Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning

Author: Jessica Cluess
Series: Kingdom on Fire #1
Genre: YA Fantasy
Page Length: 416 Pages
Publication Date: September 20, 2016
Publisher: Random House BFYR
Source: ARC via publisher
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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?
ASBAB is one of those books that I eagerly anticipated from the very first pitch. My excitement grew to a feverish pitch that led up to that final moment, holding a physical ARC in my hands!! I tore through this book. I couldn't help myself! This book plagued my thoughts and emotions the second I started. At first glance ASBAB plays off of all the normal tropes, but what it really does is turn the tropes on their sides and then punts them across the field for good measure.

Jessica Cluess's debut novel, A Shadow Bright and Burning, will definitely burn brightly and capture the attention of the bookish world. With enchanting displays of magic, complex and untrustworthy characters, terrifying beasts, brooding love interests, and a lovely time period, this book has so much going for it.

England is plagued by Ancients, horrifying beasts that plot to lay waste to all of England and wreak havoc on the people. Jessica created such an intricate web of villains with extensive history and elements to back it up. I really enjoyed learning about these monsters and their eerie ways. Jessica also creates a fascinating magical world, which I loved learning about. There is definitely more to it than what meets the eye.

Our main character Henrietta Howel is a stubborn and determined young lady. I liked her well enough as a main character, but I genuinely felt more emotion towards many of the other characters. There's charming Magnus, brooding Blackwood, loyal Rook, shy and gentle Dee, kindhearted Agrippa, hilarious Hargrove, and more. I love that Jessica doesn't paint any of these characters as all good or all bad. Each character makes tough choices that sometimes surprise both the characters and the readers and definitely alter our perception of them. I feel like it's a great way to build character.

This book hooked me in from the very beginning, and I was so into the story that I flew through it. I did feel that the book slowed a bit in the middle, but I hardly minded at all. Interspersed with action scenes every so often, this book entertained for sure and kept my heart racing. Jessica's writing is addictive and easy to follow. She also naturally blends in her sense of humor, which was a definite plus for this book. What I also love about ASBAB is the twists and turns. Shocking moments abound! The deceptions and betrayal run deeply in the veins of this story, and I wouldn't have it any other way. The setting is also beautiful, and I love the witty manner in which everyone converses. Also this book gives off some slight Pride and Prejudice vibes!

I'll admit that the romance in this book is light and mostly a tease; everything is still up in the air. I see so many ships forming and sinking, and my heart is just confused! I won't say it is a love triangle exactly, everyone's feelings are all tossed about. Either way it's entertaining, and I can't wait to see where Jessica takes it. As great as romance is though, the real winner is the friendship and camaraderie in this book. I love how the Sorcerers that Henrietta trains with stand with and support one another.

Jessica casts so many tendrils and plants so many clues that will grow in the following books. I can't wait for the next installment in this enticing fantasy series, and I'll spend my time alternately pining for the next book and theorizing until I can read it.
Rachel is a teenaged unapologetic fangirl and perfectionist.

She loves reading for the escape it gives from reality and enjoys crying over books, swooning over characters, and laughing out loud over funny lines. She is a semi-recovering Netflix addict and a middle child of three.

You can find her on Twitter @yaperfectionist & Goodreads.


  1. I quite liked this one, as well. I thought the world building was a bit hazy at times, but I agree that Henrietta is a strong protagonist. I also thought the romance was a bit confusing, but we'll see how it goes in the next book.

  2. I really, really like the sound of this. Especially the complex and untrustworthy characters part also loving the sound of the main character :D but being set in a historical time period, I might put this up on my 'considering' shelf.

  3. OOh nice! I picked this one up awhile back as well. I still need to read it too! Glad to hear it was a good read! So excited to read it! Though I say that (and mean it) about all my TBR books! LOL! Great review!

  4. I've had this book for quite a while but was worried about the mixed reviews! I've been hearing from many that it's to trope-y! But I do believe even tropes and cliches can be amazing when written well :) Great review Rachel..I think I'll pick up this book after all ^_^


  5. Yaaassss, I totally agree with everything you said! and I am DYING to read A Poison Dark and Drowning <3 Spectacular review, Rachel! Have a great weekend :)

    Brittany @ Brittany's Book Rambles

  6. i'm glad you liked this book! i can't wait to read it myself. i've been needing to for a while now. i really enjoyed this review! i think i'll have to bump the book up a little higher on my tbr.

  7. The gorgeous cover caught my eye but the story sounds equally fantastic. This sounds like a book that my students will and enjoy and get fired up about and be impatient for the next one.

  8. I have also read this one and I absolutely loved it. Henrietta is a character who won't stand for being treated badly because she is a woman, and I loved her backbone. I also just had to enjoy all the magic in this one as well. Everyone has their own secrets and lies... and well that happens in real life so it was definitely realistic in that sense!


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