This book, A Shadow Bright And Burning, followed the suspenseful life of a 16-year-old girl named Henrietta Howel, who is much more than she may seem. She lives in England during what can be assumed as the 1800s, but there are many differences between her world and ours. First, there are Seven Ancients, horrible beasts that terrorize Europe, and most of the continent is under constant attack, making it a ruined, impoverished landscape. The only safe places are the warded areas, which are protected by a shield held up by the sworn protectors of people, sorcerers. They wield powerful elemental magic that has kept the monsters at bay, but they are slowly losing ground, and need a miracle to help them turn the tide of the long war against the Ancients. That’s where Henrietta comes in, a young school teacher with previously hidden powers of tremendous strength, especially with fire. When her magic is exposed, she fears that horrible consequences will follow, but instead she is named the first sorceress in decades and is sent to warded London to train. However, when she encounters numerous mysterious men throughout her apprenticeship, her powers are questioned, and great courage is needed to accomplish her goals.
This book was a true page-turner, drawing me into the fantastical world set in known history. Henrietta was a wonderful heroine who faced both relatable social obstacles and enormous acts of bravery and magic. Something I wanted was more of a backstory on another female character, Gwendolyn Agrippa. Her story is sure to be an interesting one, given her role in the book, but her story is only touched upon by her father in a brief overview. Whatever happened to her could be repeated again in Henrietta, so I think it would have been more important for the characters in the book to learn more about her. Other than this, the book showed loyalty, bravery, love, and hope, four of the best ingredients in a story, making it an immediate hit with me. I am looking forward to reading the sequel (if the author writes one), and would definitely recommend this novel.
Despite all of the changes Henrietta was being forced through in order to become the miracle sorceress everyone needed, she never stopped caring about her childhood friend and maybe even more than friend, Rook. He was never as fortunate as Henrietta because of a troubled past and has had to make a living doing the hard manual work of a laborer. Because of his unfortunate history, most people would not want to be anywhere near him, but Henrietta has always stuck by him and even landed him a better job in London to keep him near her. She never questioned his friendship and supported him whenever her busy life gave her a break. This is something memorable about the book – the endless devotion a true friend (like Henrietta) can provide.
Reviewed by Isabella, Grade 6, Twin Hickory Library