Desert Isle Keeper
The Burning Sky
Most readers probably recognize Sherry Thomas as an author of superb historicals. The Burning Sky, set in an alternate world that intersects somewhat with 1880s England, marks her first foray into YA. I enjoyed the characters and the world created for them, and this book would definitely go on my DIK shelf.
Our heroine, Iolanthe Seabourne, is of a type that anyone who reads a lot of paranormal (YA or adult) will recognize. She is that special snowflake deemed the most talented of her generation. Of course, she doesn’t initially have a clue about her stupendous powers; they never do. It’s rather like those awkward historical heroines who are drop dead gorgeous but can’t understand why men fall all over themselves to catch a glimpse.
Even if she comes from a familiar subset of heroines, I liked Iolanthe. I liked her hero, Prince Titus, too. The story opens in a mysterious, magical land referred to as the Domain. Iolanthe lives in the Domain with her guardian, and she knows that she is an elemental mage. However, she has no idea just how gifted she is. An incident that occurs when she is conjuring a simple lighting of the path for an acquaintance’s wedding brings Iolanthe to the attention of Atlantis, the dictatorial tyrants who have dominated and oppressed the Domain for generations.
Iolanthe, with the help of her guardian, narrowly escapes capture. Through a series of machinations, she finds herself in Victorian London, on the run with Titus. Though nominally Prince of the Domain, Titus has little power as his realm is completely under the thumb of Atlantis, whose spies lurk everywhere. The powers that be have parked Titus in school at Eton, a non-magical place where he is unlikely to learn much that would allow him to cause trouble – or so they think.
Titus, knowing Iolanthe has the power to someday help free the Domain from tyranny, conceals her at Eton as a fellow student. Much of the book focuses on Iolanthe alternating between hiding her true identity and meeting in secret with Titus to hone her skills for coming battles.
Titus is initially something of a jerk, particularly to Iolanthe, but he grew on me over time. Truly a tortured hero, he knows of visions that show him dying along the way to bringing Iolanthe to her true destiny – and yet he has the guts to do what must be done to save the Domain anyway. As Iolanthe and Titus work together, they start to fall for each other, too. It’s a very sweet story, set against a dark world – and I lapped up every page of it.
The action does rush a bit much toward the end, and we do find ourselves faced with a somewhat uncertain ending (this book is 1st in a trilogy, after all). However, it’s still an unforgettable read and one deserving of a wide audience. If you’re looking to jump into a new battle of good vs. evil, The Burning Sky is a good one to try.