The Burning Sky by Sherry ThomasThe Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas
Series: The Elemental Trilogy #1
Published by Balzer + Bray on September 17th, 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 449
Goodreads

It all began with a ruined elixir and a bolt of lightning.

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she's been 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 most powerful tyrant and mage the world has ever known. This would be a suicide task for anyone, let alone a reluctant sixteen-year-old girl with no training.

Guided by his mother's visions and committed to avenging his family, Prince Titus has sworn to protect Iolanthe even as he prepares her for their battle with the Bane. But he 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 tyrant closing in, Titus must choose between his mission—and her life.

The Burning Sky—the first book in the Elemental Trilogy—is an electrifying and unforgettable novel of intrigue and adventure.

3.5 Stars

I was warned by my friends Nastassja and Katerina that this book was going to make me fall in love with a prince – and it did. Titus VII is my small son and must be protected at all costs. As a hopeless shipper of love-hate relationships and devoted fan of girls disguising as boys, The Burning Sky was the perfect read for me, in the sense that it offered me a light read with some of my favourites plot devices. Alas, I could not ignore the flaws this urban fantasy presented me with, which include a world-building jammed with magical elements of all kind, as though the author simply couldn’t decide whether to use spells or elemental magic or mind powers.

“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. Expect magic.”

The characters

You know, at first, I thought these characters weren’t going to cut it. It was clear from the start that the female lead was going to ride the Special Snowflake and The Chosen One tropes, which we’ve frankly seen enough of for a while. In addition, Iolanthe manages to be so annoyingly naive and stubborn that I wanted to throttle her. Sherry Thomas, however, accomplished to somehow not make the plot solely circle around the speciuuul heroine. The male lead receives equally as much attention and, due to his utter preciousness, I was suddenly pulled on board. Iolanthe I started to appreciate as soon as she slipped into her disguise as an English school boy, for she makes a feisty one. The Girl Disguises As Boy plot device is one of my favourites, so naturally, the fun could finally begin. Nonetheless, this does not change my opinion that the characters, though fierce and adorable, held the potential for more depth, more introspection, and more development. For the light read The Burning Sky was, however, this was not an issue that bothered me during the read but rather dawned on me afterwards.

The writing and world-building

I have a soft spot for beautiful, almost poetic writing styles, much like that of Laini Taylor’s and Marie Rutkoski’s, and Thomas’s writing can certainly not keep up with this preference of mine. However, this does not mean that Thomas doesn’t have a way with words. The prose has a kind of raw beauty in its simplicity and a nice flow, too. For an urban fantasy, the writing was adequate and enjoyable. Sherry Thomas packed a crazy amount of fantasy elements into this book and, though it is certainly creative, it did not work for me. It was chaos. Wands, elixirs, elemental magic, mind powers, portals, mystical beasts. It was as though someone had blended Harry Potter with Avatar The Last Airbender, and exciting as this may sound, it was overdone for my taste.

The plot

The suspenseful plot is overall well balanced with character and relationship development. I admit that I wasn’t hooked from the start, which had a lot to do with the confusing world-building and Iolanthe being a blithering idiot. But as soon as these two cupcakes were on the run, I couldn’t put the book down anymore. The plot keeps a steady pacing during which the stakes are raised and the climax draws near. The ending, however, struck me as very anti-climatic after all the fuss. The romantic subplot had ups and downs for me. On one hand, the two are immediately drawn to each other for no apparent reason other than their looks, which was sort uf a turn-off because it screams ‘insta-love’ from the rooftops. On the other hand, Iolanthe and Titus have a serious case of a love-hate relationship, a slow burn romance developping after the initial awe, which made the romance work for me after all, especially since I’m 100% infatuated with love-hate relationships.

Another observation I should remark is that I perceived these characters to be quite young compared to most YA characters in their late teens. Personally, I was not bothered by the rather juvenile atmosphere of the book, but if you want your YA protagonists a bit more mature in their thinking and behaviour, then I suggest you skip this one.

In a nutshell, The Burning Sky was a promising start to an urban fantasy series, and though the book has its flaws, it makes for an overall enjoyable read. If you expect from an urban fantasy to deliver a delight of entertainment, suspense, and magic, this book will surely satisfy your bookish needs.