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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Review: The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Published: September 17, 2013
Pages: 464
Source: For Review from HarperCollins
Rating: 3 Stars


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.

In short: Though The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas seemed to have everything I love in my fantasy books, I needed more originality to make it stand out.
There's a fine line between enjoying a fantasy book that incorporates all the elements that you love in fantasies and being disappointed in a fantasy book because most of the elements are overused and cliched. Could be just a matter of mood. On paper, I should have loved The Burning Sky to pieces and maybe if I had read it at a different time, I would have. But instead of being of being comforted by the familiar tropes I have come to love in my favourite fantasies, I found myself annoyed that The Burning Sky had little to offer that was truly original.

The Burning Sky is your typical orphan prophesied to be really powerful and take on the dark overlord of the world story. Almost every spell, potion, and magical object in The Burning Sky has a corresponding match in the Harry Potter series. It really seemed to borrow heavily from the world J.K. Rowling created and that bothered me. Especially when the world building just FAILED in comparison to that in the Harry Potter series. It wasn't hard to follow or anything, but I didn't leave the reading experience with a complete understanding of it. The plot in The Burning Sky was also significantly less engaging than Harry Potter.

There was still enough interest from The Burning Sky to maintain my attention though. I loved the inclusion of elemental magic and the idea of the magical book, The Crucible (even if it wasn't wholly original either). And I was fond enough of the characters and romance. The narration alternates nicely between Iolanthe's and Titus' point of view and we get good opportunities to get to know both of them and see how their minds work. The romance was of the slow burn, love-hate variety that I like, but at times I wished we could move away from the romance and focus more on the larger plot and enemies at hand.

Overall, The Burning Sky seemed to have everything I love in my fantasy books. But I needed more originality from it to make it stand out. Because as it is, there is no way that it was going to win in a comparison with its book twin, Harry Potter. We already have a story like Harry Potter and it's excellent so we don't need a subpar version that is not as interesting or engaging - sorry if that sounds harsh. There were definitely some redeemable factors about The Burning Sky, but I am going to hold off on reading book two until I see how it fares in reviews.

Other Reviews:
Christina Reads YA
Lunar Rainbows
Paranormal Indulgence

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23 comments :

  1. Personally, I wouldn't really like to read a book that borrows from Harry Potter. Harry Potter is Harry Potter and if someone tries to take anything from it to make a new book, it better be as magical as Harry Potter! Nothing compares to that, like you rightly said. As a fellow Potterhead, I completely understand you! Also, a fantasy novel does require a great world building that's original of course and that one factor that keeps you immersed in it. I'm sorry to hear that the Burning Sky didn't have that. Nonetheless, amazing review, Aylee.

    Sarika @ The Readdicts

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  2. To be quite honest, I didn't actually notice any of the Harry Potter comparisons :P Obviously I'm a tad unobservant haha. I mean, I get that there was magic and such, but I don't know if it was so similar to Harry Potter that I'd say that the ideas a borrowed from the Harry Potter world. Maybe I just read too many books with magic in them that they've all blurred into one book hahaha.

    I really liked The Crucible! How awesome would it be if it was real- although maybe not the dying part :P I would love to be able to enter the world of a book! And yeah, I do agree, the romance was quite nicely written but sometimes seemed to take the focus away from the whole evil people trying to capture Iolanthe thing (totes forgot the name of the organisation- was it Atlantis? Whatever, can't remember...)

    I'll probably be reading book two, because I quite liked The Burning Sky- I mean, I have to agree that the world building was kind of shaky (I don't think the back story to Atlantis/whatever it was called was really explained at all) but the characters were enough to pull me through the book.

    Nice review Aylee :)

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  3. I've come across quite a few raving reviews for The Burning Sky specifically on how amazing the romance is in the book. Now that you mention it's not that original, I think I'd have to read it because I'm beyond curious now. Till now, I really have no idea about the main plot and this would be the perfect way to start reading The Burning Sky.

