🌟 I read this for the Yule Bingo Challenge, for the category of Harry: "chosen one" trope. For more info on this challenge, click here. 🌟
This book has some of my favorite things in it: magic spells, dragons, and forbidden romance! I've had this kicking around my Kindle and finally got around to reading it because I needed a book with the "chosen one" trope. THE BURNING SKY, which reads a bit like a Victorian-era Harry Potter, more than suited in that capacity.
When Prince Titus sees a bolt of mage-called lightning come from the sky from his palace balcony, he knows it's the sign foretold by his seer mother. He goes to the site immediately and finds the culprit: a girl named Iolanthe. Hot on his heels are the evil, tyrannical agents of Atlantis, a bunch of secret police-like people ruled by the Bane and the fearsome Inquisitor.
Titus takes Iolanthe under his protection, disguising her a boy and then sneaking her into Eton where he's already manufactured an identity for her as Archer Fairfax (again, using his mother's prophecy). In between classes and cricket, he teaches her the magic she's going to need for her survival, but only at a cost - he wants her to help him defeat the Inquisitor and overthrow the Bane.
I loved this book. Okay, it's very Harry Potter like, with Latinate spells and apparating (vaulting), but mixed in with the "traditional" spells are Elemental spells, and it's historical fantasy instead of contemporary urban fantasy. Which makes sense, since Sherry Thomas is a historical romance author as well. I think her knowledge of that genre really let her take some interesting liberties with the era. The Crucible is probably one of the coolest aspects of the story... apart from the espionage and the court intrigue, that is. I can't say more because I don't want to spoil it, but trust me, it's AWESOME.
The romance is also really well done. Titus is a master manipulator, but things between them don't really come into fruition until he stops trying to control her and realizes that love can't really exist unless it's between equals. I'm also a sucker for mentor/mentee romances, which is probably why I liked Maria V. Snyder's POISON STUDY so much.
THE BURNING SKY doesn't get a full five stars for several reasons. The characters are a bit wooden. Titus is the stereotypical swoon-worthy prince with a smart mouth and Iolanthe is a strong female character who whoops a lot of butt - but that's all they are. I guess the only really human thing about Iolanthe is that she doesn't really want to be a hero at first, because she doesn't want to die, but she gets over that quickly and then it's "we must defend the kingdom" this and "you are the chosen one" that. The world building and writing more than make up for the character deficits, but it's still something I took into account when deciding to rate this book. The pacing is also slow - it takes a while to get off the ground and then towards the end, there will be intense action scenes followed by sticky-slow standing around and doing nothing scenes. But again, this wasn't that big a deal.
I really enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought it would (although maybe I needn't have worried, seeing as how I love her historical romance, too). I think I'd recommend it to fans of books like THE GOLDEN COMPASS or HARRY POTTER, traditional fantasy novels with interesting but familiar worlds and complex magic systems and strong female characters. This book had all of those things, and I'm very eager to see how the story continues in the sequel, THE PERILOUS SEA.
4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars