects himself from the worst of their realm and help him to survive. The love element of The Burning Sky was done extremely well, too. As opposed to a quick, head-over-heels turn to love as we see in much of YA, Iolanthe and Titus have a burning, powerful tension and passion that rivals the danger they have to face every day. It adds an entirely different dimension to the novel, as well as sets up a powerful connection between to vastly different, but equally important, characters.
Overall, The Burning Sky was an absolutely fantastic read. Despite my initial reservations, I must say that I'm very much looking forward to continuing on with the story. I give it a 4 out of 5, only marking it down because of a bit of a lack of backstory as to the state of the realm, and I recommend it to all fans of YA fantasy.
I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.