Please Note: I received an advanced readers copy of this book from the Sunday Street Team Blog Tour in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect the opinions in my review in any way.
Synopsis (From GoodReads):
I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?
Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she's brought to London to train with Her Majesty's sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she's the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?
I have wanted to read this book for a while now. But I had no way of getting an advanced copy...until now!!! Thank you Nori of ReadWriteLove28 for making my dreams come true. This book lived up to all my expectations and then some.
What I liked:
Characters:Henrietta Howel starts off as a orphaned teacher in a glum school for girls in Victorian England. She doesn't necessarily dream of a bigger life. She just wants to be her own person: passionate, kind, and able to make her own decisions. Her secret ability to summon fire propels her to London to become one of the first female sorcerers. I loved how Henrietta stood her ground while most of the men in her life thought little of her. Her compassion for others was her strength, not her weakness.
When this character was first introduced I thought, "Oh no, this is going to be like Pride And Prejudice", but I was wrong. This was not a hate turned love story and for that I was grateful. Yes, Blackwood is misunderstood, but I liked how Henrietta and he interact as eventual equals, not potential lovers.
Rook has survived an attack by one of the seven ancients (Monsters that have been unleashed on England by rouge magicians), but now he is considered one of the "Unclean". Clearly, he loves Henrietta (could she love him as well?). But he has such a low opinion of himself that he can't bring himself to act on his feelings. His character is heartbreaking and full of longing.
I loved the complex structure of the monsters in this book. There are Ancients, Familiars, and the Unclean. There is also a long history between the magicians and the sorcerers that is important to the story. Victorian England is shown in all it's misery and splendor.
This is an alternate version of Victorian England (that seems to be a trend in books lately) where monsters have been let loose upon England. The richer sections of London have been protected by wards by sorcerers. But the rest of the city, and the country, are defenseless. There are so many layers to this book. Superficially, this is a monsters versus humanity story. But it is also a social commentary on the 1%.
Henrietta lives in a world where women are thought of as delicate creatures who are ruled by their emotions. They don't have the temperament to make rational decisions or have power (was I talking about how some men feel now about Hilary?). Henrietta is emotional, and has to fight to control her feelings in order to be taken seriously. But she also questions norms of marriage and gender roles. She feels a kinship with the young Queen Victoria who is also a women surrounded by men who are condescending to her.
What I didn't like:
Release Date: September 20th, 2016
Source: Sunday Street Team Blog Tour (Thank you, Nori)
Format: Physical ARC Book
Recommendation: This was a walloping good start to a series. If you like fantasy, you will want to snatch this up as soon as it's released.