Sunday, September 1, 2013

Expect Magic

"There existed something in this world that bound a mage tighter than a blood oath: love. 
Love was the ultimate chain, the ultimate whip, and the ultimate slave driver."
--Sherry Thomas, The Burning Sky

Genre: YA Fantasy & Historical Fiction
Publisher: Balzer + Bray, 464 pages
Publication Date: September 17th, 2013
Source: eARC received via publisher from Edelweiss

Goodreads Description

It all began with a ruined elixir and an accidental bolt of lightning…

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she's being 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 greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.

Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he's also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to revenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.

But Titus 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 Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.

My Thoughts

As a reader, there is something particularly satisfying—as well as aggravating to me—when I have a book, and for one reason or another don’t read it right away, hesitate on it, then when I actually start reading it…I fall in love. The Burning Sky and I had this kind of relationship. I saw it on Edelweiss and thought it sounded good, actually got approved for it (eep!) and then got an ARC at BEA. I had other books I wanted to read first so I put it off for a few weeks. Then I took a look at my TBR pile and go ‘hey, sure I’ll read that one next, why not?’ Then I proceed to KICK MYSELF IN THE FACE because this book is SO GOOD! So FREAKIN’ good!

I didn’t have a lot of expectation going into it and, much to surprise, this book not only combined fantasy and historical fiction but included magic…you will be advised on the first page of this…expect magic. Beautiful. The opening page of this novel immediately brings a distinct voice to the story. From the first page I was more than a little enthralled. And then a few more pages in, when wands were mentioned, I fell a little more in love. By the time I realized this story travels between a magical world as well as 1800s England, I was full on courting this book for a serious relationship. The elements combined in this book play so well off each other. The history, the boarding school, the magic, the spells--everything was fantastic. 

Titus and Iolanthe are a dynamic duo in this world and I thought they were written fantastically. They are complex, deep, and imperfect. They have fears and flaws. They have hopes and dreams. They work hard to get where they do. Titus is a prince protecting Iolanthe and while he puts himself out there as a non-feeling, tyrant prick, we all know he is so much more. Iolanthe is prophesized to be a great mage of their world and she despises Titus after learning the details of the background story because she never wanted to be anything more than ordinary. She wants to be successful and able to support herself but she never yearned for greatness. Destiny has a way of ruffling those feathers, though. Because of her lack of willingness to achieve greatness thus fulfilingl her destiny, she does the only thing she can think of...she fights against it. I liked this about her. She wasn’t hitting the ground running at being a badass. She was herself. She had rational fears and wanted a normal life. She didn't ask to be a part of an epic journey that involved saving the world, she just wanted something to call her own.

Titus didn't ask for his destiny, either. He, however, embraced his destiny and does everything and anything to succeed. The lengths he goes to and the sacrifices her makes are inspiring. The theme of selflessness, good vs evil, sacrifice are present throughout this story and I can never get enough of this. Titus sees the bigger picture and while he may not know how it ends, he knows that the greater good is at risk. I feel like he, too, years for a normal sort of life but knows he can never have it. He has moments of anger and daydreams about a different life yet at the end of the day, he will do what it takes to accomplish his destiny. 

While both Titus and Iolanthe take different routes to accepting their fate, they both inevitably end up in the same place and with the same mindset. I think this brought so much honesty and depth to her characterization and their story. I found both of their emotions and actions realistic for their respective histories and enjoyed the story so much more because of it. I was definitely rooting for a romance between them. I especially adore a story of love that grows from dislike. The walls coming down. The ice thawing. The heat building. The development of their relationship felt natural and real and it had me gripping the book in anticipation of will they or won't they. The steady progression of understanding and compassion they developed had me tearing up. *sigh* I just loved seeing these two get to know the real person behind all the walls and misguided assumptions of who they thought the other was.

The story itself is so incredible. Like I said earlier, I LOVED the combination of historical fiction and fantasy. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like this before, so combining two of my favorite genres had me fangirling pretty quickly. The pacing is pretty quick; not super fast paced, more of a ‘I can’t wait to see what happens next so I have to keep reading.’ It was one of those stories that I would keep reading just to see what they do in their daily lives. I just really loved being in this world and getting to know the characters.

The world building and the magic leaves so much room to explore. We don’t get all the details about the happenings between realms and Domains so that was kind of confusing but I just rolled with it. Future books will include more detail I’m sure, so no big deal. This book deals with magic and mystery and I am tagging this as a series to watch, for sure. I can’t wait to see where the story goes. This book isn’t even out yet and I’m already looking forward to the next part of the journey.

Should You Read This? Yes! If you love magic or fantasy or historical fiction, this is a book you definitely want to check out!  


  1. I love both historical fiction and fantasy!! WHY AM I NOT READING THIS RIGHT NOW???
    I've heard really good things about this, but now that you've given it your stamp of approval, it's definitely moving up on the TBR list :)

  2. I really loved this one too =P. It completely took me by storm. And it was true high fantasy, not fantasy-lite, which I can never get enough of. I too liked Iolanthe's tendency towards self preservation because it felt more real. And good point about how they approached their destiny's differently but pretty much end up in the same place. I cannot wait to continue this series. If Sherry Thomas keeps this up, it could quick become one of my new favorites. Great review!! :D

  3. This book is already on my TBR list, but now I want it even more! I love fantasy!! And historical fiction if it's done right. Have you read Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers? It's a historical fiction mixed with fantasy as well. Not as much fantasy elements as this one sounds like it has, but still an awesome read! If you haven't read it, you should check it out. I think you would like it. :)

  4. I've been dying to read this now I'm seriously excited. Loved the review. :)


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