The Burning Sky
Author: Sherry Thomas
Release: September 17th 2013
Genre: Fantasy, Magic, YA
#1 in the Elemental trilogy
Sequels: The Perilous Sea (#2), The Immortal Heights (#3)
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.
That blurb might lead you to think this is a cheesy romance novel, when in fact it is not and there is very little romance until the last 70 pages. Apart from some blushing and stolen glances.
I watched the book trailer for this, and I was instantly smitten. I bought it on a whim during my next book haul, and yesterday I stood in front of my unread pile of books and thought, "Why not this one?" Yes, yesterday, and now today I stand here and I am finished.
This book is good. Mostly. The story and plot are interesting enough, and there's really enormously nice world-building going on here. However, I can imagine this to get a little tedious after a while, just because it's always the same in general. The events of the plot are still very adventurous and such, but there are always kind of stops in between where nothing really happens. Can be annoying, but I didn't mind much.
Characters were mostly very well done, too. I liked Iolanthe so much, and I didn't even care about her being unnaturally perfect at holding up her charade, g.e., her being crazy good at cricket all of a sudden and all that. She was just so badass and determined, and she had dignity, man. I was baffled at how she stood up for herself. Besides, she has a cool name. Titus, not so much.
Seriously, how can you name your MC Titus? I always think of Titus Mede when I hear this name. Despite his horrible name, though, Titus was a great character as well, I especially liked his stereotype of the nice guy only playing at the jerk, and I'm not even sure why. I shouldn't, because it's such an often used cliché, but I still fell for it and I loved Titus. So, the characters are definitely a win.
But what's really stealing the show here, or at least what stole it for me, was the aforementioned excellent world-building. I absolutely loved and adored this world of magic Thomas has built in this novel of hers, it felt like some kind of The Elder Scrolls (maybe because of Titus Mede...) meets Harry Potter. There were different kinds of mages, and most of them carried wands to help them do spells outside of their specialty and that concept alone was totally awesome. But then Thomas gave me a credible and kickass history on top of that, she gave me a tale full of old princes and princesses of this curious mage realm, of great prophecies and destinies, and she weaved fairy tales around this all, both fairy tales out of the real world, like Sleeping Beauty, and of their mage realm, like Helgira. You know I like me some shady back story that went down before the events of the novel even happened, like in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and I daresay even that it was almost as well done as in Martin's novels. Almost. This world-building was simply wonderful, and I'm bursting with joy because of it.
The writing was fine, too, at first I thought that the 3rd person narrator wouldn't work well with this kind of story, and maybe I really wanted to be in Iolanthe's head as well, but no — the 3rd person narrator feels like a 1st person narrator after all, and this way I get glimpses not only into Iolanthe's mind, but also Titus'. It was amazing. The only thing that annoyed me a bit was the constant back-and-forth, randomly switching between Titus and Iolanthe.
But why only the 3 stars, then, if I enjoyed it so much apparently? Well, I have to admit that I didn't really connect so much to the whole story altogether. I was enticed and intrigued, and I liked the characters and plot well enough, but there was always this distance I never managed to quite breach. Maybe it's because I devoured this in such a short amount of time, but somehow, the connection to the novel eluded me. I can't help but admit that everything else was skillfully executed though, and that it needs to be praised, but out of my simple subjectivity I am "only" giving 3 stars, even though I'd love to give it 4 or 5.
However, do not hesitate to pick up this novel. Like I said, it is a work of art and surely deserves more recognition, seeing as it is really good. Maybe you won't suffer from the distance I did, and you will find that you enjoy this book to the fullest. Consider giving it a chance if the plot sounds interesting to you in any way. And maybe consider giving it one if it doesn't. I myself am definitely holding out hope that maybe its sequel, which I will read for sure, will manage to draw me in. And don't despair during the beginning, because this novel does take a few chapters until it gets going.