A Shadow Bright and Burning

Jessica Cluess. Random House, $17.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-553-53590-7
Sixteen-year-old Henrietta Howel can start fires with a thought, but because women aren’t permitted to practice magic, she must keeps her power under wraps at the Brimthorn School for Girls, where she teaches in a magical version of Victorian London. After a sorcerer, Master Agrippa, visits the school, an attack by a “Familiar” of the (decidedly Lovecraftian) Ancients forces Henrietta’s hand. Agrippa believes that Henrietta is integral to fighting the Ancients, offering to train her for eventual commendation by a young Queen Victoria and a place among the royal sorcerers. She agrees, on the condition that her childhood friend Rook comes along. In a strong opening to the Kingdom on Fire trilogy, debut author Cluess makes the most of her setting, never shying from gritty details, such as the “burned and ravaged” London outside the wards that protect the sorcerers; the contentious history between sorcerers and magicians adds heft. Henrietta is pragmatic and bitingly funny, and she more than holds her own in a man’s world. Cluess gamely turns the chosen-one trope upside down in this smashing dark fantasy. Ages 12–up. Agent: Brooks Sherman, Bent Agency. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/11/2016
Release date: 09/20/2016
Library Binding - 416 pages - 978-0-553-53591-4
Compact Disc - 978-0-399-56914-2
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-0-553-53593-8
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