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A Reader of Fictions: Review: The Burning Sky

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Review: The Burning Sky

The Burning Sky
The Elemental Trilogy, Book 1

Author: Sherry Thomas
Pages: 464
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: September 17, 2013
Read: September 15
Source: ARC from YA Books Central

Description from Goodreads:
It all began with a ruined elixir and an accidental bolt of lightning…

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.


First Sentence: "Just before the start of Summer Half, in April 1883, a very minor event took place at Eton College, that venerable and illustrious English public school for boys."

Review:
In my experience, YA novels written by romance novelists generally go one of two ways: awesomely or atrociously. Now, this may not be the case for most, but, personally, I go to a romance novel and a YA novel for totally different reasons, and I don't want a romance novel from my YA; romance can (perhaps should) be a part of that, but there should be more going on than that. Thankfully, Sherry Thomas has written an absolutely amazing YA novel, bursting with fabulous characters, action, delightful writing, and a swoon-worthy romance.


Where do I even begin with what I loved when there is so much? Okay, let's start at the beginning, where we meet our stubborn, hard-working, thoughtful heroine Iolanthe. She's practicing hard to do the lighting at a wedding ceremony with her elemental magic, all to protect the job of her guardian, though he's done little to deserve it. Then in he comes, ranting and raving and reminding me of Haymitch (his name is Haywood - coincidence?). He tells her not to perform at the wedding and ruins her light elixir. Consulting a magic text, she learns a thunderbolt (or more accurately lighting bolt) can save her elixir, so she discovers some powers she never knew she had just like that. No big deal. This alerts everyone, both good and bad, to the fact that she is a seriously kick butt elemental mage, and they all want her for something.


Enter Titus: spoiled Prince or hope of the Domain. Because of a prophecy, he knows that he needs this elemental mage to help him save everyone from the tyrannical, apparently immortal ruler of Antlantis. Titus believes in the prophecy and will risk everything, including both of their lives to fulfill it. Though he's very goal-oriented, I took to Titus immediately with his spell-casting and his weird hobby of reading ladies' magazines because he finds them comforting.


Now we're getting to the really good part, namely the one where one of my favorite tropes comes in, and this really isn't a spoiler I promise, since you will guess it in the tiny prologue. Basically, to hide out from the super terrifying bad guy, Iolanthe has to go undercover at a boys' school, because Titus, misguided, assumed the mage of prophecy would be a guy, so he had a male's disguise ready. Oops. Lucky for him, Iolanthe is brilliant and totally rocks at gender bending. Why do I love this so much? Because reasons. That may have to do with the fact that there's always an adorable lgbt subtext. Like, yeah, Titus is straight, but he's totally not bothered by all the rumors that he and his friend Fairfax are actually gay lovers, which is a quality I find charming in a guy. Also, it means the heroine isn't super gorgeous all the time or fretting over her looks, and he likes her none the less for that.


Okay, so, obviously, there's a romance here, and obviously I love it. They have a total hate to love thing going, which is my favorite. They also, true to that romantic arc at it's best, excel at bantering with one another. Thomas really makes you feel the chemistry between them, and I was essentially trying to reach into the book and make them kiss all the way through. Even better, the romance doesn't follow traditional lines, Iolanthe generally being the aggressor physically and Titus the more emotionally committed. In fact, Titus totally spends a lot of time daydreaming and doing the fantasy novel equivalent of doodling her name on his notebooks, and my goodness but it's precious. Oh, and, even better, he doesn't mind letting her save him sometimes.


Leaving the romance behind, I also want to praise Sherry Thomas for how powerful women are in The Burning Sky. On both the side of good and of evil, in the past and in the present, women have achieved both high rank and high power. So often, it's just the heroine who really takes a strong female role, the better to stand out, but the Inquisitor, Helgira, and even Lady Callista are certainly to be feared and admired, in their ways. For once, this is a fantasy world in which everything isn't intensely patriarchal, even more rare in a historically-based fantasy.


My only quibbles lie in the world building, which is a bit of a pop culture hodge-podge. While this didn't detract from my enjoyment one bit, it's a bit to process and might annoy other readers with similarities to other works. For example, I was strongly reminded of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Howl's Moving Castle, and Stardust (one of the cutest scenes of that movie - and maybe book, but I don't remember - gender swapped). On top of that, I found the interweaving of our culture's fairy tales into this fantasy world rather puzzling. I guess this must be an alternate universe then? I'm not quite sure, which is sort of my point. There's a lot happening and it's all fun, but I'm left feeling a bit shaky.