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  4. "There's a fine line between enjoying a fantasy book that incorporates all the elements that you love in fantasies and being disappointed in a fantasy book because most of the elements are overused and cliched." <-- Very true. And the funny thing is, most reviews acknowledge this aspect of the book, but it's just a matter of our personal tastes I think. I'm with you in that I wanted the book to take more of its own spin on the fantasy world, but a lot, a lot of people were like MY FAVORITE TROPES YESSS. Maybe we're just in the minority here?

    True that we didn't leave with a complete understanding of the world so far. One reader pointed out on a discussion post I'd made about HP v. THG, though, that few books ever reach the level of depth that HP did. I wonder whether we'll ever be able to not compare our fantasy reads with the highest possible common denominator. But I do agree that the spells had corresponding matches, etc. The orphan, the villains, the characters. The thing this one had going for it was the romantic partnership vs. the trio. (Side note: the author did post some extra material though about the world and textbooks on magic if you're interested?)

    Oooh, the Crucible wasn't wholly original either? The fairy tales, yeah, but I'm not sure that I've read another YA novel with similar rules to the practice grounds in the Crucible. Ahhh, as for focusing on the romance and plot at hand? I wonder if you came into the book with different expectations than me. I'd read a bunch of Sherry Thomas' other historical romance novels so I already expected the romance to be the major aspect of the plot whereas it sounds like you wanted more of the world and characters.

    Lol, does any book win in a comparison with Harry Potter???? Not for me. And with your blog title, I'm going to assume not for you either ;).

    Thanks for linking to my review!!

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    1. It's true, I'm not at all familiar with Sherry Thomas. It wasn't until you mentioned in your review that she is a romance writer that I found out about her!

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  5. Awwwww sorry this one didn't really stand out for you Aylee! I absolutely adored it, but I don't read all that much fantasy, so everything felt new and different to me when I read, and I just loved both Iolanthe and Titus. I'm glad you were able to find some things about it you did enjoy, and maybe if you decide to pick up book two you'll have more success with it! Thanks for your thoughts:)

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  6. Sorry this one was a bit clichéd with the elements that you enjoy. I honestly don't read much fantasy, so I definitely don't think I'd enjoy this one since I do LOVE Harry Potter. hah

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  7. I'm still very interested in this book, mainly because some other bloggers I also trust LOVED it so much. It's a shame that it felt so heavily HP influenced (although that can be fun) Thanks for the honesty! :)

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  8. I have that same problem with dystopians I think because I have read SO many that it takes something truly different that stands out from the rest for me to enjoy it. I haven't read as many fantasies though so maybe I would have better luck with this one. But I don't read as many fantasies bc they're a hit or miss for me so I'm only wary on picking one up. I did grab this one at BEA though so maybe i'll give it a try eventually. I am bothered by the HP similarities though bc that and Twilight similarities are the biggest pet peeve I have. Thanks for the warning!

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  9. I always find Harry Potter comparisons in fantasy novels these days, and without fail it makes me less impressed with the book rather than more. I'm sorry you idn't really connect with this one, and I totally understand your reasoning. Thanks for your honest, thoughtful review!

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  10. I've read so many bad and great reviews for The Burning Sky so I'm glad to see one that's story of neutral. I am SO disappointed that there are several Harry Potter similarities because that always pisses me off so much. The romance sounds like it takes up a lot of the book (which is not what I'm a big fan of). Great review and thanks for saving me from having very high expectations! :)

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  11. Eh, I'd be iffy too, if the book bore so much resemblance to HP, so I can understand how that would work against the book for you; I'd feel the same way as well. I mean, it's just hard NOT to compare fantasy books with similar elements to HP, because that's the one book that, I think, started off this "trend." I'm the same with mythology, too, comparing it with PERCY JACKSON even though I know I shouldn't. T_T

    "The Burning Sky is your typical orphan prophesied to be really powerful and take on the dark overlord of the world story." - This actually reminds me a lot more about SHADOW AND BONE than anything else. Who knew fantasy worlds had so many orphans, huh? And bleh about the flimsy world building. Fantasies ALWAYS need to have at least a basic and firm world if it's going to be good - especially for the first book.

