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Cover image for A shadow bright and burning
A shadow bright and burning

First edition.
New York : Random House, [2016]
Physical Description:
407 pages ; 22 cm
Series title(s):
Number in series:
bk. 1.
"When her unusual powers mark her as the one destined to lead the war against the seven Ancients, Henrietta trains to become the first female sorcerer in centuries--though the true nature of her ability threatens to be revealed"-- Provided by publisher.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG+ 4.7 14 186138.


Call Number
Cluess, J.
TEEN Cluess, J.

On Order



"Vivid characters, terrifying monsters, and world building as deep and dark as the ocean."
--Victoria Aveyard, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Red Queen

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?

Exhilarating and gripping, Jessica Cluess's spellbinding fantasy introduces a powerful, unforgettably heroine, and a world filled with magic, romance, and betrayal. Hand to fans of Libba Bray, Sarah J. Maas, and Cassandra Clare.

"The magic! The intrigue! The guys! We were sucked into this monster-ridden, alternative England from page one. Henrietta is literally a 'girl on fire' and this team of sorcerers training for battle had a pinch of Potter blended with a drop of [Cassandra Clare's] Infernal Devices."
-- Justine Magazine

"Cluess gamely turns the chosen-one trope upside down in this smashing dark fantasy."
-- Publishers Weekly , Starred Review

"Unputdownable. I loved the monsters, the magic, and the teen warriors who are their world's best hope! Jessica Cluess is an awesome storyteller!"
-- Tamora Pierce , #1 New York Times bestselling author

"A fun, inventive fantasy. I totally have a book crush on Rook."
-- Sarah Rees Brennan , New York Times bestselling author

"Pure enchantment. I love how Cluess turned the 'chosen one' archetype on its head. With the emotional intensity of my favorite fantasy books, this is the kind of story that makes you forget yourself."
--Roshani Chokshi , New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen

"A glorious, fast-paced romp of an adventure. Jessica Cluess has built her story out of my favorite ingredients: sorcery, demons, romance, and danger."
-- Kelly Link , author of Pretty Monsters

Author Notes

JESSICA CLUESS is a writer, a graduate of Northwestern University, and an unapologetic nerd. After college, she moved to Los Angeles, where she served coffee to the rich and famous while working on her first novel. When she's not writing books, she's an instructor at Writopia Lab, helping kids and teens tell their own stories. Visit her at jessicacluess.com and follow her on Twitter at @JessCluess.

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-On the surface, this first book in a new fantasy series set in Victorian England is a story of relationships and loss of family, but with a little magic and some sorcery thrown in, it evolves into an intriguing tale of an orphan girl named Henrietta Howell. The drama begins with a visit from a stranger, a royal sorcerer named Agrippa. He has come to the charity school where Henrietta was raised and is currently teaching. Fearful that Agrippa has come to investigate the rumor of the mysterious fires, Henrietta is reluctant to speak to him, since she is the one causing the fires. It is not obvious at first that Henrietta has any magical powers, but as the plot unfolds, teens will be captivated by the revelations of the gifts that Henrietta herself finds hard to accept. This is an absorbing listen, largely because of the outstanding performance of narrator Fiona Hardingham but also because of the varied characters, some charming and some hideous, who cross paths with Henrietta in her journey to discover her true gifts and talents. VERDICT A strong addition for fantasy lovers. ["Fantasy fans will rejoice and impatiently await the second volume in this new series": SLJ 7/16 review of the Random book.]-Sheila Acosta, San Antonio Public Library © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Sixteen-year-old Henrietta Howel can start fires with a thought, but because women aren't permitted to practice magic, she must keeps her power under wraps at the Brimthorn School for Girls, where she teaches in a magical version of Victorian London. After a sorcerer, Master Agrippa, visits the school, an attack by a "Familiar" of the (decidedly Lovecraftian) Ancients forces Henrietta's hand. Agrippa believes that Henrietta is integral to fighting the Ancients, offering to train her for eventual commendation by a young Queen Victoria and a place among the royal sorcerers. She agrees, on the condition that her childhood friend Rook comes along. In a strong opening to the Kingdom on Fire trilogy, debut author Cluess makes the most of her setting, never shying from gritty details, such as the "burned and ravaged" London outside the wards that protect the sorcerers; the contentious history between sorcerers and magicians adds heft. Henrietta is pragmatic and bitingly funny, and she more than holds her own in a man's world. Cluess gamely turns the chosen-one trope upside down in this smashing dark fantasy. Ages 12-up. Agent: Brooks Sherman, Bent Agency. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

