The Burning Sky - Sherry Thomas [The Elemental Trilogy]
Original Review: January 22, 2016
Atlantis has returned.
Or perhaps they never left. They rule under a being called Bane, and hunt for Mages of exceptional power.
Iolanthe is just such a Mage, which she discovers in the most unfortunate of ways, attracting the attention of not only Atlantis, but of the local ruling prince - who attempts to come to her rescue when he sees an omen of his fate yet to come.
Upon escaping the initial reach of Atlantis, Iolanthe finds herself unceremoniously dumped in London - a non-mage territory, at the not-so tender mercy of an exiled Mage. Though the Prince's earlier attempts to rescue Iolanthe were unsuccessful, he this time manages to free her from the grip of the insane exile, and entrench her firmly into the ranks of Eaton seniors via way of a pre-fabricated story and much magic and manipulation.
The story doesn't progress quite as quickly from there, which I am thankful for as it was easier to enjoy the latter 2/3 of the book much more than the first part. Thomas does not seem to be a very "descriptive" writer, in terms that we don't get very much input on how to visualize these characters, but there is certainly no shortage of personality to aid our imaginations!
Some of the inconsistencies can be jarring.
It is made very clear that Iolanthe and Tidus exist in the 1800's. However, when we read entries supposedly made by Tidus' mother in a journal she had kept in Tidus' early years, they were only dated in the 1100's. At one point, when there is some portal-hopping going on, it almost seems to skip a step from Iolanthe's side to get to where Tidus is.
I do have a tendency to hold on to that kind of detail where others might not, so to others it may not be as big of a deal as it is to me. However, it did detract for me from a read that was otherwise by far more consistent than many others I have read.
Usually don't give YA fiction of any variety such a high rating.
In almost all cases - such as this one - I actually forget that the characters are so young. Their depth and strength and overall development seems far above that of your typical teenager/young adult would have. Granted, the circumstances are far different from what an ordinary YA would experience, but I struggle to think that young adults of this day and age would conduct themselves so well were they faced with the same conflicts Thomas' characters did.
On top of that, being a person interested in spiritual ideas, Thomas introduced some very interesting points for me to ponder. I would have loved to see some expansion (particularly on the "what has been seen should not be changed", as opposed to the pervading belief of fate/destiny that it cannot be changed), but I understand - 'twas not the point of the book!
But not without it's flaws...
And at that, there's really only two that made me cringe. Certain "devices" should be left to the screen - and even then, they have passed the point of being cliche and overdone. Iolanthe also seems to be suspiciously good at everything - she essentially has no faults - which makes the whole charade of her being at Eaton rather boring until nearing the end of the book. Yet even then, her wit and skill save the day - again, and again, and again. (The Prince must be getting a complex by now...)
The only other complaint that I could have, if you could consider it a complaint, is that by only 40% of the way through the book, I felt as if I should already be nearing the end for how quickly the story progressed. It took quite some time after the first arc of the story completed to feel engaged again.
Would I recommend this book?
Despite not giving it a full five star rating (for the issues mentioned above), the answer would be a resounding yes. There is romantic - not sexual - tension between Tidus and Iolanthe, which is both complicated and made amusing by the fact she is attending an all-boys school under false pretenses. There is drama, though quickly snuffed by Iolanthe's brilliance. But overall, there is a unique alternate-history fantasy where Mages are openly accepted and used by the ruling government, until they outlive their purpose. There are characters with more than enough personality to keep you interested, and a heroine who you will find yourself cheering for before you even notice it (because let's admit it - she starts out as kind of a snit...)