Serena’s Review: “The Burning Sky”

Book: “The Burning Sky” by Sherry Thomas

Publishing Info: Balzer + Bray, September 2013

Where Did I Get this Book: audiobook from the library!

Book Description: Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she’s been 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 most powerful tyrant and mage the world has ever known. This would be a suicide task for anyone, let alone a reluctant sixteen-year-old girl with no training.

Guided by his mother’s visions and committed to avenging his family, Prince Titus has sworn to protect Iolanthe even as he prepares her for their battle with the Bane. But he 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 tyrant closing in, Titus must choose between his mission—and her life.

Review: Honestly, it’s shocking that I haven’t gotten to this trilogy sooner. So far, I’ve loved everything I’ve ever read from Sherry Thomas. Her “Lady Sherlock” series is one of my favorite historical mysteries still publishing. Her “Mulan” re-telling was perfection and everything I’ve always wanted for that story. I even enjoyed the straight-up romance novel I read from her, the genre where she got her start. So the fact that I’m getting to her YA fantasy trilogy last is pretty strange, given my general reading preferences. What can I say? Part of me was probably saving it since I fully expect to love it to pieces.

Iolanthe was just going about her business, summoning lightening and all of that, when the Prince barges in informing her that she’s some sort of prophesied savior of the world, meant to take on the powerful tyrant that rules over their world. For his part, Titus has always known this day was coming. His mother foretold it long ago and told Titus to be on the look out, as he is meant to guide and protect this savior in their mission. But enemies are at their door, and it is all Iolanthe and Titus can do to keep two steps ahead of them. And while duty weights heavily on Titus, he finds his foretold future harder and harder to bare in the face of his growing feelings for Iolanthe.

As predicted, I really enjoyed this book. The book description, however, I felt was a bit deceptive. All that it describes is true, but there are a few aspects of the story that were big surprises. For one thing, Iolanthe is not aware of her savior status, so that is a huge part of her arc, growing to learn and accept this destiny that’s laid out before her. It also plays a major role in her relationship with Titus, since his appearance is tied so closely to her being informed that she must take on a perilous, and likely deadly, task.

The story also isn’t only set in a third-world fantasy setting. Instead, Titus and Iolanthe travel to London and spend time in the boys’ school that Titus attends there. This lead into another surprise, but one of my favorite tropes ever: Iolanthe disguised as a boy. The situation is rife with all of the humor and adventure that one would expect, and Thomas’s witty writing style is on point here. There were several laugh out-loud moments, both in clever dialogue sequences and imaginatively wacky situations. The story itself was just a blast to read.

I also really liked Iolanthe and Titus. They each felt like very distinct characters who were approaching a destiny that they shared in very different ways. Titus has known the role he must play for years; everything is new to Iolanthe. It was also nice to see that the friendship/love story that developed was paced in a more realistic way, with the road bumps and swift turns that one would expect from this situation. Iolanthe must learn to trust Titus, and Titus must learn to see Iolanthe as an individual with her own opinions and autonomy, not just a nameless, faceless “prophesied one.”

My one critique of my reading experience had to do with the audiobook version. It’s tough, because on one hand, I think the narrator nailed the humorous aspects of the story. However, the way the book works, the narration quickly and often shifts between Titus and Iolanthe. There are no chapter titles or warnings when this shift takes place, and the narrator didn’t do a lot to differentiate their voices. So there were time where I was thrown a bit before realizing that we had switched POVs. It was confusing and distracting at times, which was too bad.

I enjoyed the heck out of this book. I already bought the entire trilogy, so I think I might try to read the second one in print to see if that helps with the POV switching. But, really, the only question that remains is how long can I delay the joy of blowing straight through the next two books??

Rating 8: Action-packed, hilarious, and with a lovely slow-burn romance at its heart. Everything I like and more!

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Burning Sky” is on these Goodreads lists: Girls disguised as Boys and Young Adult Books Without Love Triangles.

Find “The Burning Sky” at the library using WorldCat!

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