The Burning Sky
By Sherry Thomas
Published: September 17, 2013
It all began with a ruined elixir and a bolt of lightning.
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.
Iolanthe is from the Domain and Titus is its powerless ruler. The realm is really ruled by Atlantis (controlled by the Bane and the evil Inquisitor) with Titus as sort of a figurehead to keep the populace happy. When Iolanthe calls down lightning, she gets the attention of the Bane who is determined to capture her.
The Burning Sky is a creative fantasy novel with an appealing heroine. Iolanthe is smart, brave, loyal, and resourceful. She may be prophesied to be this great mage but she has to work really hard to master her abilities. I enjoyed the parts of the book where she was at Eton passing as a boy for safety reasons. She is something of a tomboy and has had an unusual upbringing which made it plausible.
I enjoyed the relationship between Iolanthe and Titus. While Titus is attracted to her right away, the romance develops at a slower pace because of more pressing concerns (and the fact that she has to pretend to be Archer Fairfax, a fellow student at Eton). I also liked the friendships that Iolanthe developed with the other boys at Eton, especially with Kashkari. I look forward to seeing more of the secondary characters. They added much needed humor at times.
As much fun as her life at Eton was, I really found myself intrigued by the magical world too. To help her learn to harness the elements she hasn't mastered yet, Titus trains her in The Crucible, a place that reminded me of the Holodeck from Star Trek. The entrance is through a book of fairy tales and you have to proceed through various levels, fighting dragons and wyverns and other challenges. I also found their mode of transportation to be interesting. People "vault" from place to place but they can only vault certain distances and so many times in a day. It reminded me of apparating and disapparating from the Harry Potter books.
While the book has excellent world building, I thought it read like a page turner and didn't get bogged down in detail. It was easy to catch on to the rules of the magical world and it also helped that part of the book was set in historical London too. I definitely had some questions that were not answered at the end of the book though I have some suspicions about the Bane. He is really a mysterious figure for most of the story and doesn't get as much page time as the creepy Inquisitor. I found her to be very menacing and she added suspense to the story whenever she appeared.
I thought this was a strong beginning to the Elemental Trilogy and I am definitely looking forward to the next book. The Burning Sky is an entertaining blend of humor, suspense, and fantasy with engaging characters. I think this book would appeal to fans of Rae Carson, Chantress by Amy Butler Greenfield, Poison by Bridget Zinn, and other teen fantasy.
Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of Amazon Vine