Shimmer and Burn, by Mary Taranta
On Sale Date: August 8, 2017
Published by: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genre: YA fantasy
My Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.25 out of 5 stars)
**I received this as an e-galley through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.**
To save her sister’s life, Faris must smuggle magic into a plague-ridden neighboring kingdom in this exciting and dangerous start to a brand-new fantasy duology.
Faris grew up fighting to survive in the slums of Brindaigel while caring for her sister, Cadence. But when Cadence is caught trying to flee the kingdom and is sold into slavery, Faris reluctantly agrees to a lucrative scheme to buy her back, inadvertently binding herself to the power-hungry Princess Bryn, who wants to steal her father’s throne.
Now Faris must smuggle stolen magic into neighboring Avinea to incite its prince to alliance—magic that addicts in the war-torn country can sense in her blood and can steal with a touch. She and Bryn turn to a handsome traveling magician, North, who offers protection from Avinea’s many dangers, but he cannot save Faris from Bryn’s cruelty as she leverages Cadence’s freedom to force Faris to do anything—or kill anyone—she asks. Yet Faris is as fierce as Bryn, and even as she finds herself falling for North, she develops schemes of her own.
With the fate of kingdoms at stake, Faris, Bryn, and North maneuver through a dangerous game of magical and political machinations, where lives can be destroyed—or saved—with only a touch.
I honestly wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this book going into it. While the premise sounded mildly intriguing, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be something I absolutely loved enough to really want to read it, but after seeing so many positive reviews of it, thought I should give it a try. And I’m certainly glad I did. This book is about good and evil, sacrifices and selfishness, strengths and weaknesses, and swept me entirely away.
The story pulls the reader in immediately, with a pace that stars off almost a little too fast, but quickly balances itself out as the story progresses. The writing is superb for the most part, although there were times when I felt like I wasn’t completely understanding what was being said on the page. I don’t think this was a world-building thing, since that was done excellently and in a way that I had no trouble falling into the world of Brindaegal and Avinea, but rather I think it was the magic-building that took me time to completely understand. Eventually I did, I just felt like I was missing pieces here and there that didn’t fully meld together to form a complete picture of how the magic works in this world. Otherwise, though, the storyline was captivating and intriguing, and kept me engaged throughout the entire novel.
The characters, however, are definitely what make this story really sink into you and left me unable to stop thinking about it when I was forced to put it down. They are all interesting and full of life, with characteristics that you wouldn’t always expect. While I absolutely hated her, I thought Bryn was a magnificently interesting character due to how much I wanted to slap her but also mildly respected her for her ambitions. Faris and North I enjoyed immensely, with neither one of them being the perfect hero-type, and their relationship was a beautiful slow-burn romance that had me swooning and emotional. I was a little disappointed that I spotted the character plot-twist from the get-go, since it’s a trope that has been used about a million-times over in other books, but other than that I enjoyed all of the characters greatly.
Overall, this was a great read, with lots of twists and excellent characters. Its plotline keeps the reader engaged and constantly questioning things, while the characters bring the story to life. Perfect for fans of Diana Wynne Jones, this fantasy book is mesmerizing and addictive, and a definite recommendation for all. And while it doesn’t have a series title attached to it, after the way it ended I am definitely expecting a sequel.
ARC August | Books Completed Toward Goal: 2/12