Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

The Burning Sky
by Sherry Thomas
Read: June 13 - 17, 2013
Published: September 17, 2013 by Balzer + Bray
Source: BEA - Thank you Harper Collins!
Category: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, YA
Series: The Elemental Trilogy #1

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 revenge 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.
(From Goodreads)

"This is the story of a girl who fooled a thousand boys, a boy who fooled an entire country, a partnership that would change the fate of realms, and a power to challenge the greatest tyrant the world had ever known."*

Fantasy, fairy tales and magic.
A magical realm and Victorian London.
One girl and one boy. 

The girl: Iolanthe Seabourne has been told that she's the greatest elemental mage of her generation. She doesn't really believe it. But after she powerfully displays her ability to the world, and ends up being hunted by for what she can do, she figures out that she needs to take herself seriously. Iolanthe has never known her parents and she's practically had to raise herself. She's smart, resourceful and highly adaptable, but doesn't trust easily. Iolanthe does a few things at the beginning of this story that bugged me, but knowing her past, I can't really blame her. I grew to understand her better as the story progressed. 

The boy: Prince Titus of Eberon (one of the magical realms) has spent his life preparing to train and protect Iolanthe. Because of his royal status and young age, he is constantly watched and monitored. As a necessity for survival, Titus is always deceiving and out maneuvering those around him. He's also willing to do nearly anything to succeed - lie, betray even kill if he has to. Titus is my favorite character in this book. I wasn't sure about him at one point early on, but I love how the author was able to alter my feelings about him throughout the course of this story.

girl + boy: I really enjoyed watching Iolanthe and Titus get to know each other, especially the ways they surprised and challenged the other. The nature of Iolanthe and Titus's deception means that they can't trust anyone and must keep everyone at arms length. I think that's why none of the other characters stood out as much as they did, even though there are a lot of secondaries. I do think this started to change some at the end of the book, and hope that they are able to gain a bit more trust from others in the future installments. Inevitably, there is also a romance brewing between Iolanthe and Titus. It's an important part of this series, but these characters are strong individually and aren't spending all their time mooning over each other (thank goodness). I'm really interested to see how their relationship progresses through the series. While I enjoyed this romance, I'm hoping that it becomes more epic as the series continues. 

Settings: One third of The Burning Sky takes place in a land of magic where children are regularly born with the ability to control the elements (called mages), a third of the book takes place in the Crucible (read the book to find out about that) and the other third takes place in Victorian London, with its rain and trains and boys boarding schools.  One of these schools is exactly the place that Titus hides Iolanthe. Dressed as a boy named Arthur Fairfax, Iolanthe gets to attend the illustrious Eton College, where royalty still educates its sons. She drinks tea, plays cricket and recites Latin, while secretly training to overtake the magical authorities who are advancing on her. 

Themes: I really enjoyed the contrast between the elemental world and the industrial one, and how Iolanthe talks about magic use changing because of the modernization of the world. I also liked the questions raised about fate and free will. Does a seer witness the future or help to create it? Is it possible to contradict a vision? I hope both of these themes come more into play in the next books. 

Conclusion: The Burning Sky introduces three unique worlds, each with their own set of rules, and I still feel like I've only scratched the surface of them. Also, to me it seemed like the magical rules conveniently (or inconveniently) changed occasionally, as needed in the story. Or at the very least, I feel as if I've still not mastered all the rules for all the locations. can already tell I'm going to need to re-read this book before the next one comes out!

Although it took me a little bit of time to warm up to these characters and immerse myself in this complex world, The Burning Sky is a great beginning to what I'm hoping is going to be a really exciting trilogy. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Low  

*Quote taken from an Uncorrected Proof. May change in the final version. 


