It all began with a ruined elixir and a bolt of lightning.... Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation - or so she's been 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 most powerful tyrant and mage the world has ever known. This would be a suicide task for anyone, let alone a reluctant 16-year-old girl with no training. Guided by his mother's visions and committed to avenging his family, Prince Titus has sworn to protect Iolanthe even as he prepares her for their battle with the Bane. But he 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 tyrant closing in, Titus must choose between his mission - and her life. The Burning Sky the first book in the Elemental Trilogy - is an electrifying and unforgettable novel of intrigue and adventure.
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The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas is a fantasy series that has been getting a crazy amount of hype. When the second book, The Perilous Sea, came out earlier this year, I knew I needed to find out what everyone was gushing about. Therefore, I turned to audiobooks because how else was I supposed to fit it in in a timely manner?? Fortunately, there was pretty good narration, so I now have happily started The Burning Sky series and am just one book away from being all caught up! While I wouldn't say it blew my mind, I can definitely see where The Burning Sky has the potential to begin a truly ground-breaking fantasy series, and it has that whole girl-disguised-as-a-boy thing that so many of you love ;-).
Note: I listened to The Burning Sky which inarguably influences my reading experience.
The fantasy world of The Burning Sky is actually multiple worlds, ours as one and at least one, perhaps multiple others that have magic. The Burning Sky is one of those books that will confuse you initially because there is a lot of lingo to pick up and the characters have basic assumptions about how the world works that they don't share with you, but figuring all that out is half the fun! I never felt that The Burning Sky was dumping information on the reader in order to make sure we got all the details of how things work between the teleportation (called vaulting), the elemental magic, the other kind of magic, the shadow government somehow connected to the magic world which is also then connected to our world, etc. Instead, you as the reader get to discover things and slowly put the pieces of the puzzle together. Just be warned that you don't have all the pieces by the end of book one, but that just leaves more fun for book two :D. There was a danger to my listening to The Burning Sky because the male MC, Prince Titus, acts like a complete jackass most of the time, but very early on he makes a reference internally to having to keep up the act. If you miss that part, you'll hate him, but instead, I loved him because of the complexity of teasing out which parts are really him and which parts are him playing a part so hard his life depends on it. I'm not shipping these kids or anything, but I love their depth ;-). There is a chosen one trope in The Burning Sky, but the twist on it is simply marvelous. Titus has been informed by his psychic mother that he must protect the great elemental mage that will appear with his very life. Therefore, even though there is a chosen one, there is also the very painful dynamic of a second main character who knows that he is not the chosen one and will in fact someday die for the cause. There is somehow an extra edge added when your mother had a vision of your actual death over the more general "I'd be willing to die for you" sort of thing ya know? I love magic systems and it is a simple delight when a book presents not one, but two and possibly more magic systems! I'm honestly still a little confused about how all the different worlds/realms link together, but I'm having fun with the more traditional elements-based magic mixing and evolving with the more "handy" magic that sweeps and cleans and such. I'm not general a fan for relationship angst, but this complicated romance seemed minimal on the angst despite the kind of horrendous circumstances. I mentioned that Titus knows his fate early on, and so you can imagine his feelings for Iolanthe would be a bit complex, and then there is the whole they are supposed to both be straight boys at boarding school thing to add lots of laughs :-P. I have more to say about the narration in the next section unfortunately, but I do feel the need to say that I think the male narrator did a decent job of giving the characters each their own pretty good voices, even the female characters, so while I didn't love the audiobook more than I would have the physical, this was a convenient way to get another book in my head ;-).
For some reason a British older gentleman just doesn't seem like the right narrator choice for a YA fantasy with one female MC and one male MC. This narration choice completely changed the tone of The Burning Sky for me and I think it kept me from loving it as much as I might have with a narrator that fit better. While Iolanthe does actually train quite hard and long for her magical gains, it is glossed over for the most part, so it seems like she had an easy time learning impossible tasks. Intellectually, I know that I remember the days to weeks she spent training constantly, but I really didn't feel like a part of that struggle with her. I will be honest that I really wasn't sure what to make of The Burning Sky in the first half. Things seemed like they could be cool (and eventually did get very compelling), but I found myself not eager to jump back into listening in the beginning and possibly even *gasp* switched to music once!
The Burning Sky is a very ambitious start to a promising fantasy trilogy. As long as I get more answers in the next book about all the awesome worlds and magic hinted at in The Burning Sky, I'll be a happy fantasy geek! While I wasn't all over the romance, I did connect emotionally with the characters individually, and I worry a bit that the narration tone influenced this. Unless you really love the narrator sample, I recommend sticking with a physical read for The Burning Sky. Now off to book two!