True fact: when I finished this book, I sat down and promptly wrote a fan letter to Sherry Thomas. I’m absolutely WILD about it! I originally grabbed a copy because a bunch of other authors told me I couldn’t miss it—and they were absolutely right!
It’s got everything—heart-stopping action, sly humour, razor sharp wit, boarding schools, magic, disguises, love, sacrifice, life-and-death stakes and a cast of characters I completely fell for. I’ve bought several copies for friends already, and if you’re looking for your next read, The Burning Sky should be it!
Just before the start of Summer Half, in April 1883, a very minor event took place at Eton College, that venerable and illustrious English public school for boys. A sixteen-year-old pupil named Archer Fairfax returned from a three-month absence, caused by a fractured femur, to resume his education.
Almost every word in the preceding sentence is false. Archer Fairfax had not suffered a broken limb. He had never before set foot in Eton. His name was not Archer Fairfax. And he was not, in fact, even a he.
This is the story of a girl who fooled a thousand boys, a boy who fooled an entire country, a partnership that would change the fate of realms, and a power to challenge the greatest tyrant the world had ever known.
I mean, don’t you just read that and get a shiver straight down your spine? Expect magic. But I could rave all day, so let’s go into some detail:
The World: The worlds you’ll visit in The Burning Sky are gorgeous, vivid and original. From cricket games at Eton, to magic worlds just next door to our own, to the Crucible, the most extraordinary magical training ground you’ve ever seen, Sherry Thomas does an incredible job.
The Characters: I don’t even know where to begin. I love Iolanthe, so strong and stubborn and so very human. She swaggers through Eton in the most fantastic impression of a teenaged boy, and her journey in this book is so rich and layered. And then there’s Titus. Oh, Titus. His absolute dedication to his goal, the sacrifices he makes—and the absolute humanity you sense in him, the things you know he’d want so badly if only he’d let himself. I get shivers just thinking about it! And his dark, dark sense of humour—I am utterly in love.
The Adventure: Though I could sit around and swoon at the characters and the setting all day, this book keeps you moving at a hundred miles an hour, and it’s amazing! What would you do if you were told you were the only one who could defeat a tyrant and save your realm… but you knew the attempt would probably kill you? What would you do if it was your job to train and guide the girl who had that task? And what would you do if you fell in love with her?
The Romance: Speaking of which, THE SWOONS, PEOPLE. Sherry Thomas is also an acclaimed romance author, and let me tell you, it shows. Enough said.
The Laughs: Anyone who’s read my writing knows that I’m a firm believer in bringing the laughs—just because a situation is deathly tense, doesn’t mean you can’t slip in some dark humour. I laughed out loud reading this book, and I loved it all the more for that.
The Supporting Cast: Kashkari. Wintervale. Master Haywood. Trust me when I say that the secondary characters in this book could carry a novel all on their own. Thomas does an amazing job of giving them depth and hinting at whole backstories, without straying form the path of Iolanthe and Titus’s story. Friendships, trust and sacrifice all come to the fore in this book, and the rich cast of secondary characters are standouts in their own right.
The Bottom Line: I picked up this book because word-of-mouth told me it was fantastic, and I’m passing that word along to you. It truly was a fantastic read that left me with a lasting book hangover, and quite simply, you should grab a copy for yourself. Book two, The Perilous Sea, is out on September 16th, and you can bet your boots I’ve got that thing pre-ordered! (As per this post from Claire Legrand, pre-orders are like unicorns, a fantastic way to show support for your favourite authors!)
What have you read recently that you’ve loved? We Pub Crawlers are always looking for our next great read, so we’d love to hear from you!