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Publisher: Balzer + Bray
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It all began with a ruined elixir and an accidental bolt of lightning…The Burning Sky is one of those books that slipped past my radar for a long time. I'd seen the name and the cover around but somehow managed never to read the synopsis. Had I read it, I would've been all over this book immediately. This is just the sort of book that becomes a favorite for me. With heavy fantasy elements and set in the late 1800's, The Burning Sky is astonishingly fast-paced, romantic, and just a little bit magical.
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 avenge 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.
Nothing ever really tells you that most of the book actually takes place in late nineteenth century London, and that much of the world is unaware of the magical goings-on in Elberon (along with a couple of other countries). The synopsis reads like much more of a high fantasy than it really is, but that's totally okay. Once I realized this (on the first page, honestly, since it mentions Eton), all was well.
Iolanthe and Titus are both very interesting characters, with warring emotions, motivations, and actions. Iolanthe has always wanted a comfortable, quiet life, so when she brings down lighting and uproar ensues, that dream goes out the window. She is now running from the Bane, who wants to use her power for...something, and must trust Prince Titus, who keeps her in the dark. She surprises with every action and remains independent and wholly intelligent throughout the book, never relying on someone else to get her out of a tight situation. Titus seems as if his life has largely been charmed, with servants to answer his beck and call and the best schooling, but his past is filled with pain and brutality. He knows the only way to save his kingdom is to take down the Bane, but he must rely on a mage to do so. Even as he seems haughty and cold at times, he is warm and affectionate, and clearly only wants what's best for his people and kingdom. They may be at odds, but they work.
What I enjoyed most was watching the progression of the relationship between Iolanthe and Titus. It's fun to see how their feelings for one another volleyed back and forth over the course of the book--just like their rapport!--even as I just wished they'd settle into mutual affection (of course!) Theirs is a relationship that hinges on trust, and that trust is hard won. Nothing happens quickly, but it's all the more satisfying for that. :)
If you like fantasy in any way, shape, or form, check out The Burning Sky. It is one of those books that you probably could sit around and nitpick about, but if you just sit back and enjoy the ride, it'll probably surprise you. I know I'll be among the first in line for the sequel.
(By the way, you should watch the awesome trailer. It uses the text from the first page of the book and will definitely hook you!)