Monday, December 2, 2013

Review: The Burning Sky

The Burning Sky, by Sherry Thomas. The Goodreads summary:
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.
So . . . this book. There were a lot of really awesome things about it that I enjoyed a lot. Buuuuut, I don’t know, overall it fell a little flat for me.

First, the awesome things. I enjoyed the two-worlds thing it had going on. One world is full on fantasy, with magicians and dragons and magic books, and the other is Victorian England, with Eton and cricket and tea, and the characters travel back and forth between the two. I tended to enjoy the parts that took place in the “real” world more, maybe because I liked how sneaky and clandestine Titus’s and Iolanthe’s magic felt in that context. But the “magic” world with its political scheming had its draw too, and I especially liked the parts where the two worlds overlapped.

Another awesome thing was that Iolanthe is disguised as a boy for most of the book. I don’t know why, but I’m a total sucker for this type of storyline. And Iolanthe pulls of being a boy with a confidence and panache that I adored. To be honest, I kind of liked Iolanthe better as Fairfax the boy than I liked her as herself, maybe because I felt as Fairfax she had more personality.

I also liked the endnotes that popped up throughout the book. There’s another thing that gets me every time—footnotes in fiction. I appreciated the background and context they gave the story and that they prevented long explanations from slowing down the story itself.

But here’s where the book didn’t work for me. None of the characters stood out to me. With the exception as Iolanthe playing Fairfax, they all felt a bit on the blah side. There didn’t seem to be any real depth or personality to even Titus and Iolanthe, and so I had a hard time truly caring about them.

Similarly, I didn’t buy Titus and Iolanthe’s romance. As friends they have great chemistry—they can banter with the best of them. But I didn’t buy their romantic relationship. It always seemed to crop up at random moments, and I didn’t feel like there was a steady build of romantic chemistry or tension.

Overall, the book was pretty great in some areas and a little lacking in others. Looking back, I think my biggest problem with the book as a whole was that it felt choppy and episodic rather than seamless (though that may be partly due to the fact that I didn’t have much free time and had to read this book in small snatches over the course of two weeks). But I in general I did have a good time.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

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