Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Book Review: The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

I've been wary of alternate universe fantasy for a while now. I went through a stage where that was pretty much all I read and I burned myself out a bit. Everything started looking the same with the same powers and characters and evil overlords that kept the townsfolk oppressed. I wanted something a bit more diverse than that.

This book helped restore my faith and love in it. I'm not saying it is completely repaired but it definitely helped. This magic was almost a cross between Harry Potter and Avatar: The Last Airbender which was different. There aren't grand schemes to kill dragons and rescue princesses but rather the goal to make the world right and not be showered with praise for doing so. Our princes are not on white chargers galloping across the field of battle with a claymore ready to kick ass and take names.  The Burning Sky is a more subtle book than that and it challenges the readers more.  It feels like a more moral book than what I was tired of.

The cover is absolutely gorgeous and it is plot relevant! How strange! I feel like a lot of authors/publishers are ending up with these ambiguous can-fit-on-anything covers and it is wonderful to see one that actually makes sense when considering the book.  This is not a generic model in a theme outfit not showing her face on a dark background.  This is not just random symbols that have nothing to do with the plot splashed across a cover with a sepia tone on it. This cover fits. And it's wonderful.

I went into this with the attitude that I was reading it for the romance and not the world/universe which worked out well. The magic and world building felt a bit jumbled and not well thought out. You never really get a sense of oppression from the people in the towns that are supposedly being held down and the magic never gets fully explained. There are wedding, people are allowed to live normal lives and learn magic, there is no mention of heavy taxation or people being kidnapped in the middle of the night. How exactly are you being oppressed? That sounds pretty normal and good to me. There needed to be more tension in the setting. Drought? Famine? Wars? Martial law? GIVE ME SOMETHING!

So Iolanthe starts out as a normal girl just trying to make her way in the world.  After a spell gets messed up by her eccentric mentor, she goes up to the top of the local mountain to call down lightning. This may be a problem since practically nobody is actually capable of doing this.  When her trick gains the attention of the local law and a young prince with a taste for destiny.

Titus is searching for his future in the predictions of the past.  It has been prophesied that he will die young, trying to free the realm from the evil tyrant, Bane. He is looking for the Savior of the realm and thinks that he has found her in Iolanthe.  He is young and determined, filled with his own goals.  Titus never expects to fall in love with the girl he is supposed to protect.

This felt like a land with history. This book just felt like a singular event in this world and not something an author had created for convenience. There is some depth there with the old legends and the stories that were involved. The author seemed more occupied with creating a history than creating a cohesive setting to base the story line on. 

I enjoyed the footnotes, especially in the Kindle edition, because they did help explain some things without it being an info dump in the middle of the plot. It made it feel a bit like a textbook at times but they were easy to skip over when wanted to or skim through when I needed more information. Sometimes the information was necessary and sometimes it wasn't but I like that the reader has the option to get more information.

Iolanthe is a good protagonist in that she isn't perfect. She starts out with deficiencies and isn't all that trusting. She has her own priorities and battles and Titus has to work hard to get her to trust him. I'm sick and tired of protagonists that are so flipping perfect. Real people have real flaws. Authors need to get that. Being clumsy isn't a real flaw. Being a complete and total narcissistic bitch is a real flaw.

Titus is strong as well because he has depth as a character. He isn't a jerk for no reason and he isn't just some spoiled royal. He has so much belief in his destiny that he is willing to die for someone that he doesn't know. That's admirable to me. His convictions are strong and he follows through with his promises. Titus is strong in ways that most young men aren't and he is a good person for it.  That's the best part.  He isn't a bad boy. He isn't a hardass.  He is a genuine and good person.

"I will keep you safe" he murmured. And he meant it. As long as he was safe, she was safe. But how long would he remain safe"
So beyond the problems with the world building, this is a good book. It is a light and fun read and well worth it. The slow burn romance is played out perfectly and you can actually believe the relationship between the two main characters. It doesn't feel rushed at all. They learn to trust each other and they have to work together in order to accomplish their goals. These feel like real people.

The Burning Sky has all the great elements of a good fantasy novel with fighting, romance, deception, magic, destiny and the fight between good and evil. Read it for the romance and the fun of it all but don't focus too much on the world building.
"When you will have done what you need to do, you will have lived long enough."


  1. I've been seeing nothing but glowing reviews for this one, so it was nice to read your review - and actually see some feedback on the book instead of just flailing (although flailing is awesome).

    It seems like the main characters are the best part of this book, and I really look forward to "meeting them". I bought the kindle copy of this novel AGES ago, when an author I love suggested that everyone should read it, haha.

    I'm a little wary of the "oppression" that's in this book because it doesn't sound like it is explained very well :/

    I'm glad you liked it overall, though! And I am looking forward to reading the slowburn romance. They are definitely my favourites.

    1. Flailing can be fun sometimes but reviews should be useful too! The main characters really are the highlight of this book and you can't read this thinking it is going to rival the fantasy greats. It is an interesting albeit underdeveloped world in the book and it left me craving more.

      The romance is fun though and worth the read. It's a good beach/lazy-weekend/hot-chocolate-and-hot-fire type of story.

      Thanks for commenting!