Happy Monday, guys!
Today, we're happy to welcome you back to the blog tour for A Shadow Bright and Burning.
I was already excited for the book prior to reading, but that was before I realized that Henrietta is actually a perfect heroine for modern times...
Read on for my thoughts + a giveaway and more!
Published September 20th 2016 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Format read: ARC via publisher
While Henrietta Howel exists in a world that is hundreds of years (and a universe or two) far removed from our own, she's very much an example of a heroine and a feminist leader for today's times. Readers will be enchanted by this tale, and will most definitely want more.
The first female sorcerer in hundreds of years.
The prophesied one.
Or am I?
Henrietta Howel can burst into flames.
Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she’s shocked when instead of being executed, she’s invited to train as one of Her Majesty’s royal sorcerers.
Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is declared the chosen one, the girl who will defeat the Ancients, bloodthirsty demons terrorizing humanity. She also meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, handsome young men eager to test her power and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her.
But Henrietta Howel is not the chosen one.
As she plays a dangerous game of deception, she discovers that the sorcerers have their own secrets to protect. With battle looming, what does it mean to not be the one? And how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?
In her extraordinary debut novel, author Jessica Cluess introduces us to a alternative universe of magic and myth, where seven hellish creatures have taken over various parts of Great Britain. There is natural magic in the world, in the form of magicians and sorcerers who have natural magic, but it’s the sorcerers who are taking the lead in the fight against those creatures.
Enter Henrietta Howel, who appears to be the foretold female sorcerer in a prophecy about defeating the creatures. But when she learns that she may not actually be the prophesized sorcerer, things begin to change…
So on the surface, A Shadow Bright and Burning appears to be a fantasy novel about an alternate England. And it is very much that – Cluess has created a fascinating, thrilling world that is part adult Harry Potter, and Pacific Rim. The world building is sensational, and I found myself absolutely pulled inn.
But dig a little deeper, and you also get a fascinating tale of feminism, wealth-inequality and discrimination, in a misogynistic environment. By virtue of her birth, Henrietta is looked down upon for not being born into a wealthy family.
And even when she’s elevated into higher society, Henrietta struggles with the fact that she IS a not-so-well-born female in a patriarchy dominated by high-born men. Though her colleagues are urged to accept her for her gifts, there’s no hiding the doubt and the discrimination that comes along with her elevation, especially when she initially can’t seem to prove her place.
While I’m not sure if Cluess necessarily set out to write a feminist tale, that’s how Henrietta’s journey comes across. And the book is all the better for it, because we see how Henrietta struggles to make her choices and take her stand in an unrelenting world that doesn’t necessarily want her, and how much stronger she comes out if it, in return. It’s a fitting nod to some of the gender politics and feminist issue that are even occurring in our modern world, and I suspect that many readers will draw parallels when they are reading.
And while her attempts to support those who aren’t as fortunate as her sorcerer colleagues do veer occasionally into Mary Sue territory, the strength of Cluess’s writing never has any reader doubting Henrietta’s convictions, and the utter faith that she means what she says, and she will get it done.
With fascinating world-building and thrilling fight scenes, this is one you cannot miss.
Henrietta’s journey isn’t just a journey of a girl who learns how to come into her own well-being, in the face of some extraordinary powers. It’s also a story about a girl who learns to stand her ground, and make a name for herself. It’s a courageous tale about feminism and standing up for yourself, and absolutely apt especially in today’s changing world.
Highly recommend, full stop.
P.S. Please include an email with your responses. :) I've had many a contest where people haven't included emails, and I've had to eliminate by default.
About the author:
JESSICA CLUESS is a writer, a graduate of Northwestern University, and an unapologetic nerd. After college, she moved to Los Angeles, where she served coffee to the rich and famous while working on her first novel. When she’s not writing books, she’s an instructor at Writopia Lab, helping kids and teens tell their own stories. Visit her at jessicacluess.com and follow her on Twitter at @JessCluess.