This is a bit of an odd review, as I haven’t reviewed the first book in this series, Kingdom On Fire. I have read it though, I just did a couple of books in between the two…which I’m quite bad for doing. Do you ever get that? Where you’ve enjoyed a book, but you’re not desperate to read the next one? I could easily have finished A Shadow Bright and Burning and been happy with the ending. However, I kept thinking about the world created in the series and wondering about the monsters. More about where they came from than what would happen next. So I picked the series back up, and here’s the review! Side note, I did both of them on Audio.
I always have spoilers in my reviews, but as a heads up…MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!!!!
So, I rarely like main characters for some reason, and Henrietta Howel is no exception. I don’t dislike her, I just think she’s pretty boring, makes silly decisions, is immature (Porridge?? Seriously!?) and over dramatic. She’s also overrated. I do like though, that she’s not actually the heroine…she has a really cool mystery back story that we learn along with her, and she’s not the chosen one. She actually starts to improve in my opinion when she figures this out; rather than craving the attention or wanting to prove herself which would be a predictable story arc, she’s relieved and commits herself to helping the real chosen one. (This could all be a ploy at this point of the story, but I’m two books in and this is what I know so far!)
I’m torn between enjoying the many love interests and being annoyed at them. Howel has obviously loved Rook since forever, but she seems to be attracted to any half decent looking man she sets eyes on. She entirely leads on Magnus in the first book, and in the second she openly admits to being distracted by Blackwood’s good looks. If she’d actually paid more attention to Rook, she might have noticed that he was being poisoned instead of cured. Interestingly, I never really liked Rook…but again, we don’t see very much of him because Howel seems to only remember he exists when she feels like it. I also didn’t like Magnus at first, but now he’s grown on me and he is clearly now in love with Howel but doing the decent thing and stepping aside like he promised. I liked Blackwood to begin with, hard exterior but cares deeply for his sister so obviously has a heart. And it was nice to see a real friendship happen between Howel and him; until he ruins it by randomly coming out with the fact that he also loves her and pretty much making her marry him. How could he not know she loved Rook? And why is he now all Mr high and mighty and throwing his weight around? I’m definitely no longer a fan.
Maria is my favourite character so far. Interesting, blunt, useful, surprising back story, I wanted to know more and more about her. There were lots of other secondary characters that just didn’t seem to matter, and although they became a fairly big part of the story for a few pages, they then seemed to disappear.
The monsters themselves seem a little out of place, considering the setting is very well done and gives off the proper feeling of Victorian England, the Ancients seem childish in description. Some are really well done, Nemneris and R’hlem actually seem really creepy, but the one that’s a giant blob? Just silly. I also still don’t really understand their purpose…why are they hell bent on destroying England? In an organised fashion, not simply mindless slaughter? I know the point is that we’ll learn more in the coming books, but I currently don’t really care much about what they’re doing because I don’t know why they’re doing it.
So far, based on character and basic world development, it’s all a bit bland…nothing to really keep me immersed. But d’you know what made me carry on going, and impressed me? The plot twists! Now, I have an almost non-existent imagination, which means I never see anything coming and am really easily pleased by story-lines. But these ones really did wow me, and there were loads! Maria’s a witch and she’s mega powerful! Oh and she’s probably the chosen one! Haha the hobgoblin betrayed everyone and now Rook’s an actual hell monster! Guess what, R’hlem is Henrietta’s Dad! Woops, the only mother figure is dead now! I genuinely kept shouting “What!?” at my iPhone every time I listened to yet another plot twist! They are purely what kept me going.
A small note on the audio itself; the narration on this one confused me. I always love an English accent for an audio book, and the narrator for this one is clearly quite talented (although entirely unable to do a Welsh accent!). However, I don’t understand why, when the book is written in the first person, she has a generic South English accent (somewhere posh like Oxford maybe), but when she’s speaking the dialogue, she puts on the Northern accent that Henrietta would have. Does she think in one accent and speak in another? It completely threw me!
I’m not exactly on tenterhooks waiting for the next instalment, but it’s likely I’ll read it at some point in the future purely because I don’t like leaving things unfinished!
In honesty though, not a series I’ll be recommending 6/10