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.
The Burning Sky (The Elemental Trilogy #1)FeaturedHot
It all began with a ruined elixir and an accidental bolt of lightning…
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.
What Left Me Wanting More:
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 Final Verdict:
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.
You know those books where someone close to our heroine promises her they`ll always be there for her but when the time comes she`s forced to act alone without anyone`s help? Well, in this book, our heroine, Iolanthe, does have help from someone and that person is Titus, the prince of her Realm(or whatever you call it) who`s actually by her side every step of the way and is not afraid to get hurt as long as she stays safe. Now, that`s admirable! Titus even falls for her even though she`s dressed as a guy and has to cut her hair. He tries to keep it under wraps since everyone he cared about ended up dead. He obviously fails and doesn`t hide it well. But by this point I was sold due to Titus`awesomeness! He`s a real man who isn`t actually fearless and yet he would do anything to keep Iolanthe, or Fairfax(her boy name) safe. He will protect her from dragons, mean old ladies, their dangerous inquisitor even from herself.
Iolanthe has her doubts in Titus especially since she found out he lied to her and tricked her into a blood oath. She finds out she`s a rare elemental mage who isn`t yet convinced she`s all that. But she doesn`t complain even though she goes through so much in such a short period of time. She`s ready to fight and learn. To be better and to strive. Plus, she can play a great boy. It`s not easy being around them 24/7.
Romance was surprisingly well done. Well, I shouldn`t be so surprised. After all, Sherry Thomas did write a bunch of historical romance novels. But she obviously knows how to write one for teens so I applaud her for that. And that world building! Just marvelous!
I can`t wait to get my hands on the sequel. Too bad it`s coming out next year. Oh, the dreaded wait! And people will surely tease me with their ARCs while I sit and mope in my room.
Iolanthe Seabourne is mage who can control the elements (fire, water, earth). When she tries to purify the potion-gone-wrong by hitting it with lightning (and pulls it off), Iolanthe reveals that she wields amount of elemental magic that only heroes from long-gone-times had. And, that’s how Iolanthe becomes ‘a girl who would never again be safe anywhere’…
Warned not to trust anyone, Iolanthe finds an unwanted ally in a young prince Titus. Together they run through their homeland, 19th century England and The Crucible (magical playground). Prepare yourself for flying horses; carpets; elemental, mind and other kinds of magic; dragons and a lot of action.
Iolanthe is the kind of heroine I wish all young adult novels have: smart, resourceful, with good decisions and set of values. Even when she is disguised as a boy in 19th century Eton, she’s not shy. She radiates charm, cockiness and confidence. Her playful banter with prince Titus often made me smile.
“If I hadn't interfered earlier, you’d be a drooling imbecile by now. So shut up and let me make my own decisions.”
He almost smiled. “That doesn't sound right. I am the brains of the operation. You are only supposed to provide the muscle.”
She wanted to touch his cheek, but did no such thing. “When there is enough muscle, it develops a mind of its own.”
And, as the quote above hints, there is an ongoing attraction between Titus and Iolanthe that slowly builds and makes them from enemies to… something more. Sherry Thomas used her previous experience in writing romance novels in the best way possible. The love story in The Burning Sky is not the theme in the book. It’s subtle, but it’s always there in small glances, touches and thoughts that will make you sigh and smile and swoon and get all misty-eyed.
The only negative thing that I can say about The Burning Sky is that it needed more world building. There are a lot of holes that are left to be explained in sequels and although most of the times these things can really irritate me, The Burning Sky had me in tight grip with action and romance so this didn't bother me at all. I can't wait for September 2014 and the sequel!
IN THE END…
It feels like Sherry Thomas took a list of my favorite elements in young adult fantasy novels and wrote The Burning Sky. It has a lot of action, strong complex characters, awesome magic contraptions, heroine masquerading as a boy, slow-building romance without any hint of love triangle and it even has dragons! And if you are my friend be prepared that I will recommend it to you soon. ;)
Disclaimer: I was given a free eBook by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for a honest review.
There are so many things I loved about the book but I especially enjoyed the character of Titus. He is not your typical prince. Rather than being unaware and protected in a bubble from the outside world, Titus is very well acquainted with the art of war. I’m not just meaning in the practical sense of the word but as well as political. He knows who and who doesn’t report to Atlantis and how to hold his cards close to his chest. He is also extremely clever and has not gone into action without having a plan and there is always a back-up plan brewing in his mind as well. I’m glad that he is also able to use mage powers and is not completely reliant on Iolanthe to save the world. He is able to add a little of his own contribution.
Iolanthe is also a character I enjoyed. It’s not often though that I like the main lead guy over the girl. Iolanthe is also clever and quick witted. We are talking about a girl who can fool a bunch of boys into thinking she is a boy. Not only that but be able to do things she had never even heard of before attending Eton college. Iolanthe is well aware of her powers but doesn’t quite understand the magnitude of who she is and who she has value to. In the book we see her really grow as she leaves her small town world.
The romance was completely adorable in this book. It made me smile at how adorably smitten the two of them are. There was just something innocent and pure about it. Like that first crush in high school. I love when the prince throws her off her feet or when she compltely astounds him.
I loved this book and I think if you are fan of fantasy mixed in with a little historical fiction you will love it too.