In this series-opener, a prophecy describes a female sorcerer who will kill the Ancients--demons ravaging the land. Henrietta's fire powers mark her as that sorcerer, but her magic is strangely un-sorcerous. Gender roles in this alternate Victorian London complicate Henrietta's struggles in a solid fantasy with the requisite action and romance as well as some genre-shaking surprises. (c) Copyright 2017. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

Cluess' debut is a marvelous mash-up of Dickens, the students-with-magical-powers genre, and alt-history. Sixteen-year-old Henrietta Howel, discovered in a rural Yorkshire orphanage, is proclaimed as the prophesied female sorcerer who will, with training, finally defeat the seven Ancients. Victorian London has been attacked by these terrifying monsters for years while sorcerers searched for the Chosen One. Henrietta, who has the ability to summon and harness fire, arrives in London for training. At first, she's delighted to be encouraged in her desire to learn. Then Henrietta discovers a secret truth: she is not, in fact, the girl of the prophecy. Afraid of letting down her beloved teacher, she struggles to meet expectations, while simultaneously discovering the thrill of sexual attraction to both her childhood friend Rook and another student. It's a fascinating look at a society wherein magic, though accepted and respected, has its own class boundaries. Cluess' clever prose employs Dickensian names and rolls along at a speedy and compelling clip. Expect a demand for future series titles.--Carton, Debbie Copyright 2016 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

