The Elemental Trilogy #1
Balzer + Bray
Source: ARC from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
It all began with a ruined elixir and an accidental bolt of lightning…
Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she's being 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 greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.
Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he's also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to avenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.
But Titus 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 Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.
The Burning Sky is a stunning fantasy, delighting us with the magic and the great mythological beasts that so define the genre while at the same time grounding us in the reality of a boys’ boarding school in 1880’s London, thus ensuring those of us who sometimes find ourselves overwhelmed by sweeping fantasy stories have no trouble finding our way in this tale. There’s not a great deal of backstory as to how the unrest in the Domain (over which Prince Titus rules, if in name only) and the rise of the Bane came to be, but it simply doesn’t matter in this first installment, so caught up are we in the richness of the world and its gorgeously layered characters.
Iolanthe is a gem of a heroine, her humanity and her status as an Elemental Mage combining to give us a young woman who both feels like a friend–full of strengths and insecurities–and someone with a destiny we can’t even fathom as power we’ll never experience thrums through every fiber of her being. She’s not the type of girl to gracefully accept the revelation that she’s to play a mighty role in the fight to break Bane’s grasp on the Realm, instead she understandably panics and doubts Titus’s faith in her, but she only does so for a brief period of time before throwing herself body and soul into a fight she never knew was hers. She has an untold amount of power, but she never seeks to flaunt it or lord it over others, instead she’s receptive to Titus’s teaching and gives everything she has to learning to wield it with enough skill to keep her and her prince alive.
Titus is as strong a character as Iolanthe, a man who beautifully plays the arrogant, exceedingly entitled ruler of the Domain in public yet is someone very different in private, his duality never failing to make our eyes widen in wonder when we see how expertly he masks his fear. And he is right to fear, for he faces not only a terrifying foe in the Inquisitor, but also his own impending death as is prophesied by his mother as well as the reality that he may lose Iolanthe if he can’t teach her what she needs to know quickly enough. Only we and Iolanthe ever know of the beads of sweat that trickle down his back and the rapid beat of his heart though, making our relationship with him feel intimately poignant.
While one might say there is romance in The Burning Sky, the word romance simply doesn’t do the relationship between Iolanthe and Titus justice. It’s more than affection or sexual tension, it’s genuine friendship, trust, and the shared knowledge that the two of them together stand between the complete fall of the Realm. There’s a certain gravity to their every interaction, even the lighthearted ones, that draws us in, witnesses to the beginning of something truly beautiful. One of the highlights of their relationship is the honesty between them, due in part to their desire to work together but also to an inescapable blood oath, but for all that they must speak the truth to one another, there are secrets in their silences; quiet moments where they tuck their feelings tight to their chests, not yet ready to be as vulnerable as their admission would make them.
Overall, The Burning Sky should not be missed, entertaining us every step of the way until we reach an end that is thankfully free of dreaded cliffhangers, but yet leaves us salivating for the next book just the same.
This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review.
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.