  1. Hmm, most of the reviews I've read of this are practically screaming that it's wonderful, though yours isn't, so I'm thinking maybe I'll hold off on this until the full trilogy is released. It does sound very interesting, though, and I love a good girl-masquerading-as-a-guy scenario, but books that are merely promising starts can certainly be put off for a bit. Great review, Lauren - I'm glad you enjoyed this one!(:

  2. Titus was an amazing character -- he really would do anything necessary to do what he felt was right and to follow his mother's visions. It took me a while to warm up to him, too. I highly enjoyed this story and can't wait to read the rest of this series!

  3. This one does sound interesting, and I like the idea of the three different settings, especially the boarding school one (and the fact that there's no love triangle and a low cliffhanger). I may have to check this one out. Great review! ~Pam

  4. "Inevitably, there is also a romance brewing between Iolanthe and Titus. It's an important part of this series, but these characters are strong individually and aren't spending all their time mooning over each other (thank goodness)."

    YES! I loved that about this romance as well Lauren, though like you, I'm hoping it becomes more epic in the next book. It was such a beautiful beginning though, and I couldn't help but smile when they were together. No fawning all over one another, just some witty banter and some flirting and of course, a few life or death situations ;-) I will be needing a reread before book 2 comes out as well, maybe we can do that together! Lovely review as always.

  5. I've read a few mixed reviews for this one but I like the idea that the romance doesn't overtake everything and is slow building. I have it coming up on my TBR pile soon.

  6. A prince? A PRINCE who was your FAVORITE character? *dies* I want this book. I don't have to read anything else. Sold. You work is done, babe! I will get this book! Ok, for the rest of it.. Their romance reminds me of Perry and Aria--strong individuals on their own quest and they manage a romance between them that isn't overbearing to us, readers. The premise sounds so awesome, but complex, too. Ah, you got me excited with this one, girl! Lovely, lovely review:)

  7. First of all, I love this cover, so I'd pick this book UP at the very least.
    Second of all, all of the names and places are words that are really confusing, so after all of the reviews I've read - mixed - I can't figure out what the book is about? This is one that I would absolutely, without a doubt want to listen to while I'm reading - quirky me - but I'm interested because you mention Latin and Victorian London and it seems to be high fantasy? And with elements? I think, though, that I'll need to check and see if one of my libraries buys an audio version and a print version, otherwise it sounds like I'd get lost in the verbage. Man, I really love that cover.

  8. SHIT. Pardon my French. Ok, you have made me re-evaluate this book. When I read the descrip I had a few turn offs. Elemental mages/ magic just never DOES anything for me (and I don't know why that is? I love witches and I love magic--it's WEIRD that I can't really explain it.)

    Also the names. Titus is fine but I stumble over the chick's name every time (how would you pronounce it phonetically? Is the pronunciation discussed in the book like Hermione's is in Harry Potter??) I know those are flimsy, shallow excuses for turning my nose up at the book but it's how I felt. HOWEVER, after reading your review, my interest in quite piqued-- especially the prince...

  9. Reading thsi one next :) Great review!

  10. When I first saw this book the only thing that truly interested me was the cover, now I am more excited about having the chance to read this book before it hits stores.
    Thank you for your review :D

  11. Ooh I just love that ARC quote you shared! Maybe it's a bit cliche, but those are definitely the sorts of things I expect from my epic fantasies. Not that I want you to have trouble understanding the worlds in this book, but I'm hoping that they're just pretty complex in their magical rules rather than that Thomas took some liberties here and there with the establishment of each world's rules. The latter would make me very sad. But I suppose I'll have to read it myself to see what I think about the world-building and role that magic has!
    I know this is an unconventional way for you to review a book, but I enjoyed how you laid out all the most important elements of this book. I am so psyched to read this book; I hope it lives up to my (somewhat high) expectations!

  12. I was pretty excited to read this before I saw the book trailer and all the great reviews, and even though you're not over the moon about it, I still think your review says something about how much you liked it, even if the magic was a bit confusing. I kind of always expect that from the first book in a series, so at least I'm prepared going into this one. Might have to make this my next read. ;)


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