McLemore's second novel is such a lush, surprising fable, you half expect birds to fly out of its pages. But magic realism is more than special effects. "When the Moon Was Ours" is about identity - the love story of Miel, a girl whose wrist sprouts roses, and Sam, a transgender boy who paints moons and sets the canvases in trees. McLemore uses the supernatural to remind us that the body's need to speak its truth is primal and profound, and that the connection between two people is no more anyone's business than why the dish ran away with the spoon. Sam lives as a boy, inspired by his Pakistani grandmother's stories about the bacha posh custom, in which girls are raised as males to protect sisters - and he fears he will be expected revert to his "correct" gender one day. Miel's fantastical history sparks its own trauma. Still, she cares for him in a label-obliterating way: "It was his body. It was his to name. And he was under this roof of gold and darkness with a girl who would learn to call him whatever he named himself." In an author's note, McLemore talks about her transgender husband, and you realize the novel is a love letter. There's a reason Miel is so moved by Sam's lunar paintings in trees: He's hanging the moon. STILL LIFE WITH TORNADO By A. S. King 295 pp. Dutton, $17.99. (Young adult; ages 14 and up) A 16-year-old girl named Sara hands her art teacher a blank piece of paper and says, "I've lost the will to participate." It's a funny, deadpan moment - but she means it. Sara spends much of King's ninth novel skipping school and wandering around Philadelphia in an existential funk. She rides buses, tails a homeless artist she believes is living an "original" life and considers changing her name to Umbrella. In a beautifully matter-of-fact use of the supernatural that brings Haruki Murakami to mind, Sara also meets herself at the ages of 10, 23 and 40, and circles closer to some stark truths about her family. "Still Life With Tornado" is a moving, unapologetically strange, skillfully constructed novel about how sometimes the most broken home on the block is the one where the parents are still pretending their marriage works. (Spike Jonze should buy the movie rights immediately.) King's insights about parenting, denial and abuse are so raw and true, grown-ups may want to avert their eyes. But she is a witty, humane writer. Sara at 40 is the most well adjusted, so a happy ending always floats just ahead of our heroine, like a firefly. Read this book, whatever your age. You may find it's the exact shape and size of the hole in your heart. SCYTHE By Neal Shusterman 433 pp. Simon & Schuster, $17.99. (Young adult; ages 14 and up) Shusterman, who has written 36 books and won a National Book Award, writes prose with the sort of spring in its step that says: "Stand back. I know what I'm doing." "Scythe" is about a utopia just beginning to unravel. It's the deep future. A cloud computer known as the Thunderhead controls virtually all of mankind's affairs. Scientists have triumphed over disease and even death, and an elite league of reapers has been commissioned to kill to slow population growth. (What could go wrong?) Two teenagers, Citra and Rowan, are drafted as apprentices. Citra learns at the knee of a humane woman named Scythe Curie; Rowan tries not to sell his soul to a renegade psychopath who engineers mass reapings. Only one apprentice can become a scythe, so they're forced to compete horrifically, even as they contend with the capital-F feelings that teenagers in peril always have for one another. Shusterman shuffles his most intriguing character offstage too early, and the novel's dark humor sometimes makes it hard to lose yourself in the romance and peril. Still, "Scythe" is full of sly plot twists and absorbing set pieces. The novel is the first in a planned series, but one emerging theme has a nice sting to it: Maybe we should give computers the keys to what's left of the kingdom, because human beings can't be trusted. A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING By Jessica Cluess 407 pp. Random House, $17.99. (Young adult; ages 14 and up) As secret talents go, Henrietta Howell's is a showstopper: When she gets furious, she bursts into flames. During the course of Cluess's gripping, graceful debut novel, Henrietta will have much to get fiery about. There's the classist, sexist paternalism of early-Victorian-era London; the gall of certain handsome young sorcerer types; and the fact that even though she can't control her powers and has chosen to name her wand Porridge, everyone seems convinced that she alone can defeat the horrifying beings known as the Ancients. Cluess can create an unnerving monster, like R'hlem the Skinless Man, and write a crackling battle scene. But she also swims deep in the thoughts of her heroine, who's simultaneously defiant and unsure of herself. Is it clear that Cluess adores the Harry Potter series and "Jane Eyre"? Yes. So do you. So does everyone. What matters is that her voice is her own. Her missteps are small and few - a slightly chaotic sequence, a sudden left turn concerning one of Henrietta's suitors. "A Shadow Bright and Burning" delivers on the promise of its title. This is a novel that gives off light and heat. LABYRINTH LOST By Zoraida Córdova 324 pp. Sourcebooks Fire. $17.99. (Young adult; ages 14 and up) Alex Mortiz dreads her coming-of-age party because all her relatives are going to be there, including the dead ones. "Labyrinth Lost," which inaugurates Córdova's new fantasy series, is a richly Latin American, giddily exciting novel about a Brooklyn girl navigating two terrifying dominions: a Dante-esque land of shape-shifters called Los Lagos, and adolescence. Alex promises to be a transcendent witch, or bruja, but she believes her magic is tainted and responsible for her father's disappearance. At her party, she renounces her powers with a disastrous spell, whereupon her family vanishes, and she must travel, via portal, to Los Lagos on a rescue mission. Córdova mixes nicely observed details ("Crazy Uncle Julio brought a lonely pink balloon, and it's already started to sag in the corner") with action-movie choreography. And she gives Alex two entirely different love interests: a cocky male mercenary, Nova, and a daring, devoted female friend, Rishi. It's a welcome bit of geometry at a time when bisexual readers are hungering for representation. "Labyrinth Lost" introduces a daunting amount of mythology, and readers may get overwhelmed. There's a line that nails the feeling exactly: "I'm dizzy, but I don't want to leave." THE DIABOLIC By S. J. Kincaid 407 pp. Simon & Schuster, $17.99. (Young adult; ages 14 and up) You start loving Kincaid's second science fiction novel on Page 2 when you learn that its protagonist is named Nemesis, and you love it even more when Nemesis gets a genetically modified dog called Deadly. Nemesis is not "relatable" in the Hollywood sense, which is to say she is not kooky and conflicted. She's a ruthless, predatory lab creation engineered to protect a senator's daughter, Sidonia. The senator outrages the emperor by refusing to kowtow to his backward religion. The emperor strikes back by summoning Sidonia to the royal space station, where he intends to hold her hostage, or worse. The senator's wife decides that Nemesis will impersonate Sidonia instead: "The emperor wishes me to send my innocent little lamb to the slaughter. No. I'll send him my anaconda." Watching Nemesis cut a violent swath through the vile, duplicitous aristocracy is a joy; watching her gradually become "real" and "human," less so. (We don't want Nemesis to be touchy-feely any more than we want the Velveteen Rabbit to be a killing machine.) But the tension is nearly always high, the characters memorable, and the bond between Nemesis and Sidonia genuinely moving. "Diabolic," itself a genetic experiment blending "I, Claudius" and "The Terminator," appeals to both our better and more devious angels. JEFF GILES'S debut Y.A. novel, "The Edge of Everything," will be published in January.