The Burning Sky kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. If you enjoy the fantasy works of Maria V. Snyder or Kristin Cashore, odds are you will appreciate Sherry Thomas' YA debut. The sequel cannot come quickly enough. In fact, I loved the romance and themes in here so much, I may even try her romance novels.

Me, to this book.

Rating: 4.5/5

Favorite Quote:
"'Did they believe you? All boys tell such tales about their wands.'
     He glanced up, his eyes first blank, then lit with mischief. 'Maybe they do, but I actually possess a superior wandthe finest of its kind no less. The sort of fireworks my wand can produce will leave any girl breathless.'
     They both burst out laughing."

Don't Take My Word for It:
Good Books and Good Wine's word: "it’s a total fricken boss" - 5 stars
Snuggly Oranges' word: "It hit all the right notes." - 4.5 stars
A Girl, a Boy and a Blog's word: "Thomas’ style was very difficult to read." - 3 stars

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11 Comments:

Blogger Lynn K. said...

ALL THESE LoK GIFS. I was trying to resist watching the second season, dammit! Ooh, I love genderbend tropes. Really looking forward to this now. (Well, even more than I already did..)

September 17, 2013 at 8:47 AM  
Blogger Debby said...

OH MY GOD ALL OF THESE GIFS ARE YOU KIDDING ME??

Um our reviews are twinsies we are twinsies and this book is faaaaaabulous!!! *hugs it*

The ladies magazines *snicker* god Titus, I love you.

AND YOU LINKED TO ME :')

I need to get a move on and read Maria V Snyder and Kristin Cashore ^^; errrrrrrrrr

September 17, 2013 at 8:49 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

I love all the gifs!! I only read like the first two paragraphs of your review because I'm reading this now. I'm only about 5% in but enjoying it already. I am even more excited to continue after seeing your excitement through your post. And OMG 4.5 stars!!! Yay!!!

September 17, 2013 at 8:56 AM  
Blogger meg said...

I AM SO EXCITED TO READ THIS!

“with his spell-casting and his weird hobby of reading ladies' magazines because he finds them comforting.”
Gender bending! Banter! HE DOODLES HER NAME ON HIS NOTEBOOK!
I am already in love. Well done.

And then you say it reminds you of Stardust and Kristin Cashore? The wait is officially killing me *glares at mailbox*

September 17, 2013 at 9:03 AM  
Blogger meg said...

Also, fabulous use of gifs. I need to start watching this show.

September 17, 2013 at 9:04 AM  
Blogger Andrea C. said...

Yea, you liked it! I've seen a lot of mixed reviews for this, but if you like it - I have hope.

I have the ARC sitting on my shelf, but I don't think I'll get to it before the release date. Ah well, such is the life of a blogger :)

September 17, 2013 at 9:59 AM  
Blogger Nori said...

I like need to read this now! This just sounds like so much fun! I love these kinds of bantering romances too. I kinda feel like the description of the book didn't really give it justice. The description was kinda confusing-sounding. I wasn't sure what character it would center around. And it sounded really cliche. But, you definitely changed my mind about it.

September 17, 2013 at 10:54 AM  
Blogger kimbacaffeinate said...

Wonderful review, and like you I do not mind a side dish of romance, and this sounds perfectly balanced!

September 17, 2013 at 1:32 PM  
Blogger Soma Rostam said...

Well, this book looks amazing
I am definitely going to add it to my TBR
Your reader,
Soma
http://insomnia-of-books.blogspot.com/

September 17, 2013 at 1:59 PM  
Blogger Nikki R said...

This is seriously the greatest review I've read in a LONG time. Look at all those Korra GIFs! :D And you've totally sold me on this book. I was looking forward to it originally, but somehow I've been feeling more 'meh' about it lately... But you've gotten me all excited again, now that I know about the girl-undercover-as-a-boy thing. I LOOOOOVE that when it's done well.

Now I'm wishing I had preordered this so I'd get it today! *runs off to Amazon to order it for real*

September 17, 2013 at 2:27 PM  
Blogger roro said...

Exited. hoping to read it soon

September 20, 2013 at 2:47 PM  

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