A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Prophecies are messy things, and the people who interpret them often messier. Egos, hidden agendas, secrets, and betrayals can render even the simplest of prophecies problematic. And that's exactly what happens in Jessica Cluess's gripping A Shadow Bright and Burning.
It starts like a million stories before. There's a young woman, a poor young woman, Henrietta Howel, living in obscurity, hiding gifts she doesn't understand and cannot control. She lives in secret, because to display her power would mean immediate death. But when an unfortunate circumstance outs her to the exact men she is hiding from, instead of being punished, she is exalted. She is, it turns out, the Chosen One, named by prophecy to defeat the Ancients and save the world.
I know, right?
But bear with me because this is when things get flipped upside down. Ms Howel soon learns she is not, in fact, the Chosen One. She's something else entirely, something far more common but perhaps less understood. To stay alive, however, she must not let anyone know the truth.
There are many characters in this fast-paced story, most of them handsome, or suffering, or suffering and handsome, and many of them were clearly included to be a romantic interest of Ms Howel, but hear me now when I say my heart beat only for the Ancients. Oh, the Ancients. Lovecraftian to the nth degree, their inexplicable presence in what is otherwise historical England carries such menace and unchecked fear, I'd honestly recommend reading the book for them alone.
If Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice, and The Feminist's Guide to Sorcery (not a thing) had a baby, and then that baby grew up to say she'd had enough of your expectations, thank you very much, you'd have A Shadow Bright and Burning. Read it.