Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

Sherry Thomas, author of The Burning Sky (first book in the Elemental Trilogy), is not the next J.K. Rowling. Of course, there IS no next J.K. Rowling, but that doesn’t stop publishers from comparing new authors to her.

The most recent author to be compared to Rowling ad nauseum is Samantha Shannon, author of The Bone Season. I bring this up because if I WERE to compare a new YA author to Rowling, it would be Sherry Thomas, not Samantha Shannon. I am a public librarian, and if a Harry Potter fan asked me for a new book they might like, I’d recommend The Burning Sky (and not The Bone Season). Like the Harry Potter series and unlike The Bone Season, it has moments of true warmth and levity.

The Burning Sky is similar to the world of Harry Potter in many ways. Attendance at a boarding school, check, although in this case it is a decidedly unmagical Eton College. Spells based on latin, check. Prophecies and seers, check.

But the author paints her own magical world in The Burning Sky. The magical domain and the nonmagical realm co-exist. The greatest elemental mage of a generation has been prophesied. This person, able to manipulate earth, air, water and fire, will face the Bane, the powerful mage and tyrant of Atlantis. Prince Titus, the teenaged figurehead Master of the Domain, has known since a young age that he is destined to assist the mage and die in the process.

Then, through a careless bit of magic, Iolanthe Seabourne reveals herself to be the prophesied elemental mage. Atlantis and the Bane want to use her. Prince Titus does too – he wants to use her to bring down Atlantis and the Bane.  The Prince gets to her first, and puts into action a plan he has worked on for almost his whole life.

Iolanthe and Titus have a distrustful but dependent relationship. Iolanthe, disguised as a boy, attends Eton with the young Prince, and there are moments of joy and humor in their day-to-day interactions with fellow students. One plot device I enjoyed was the Crucible, a magical training tool that Titus and Iolanthe virtually disappear into to prepare for the challenges that await them.

I won’t reveal anymore, but The Burning Sky is a fun, suspenseful, and yes, magical read. I definitely recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Harry Potter or similar series.

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