    I'm glad that the dual narratives worked out, though. Oftentimes they only serve to distance me from the characters, and if their voices aren't distinct enough, they sound all too similar for me to fully appreciate the individual characters. So it's definitely a relief that this wasn't the case here. "at times I wished we could move away from the romance and focus more on the larger plot and enemies at hand." - Oh no! Heavy romance strikes again. :(

    So I'm not too sure if I'm as inclined to give this book a go than I originally was. Thanks for such a helpful review, Aylee! A lot of trusted reviewers seemed to love this book, and I was sure I would, too, but now... not so much. Maybe this will help me control my spendings for the month. ;)

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  12. Aw, it's a shame that you found this one trying to be Harry Potter-esque and obviously failing, Aylee. I love fantasy and so will probably give this one a try, but will lower my expectations for it now. Thanks!

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  13. I wasn't too keen on the Harry Potter similarities either. They stick out like sore thumbs when you're a fan, and although some of the concepts might be called universal ideas, it's still quite hard to NOT end up comparing everything against the HP world. I ended up enjoying this more than you though eventually, so I'm sorry to see it didn't completely impress you, but I do understand your reasons why. I'm glad you liked the idea of The Crucible, at least. That was one of my favourite aspects of the story. :)

    Lovely review, Aylee!

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  14. Reading the blurb I'm no sure if I'd like it - from that I wouldn't have expected it to be like Harry Potter at all (well, except the whole prophesied orphan thing but that's just standard fantasy fare). I know nothing can compare to HP for you ;) Lovely balanced review :)

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  15. Aw, this is so disappointing to read your review (and I'm sure you feel the same way about reading the book/writing your review). As primarily a reader of fantasies, I do think I know what you mean about using just the right mix of fantasy tropes vs. using too many of them. Also, that sucks when you can't help comparing a book to another one that you already love. The comparison's bound to end poorly. I have heard mostly good things on this book, so reading your review was a bit of a surprise. I still do think I want to give this one a try, so hopefully I'll have a bit more luck with this than you do!

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  16. I enjoyed this one too, but I can def see where you are coming from with the originality

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  17. That's a great review, Aylee, but yeah, I can see what you mean about overuse and cliches. :(
    I'm sorry it wasn't better.

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  18. I often enjoy cliches in books, but a book that lacks an original element or a book that's already been done better can be really disappointing. It's too bad you didn't enjoy it as much as you might have otherwise!

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  19. I've actually read several reviews like this for Burning Sky. I'm kind of worried about reading it. I was already unsure because the blurb sounds a tad cliche.

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  20. I agree with you completely, the spells were overly reminiscent of HP...and whenever a story reminds me of HP too much, it's never a good sign. There can only be one Harry Potter and when too much is borrowed or influenced by it I get annoyed. In this case though, I was able to enjoy myself a bit more then you, but it might be a case of the right book for the right mood, like you said.Or maybe the fact that I've read some REALLY bad HP knock-offs recently O.O haha

    Brilliant review though ^^ and like you I was let down with what this book had the potential to be and what it actually ended up being. I will check out book 2 though so hopefully things will improve :)

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  21. oh that's a bummer. I'm sorry this one didn't work for you. I wonder if it will work for me. I love all those elements, but I definitely hear you regarding a fantasy book that includes all my favorite things versus a fantasy book that CRIBS all my favorite things. I've seen a lot of mixed reviews for this one. I think I may wait until the series is released in full.

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  22. I just started this one and am about 90 pages in. As soon as Titus takes the train to London I thought of the train from platform 9 3/4. It's curious to me also how much bold flirting there is from the get-go between these two. I'm less interested in the romance than in what is going on politically, which is frustrating since she spends so little time on that part of it.

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