The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas
|Book Name:||The Burning Sky|
|Publisher(s):||Balzer + Bray|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook|
|Release Date:||September 17, 2013|
Think Harry Potter in Victorian England and you have the backdrop for The Burning Sky. Written in the third-person narrative, I rather felt like I was watching the story unfold from the sidelines as opposed to being right in the middle of everything. The plot idea was fascinating and held great potential. The execution left quite a bit to be desired. Being that this is Thomas’ debut YA fantasy novel/series (she is a historical romance author), I am willing to be somewhat more lenient.
Iolanthe (awesome name, by the way) Seabourne is a sixteen-year-old elemental mage who can control three out of the four elements: fire, water, and earth. Out of desperation to help her guardian, she calls down lightning, which has been achieved only by one other mage in history. This earns her the full attention of Atlantis, a tyrannical ruling government who is now seeking to harness her power. The Bane, an apparently immortal ruler of Atlantis (resurrected after each witnessed death), will stop at nothing to acquire her by using mind mages. From a prophecy long ago foretold, Iolanthe is to be the most powerful mage of her time.
In steps Titus the VII, Master of the Domain, but not officially recognized until he is come of age. He is also currently sixteen-years-old. His Domain is at a tenuous peace with Atlantis. The prophecy is what has motivated his every action and plan since his vision-seeing mother predicted that his death was intimately tied to the Bane and the powerful elemental mage. He takes Iolanthe under his protection and training in preparation for their ultimate confrontation.
The characters of Titus and Iolanthe are really well done. Titus is not your noble YA hero. His motivations are self-serving, and lies and deception comprise his public persona. He trusts no one and has resigned himself to a solitary existence until his destined, premature death. That is, until he meets Iolanthe and realizes that there is hope for a few heartbeats of happiness before impending doom.
Iolanthe is also a rather down-to-earth teenager who sees the new reality before her, is frightened, and tries to run from it. Her loyalty to her guardian keeps her tethered to her destiny, and the more time she spends with Titus, the more she realizes she has much to learn about him and her potential. Eventually, she digs her heels in and surprises herself and Titus by training hard and facing danger head-on. When more details surrounding the prophecy is revealed, Iolanthe’s compassion for Titus grows, making it difficult for her to walk away even if she wanted to.
What really kept tripping me up was the writing style and worldbuilding. First off, there was a whole lot of telling and very little showing. Info-dumps are just not fun to read. To make things worse, there were numbered references to pages and pages of endnotes. Not only am I yanked out of the story every so often, I get to read historical documents and mage textbook excerpts that explain this world I am supposed to be reading about. Honestly, that method of world building is kind of like cheating. If you can’t build your world into the storytelling itself, creating endnotes that force the reader to flip back and forth is not the way to go. So many questions are left unanswered, even with all the historical excerpts. How are Atlantis and Titus’ Domain tied to each other? The Inquisitor is only acting as Atlantis’ ambassador to the Domain. Titus is under no obligation to obey their orders and acts as such. Come to think of it, a map might be useful here.
However, despite all this, I kept reading because the characters kept drawing me back. What makes a book stand out for me is the unforgettable characters in it. Sometimes the plot can be all too easily forgotten. The relationships and the growth of the characters are what imprint themselves on readers’ hearts. So, while Thomas’ first attempt at fantasy leaves a lot of room for improvement, much potential exists for better future endeavors. Besides, hardly anyone gets it on the first try. 🙂