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After the Burning: Princess by C. J. Peter

After the Burning: Princess by C. J. Peter
Book Name: After the Burning: Princess
Author: C. J. Peter
Publisher(s): Self-Published
Formatt: Paperback / Ebook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: May 28, 2013

The following book was reviewed as part of Mark Lawrence’s Great Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. For more information, visit Mark Lawrence’s blog or this previous announcement from Fantasy-Faction.

C.J. Peter’s After the Burning: Princess isn’t a perfect book, but much like its main character, it has a lot of heart.

The story centers around young Julian Deltolle, a wealthy merchant’s daughter who has grown up teaching herself to master magic known as “casting,” a magic forbidden to women by the powerful church. With the assistance of her friend and love interest, Danton, and a mysterious guide from the east, Master T’so, Julian relies on her guts and ingenuity to discover the depths of her abilities and why those in power are so determined to find her.

Julian lives in a world that has survived the “Great Burning,” an event society’s infrastructure seems to have recovered from, but has had a huge impact on society and its governance. In some ways, the technology is more advanced than what you see in your typical fantasy tale, so when Julian takes to the city streets, rather than horse-drawn carriages, she uses self-driving transports. Additionally, the city in which she lives is domed, possibly to protect its inhabitants from the fallout of the Great Burning.

In the wake of the Great Burning, the church has emerged as a powerful political force, and fields a veritable army of Inquisitors seeking women with Julian’s abilities. It’s this search that forces Julian to go on the run and begin a quest to learn to master her magic and her family history.

In addition to the worldbuilding, Julian’s characterization stands as one of the book’s greatest strengths. She’s everything fans clamor for in female fantasy protagonists – determined, even-tempered and clever. She’s still obviously a young woman, and occasionally all the fear and trauma and changes in her life get to her, but Peter does a good job of giving her these necessary moments before she pulls herself back together and trudges on. There’s no contrived drama or clearly-telegraphed poor decision-making, just a young woman doing the best she can to make the best of a bad situation. It all works to make Julian an intriguing character you want to see succeed.

Between the character and the worldbuilding, Peter has built a strong core, and while the plot slows down here and there, for the most part the constant adventure keeps the story and its characters moving forward. While Julian is a teenager, After the Burning makes an enjoyable read for adults, and the final page indicates that a sequel is due out later this year.

Despites the many positives that make this a book worth picking up, discerning readers won’t have any difficulty recognizing that this is self-published. An editor seeking to tighten the writing could cut 10-15 percent of the book’s word count without losing any of the plot or characterization. An aggressive editor could trim even more. At times, the dialogue gets a touch clunky, and at others, the characters are forced to explain the magic system rules to us for extended periods.

But these are all writing issues that could be fixed with stronger editing. Compelling storytelling, however, is often either there or it’s not. With After the Burning, it’s there.

Since Mark Lawrence announced the Great Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, I’ve tackled five of the entries on behalf of, and of those five After the Burning displayed the best characterization and most creative worldbuilding. I’ve read a lot of heavily-marketed books from traditional publishers that didn’t have as solid a foundation to build on.


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