Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

Posted September 27, 2016 in Review / 7 Comments

Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

A Shadow Bright and Burning

Series: Kingdom on Fire #1
by Jessica Cluess
Published by Random House, Random House for Young Readers on September 20th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Historical
Pages: 416
Format: eARC

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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One Flame
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Henrietta can burst into flames.

Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she’s shocked when instead of being executed, she’s named the first female sorcerer in hundreds of years and invited to train as one of Her Majesty’s royal sorcerers.

Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is declared the prophesied 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 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, how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?

Young Adult

Color me clueless, but I had no idea the cover image was a rose engulfed in flame.  Well, that kind of explains a lot….  Too bad it took me the entire story to figure it out because that really is a beautiful cover!

And even though cover-love had me picking up this book, Ms. Cluess succeeded in delivering a “magical” story (pun totally intended) about a girl who is whisked away from a sad life in the countryside hiding her true self, only to have to hide once again when she arrives in London.

Henrietta Howell is a young woman living in the foster home she grew up in, now as one of the teachers.  When stories get out about someone starting fires in the home, a royal sorcerer comes to the home to interview the children.  He is looking for the prophesied first female sorcerer.  But when one of the Ancients’ (one of 7 monsters unleashed on England) Familiars attacks her best friend and she defends him, her power to conjure fire is exposed and, well…. the rest you’ll just have to read ∗insert evil cackle

There was so much I liked about this book!  It sounds pretty straightforward, the way I just explained the beginning.  But there are actually several underlying plots weaving in, out, and around Henrietta that make the entire book totally engrossing.  It’s a pretty quick read.  With sorcerer sparing, monsters attacking, and a little romantic drama (no love triangle!), this plot moved!!

Set in Victorian London, Ms. Cluess illustrated a dark, ravaged, un-warded London where the poor lived.  I could easily picture in my mind the difference between this area and the warded London where the people of privilege lived with protection from attacks from those 7 monsters that I mentioned earlier.  And OH, those monsters!!!  A horrible turned inside out “person?”  A pus and boil covered blob?  Don’t even get me started on trying to explain what one of the Familiars looked like…  her eyes?

Oh, I so wish I could tell you more but besides the hideous monsters, Ms. Cluess popped in some pretty jaw-dropping surprises.  I don’t want to ruin a single one 🙂

No wishy-washy heroine here.  Henrietta had a backbone and knew what she ultimately wanted… to be the first female sorcerer.  Ms. Cluess kept Henrietta true to character.  Henrietta is young so despite knowing what she wanted, she couldn’t see alternative ways to achieve her goals – to protect the people she cares about.  Annoying at times but makes for a better story 🙂

I LOVED the supporting characters, especially Hargrove who went on to really surprise me.  I wanted to toss a certain maid out the tower window but I get that urge around sniveling, whiny women.  Meh.

Best of all, I CAN’T wait to see what’s in store for the next book!  Just so you know, this one had a completely satisfying ending.  I just NEED more!!

About Jessica Cluess

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.






About Kristin

Kristin has to ensure she gets her minimal requirement of "happily ever after" books in between those books that contain cliffhangers and never-ending story arcs. It's for her family's sake. When not reading, she's homeshooling her 10-year old son, watching cartoons on TV, or taking a nap.

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