A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
Read by Fiona Hardingham
Summary from Netgalley:
I am Henrietta Howel.
The first female sorcerer in hundreds of years.
The prophesied one.
Or am I?
Henrietta Howel can burst into flames.
Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she’s shocked when instead of being executed, she’s invited to train as one of Her Majesty’s royal sorcerers.
Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is declared the chosen one, the girl who will defeat the Ancients, bloodthirsty demons terrorizing humanity. She also meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, handsome young men eager to test her power and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her.
But Henrietta Howel is not the chosen one.
As she plays a dangerous game of deception, she discovers that the sorcerers have their own secrets to protect. With battle looming, what does it mean to not be the one? And how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?
I really enjoyed this alternative Victorian London. Henrietta is a great character that is caught between what is right and who she really is. I also enjoyed that there were sorcerers, magicians and witches, who all had a different type of magic. And the evil ancients where suburb! I hope we get more back story on them in the next book, as they were some of the more interesting aspects of the story.
Even though Henrietta has a Victorian upbringing, she does seem to want to stand up to the men and do what is right. She is compassionate for the less fortunate and struggles with trying to help them without going against the conventional morals of the time period. I also really liked her relationship with Rook, her childhood friend that she thinks she is in love with and will do anything to protect him. There are two other men in her life vying for her attention as well as a two great father figures (she was orphaned at a young age). Alas, there really are no other women in this world of sorcerers and magicians. She has a tentative relationship with one of her suitors sister and a really nice budding friendship with the maid who takes care of her, but no one else. Not the first fantasy where this is the case, and it does fit with the world the author has created, but hopefully some more female characters will show up as the series progresses.
Fiona Hardingham has done a stunning job of narrating this story. Her voice, accents and inflections make Henrietta come alive with all of her doubts and insecurities. It is a long listen, almost 13 hours, but certainly worth it. She also makes the slightly draggy parts in the middle of the story, more interesting.