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She’s The Man

Mandy C. reviews Sherry Thomas’ The Burning Sky, a book full of magic that could have used a little more burning (if you know what she means).

She’s The Man

BOOK REPORT for The Burning Sky (The Elemental Trilogy Book #1) by Sherry Thomas

Cover Story: Hold Onto Your Butts
BFF Charm: Eventually.
Swoonworthy Scale: 6
Talky Talk: He Said, She Said
Bonus Factors: Young Americans, Muggles and magic
Relationship Status: Leave Your Rent Check On The Fridge Door

Cover Story: Hold Onto Your Butts

Who tossed the magic bean into the ocean, guys? That whirlpool is srs bsns. On the flip side (literally) we’ve got a castle, with somewhere near 25 floors and a whole lotta windows. Or is it a city? A castle city? Regardless, that’s an awful lot of rooms; I feel bad for the maids.

(I read an ARC; the final cover for the book looks more like this.)

The Deal:

Iolanthe Seabourne is an elemental mage from the Domain, a realm of Earth hidden from non-magical peeps and controlled by the military might of Atlantis. She wants nothing more than to finish her schooling and become a teacher at a magical conservatory.

Titus is the crown prince of the Domain and ruler over all—unfortunately, in name only. On the outside, he’s a cocky, self-centered, spoiled brat, but his secret identity is that of a young man sworn to protect the person destined to bring down the Bane, leader of the Atlanteans and all-around not-so-nice guy.

When Iolanthe tries to fix a potion gone awry, she taps into power that attracts the attention of Atlantis—and Titus. In order to keep her protected, Titus hides Iolanthe at his non-magical school, Eton, where she must pretend to be a typical, non-magical … boy.

BFF Charm: Eventually.

I really wanted to adore Iolanthe, but we never quite made it past acquaintance territory. She has a lot of promise, and perhaps in future books we’ll grow closer, but I finished this story thinking she could have been a whole lot cooler. She has it in her to be a strong, amusingly cheeky, confident woman, but plays the shrinking violet (”How could you? I trusted you.”) a little too much for my tastes. (She’s actually more interesting when she’s acting as an entitled British boy.) You’re destined for greatness, Io. Live it.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Titus is a prince. He has power, money and flies around on a peryton named Marble. (I want one!) He’s a trained swordsman and a powerful magic user. When he takes off his douchey Clark Kent glasses and shows the Superman underneath, he’s also caring and dedicated. But, his relationship with Iolanthe seems to stem more from convenience than actual chemistry. They’re forced into a situation that brings them close, but there’s never a moment where I thought, “YES. Now we’re playing with fire.”

Talky Talk: He Said, She Said

The POV in The Burning Sky switches between Iolanthe and Titus. Sherry Thomas does it pretty seamlessly; even when switching multiple times within a chapter, it’s not distracting. It’s nice to be able to read both Iolanthe and Titus’ thoughts, rather than just getting one side. It makes the story more well-rounded, and it helps solidify the partnership between the two. It’s also at times hilarious to see each of the characters through the other’s eyes.

Bonus Factor: Young Americans

Almost no one I know (other than my mom) remembers the show Young Americans, which ran on The WB for two months during the summer of 2000. The show, which centered around a group of students attending all-boy boarding school Rawley Academy and a few townies from the city of New Rawley, was basically an eight episode advertisement for Coca-Cola featured the likes of Ian Somerhalder, Kate Bosworth, Katherine Moenning, Charlie Hunnam and Michelle Monaghan. In typical WB fashion, the show featured beautiful people involved in overly dramatic storylines, my favorite of which was the relationship between son-of-the-dean Hamilton (Somerhalder) and his roommate, girl-pretending-to-be-a-boy-to-get-back-at-her-mother “Jake” (Moenning). Although there wasn’t a whole lot of magic happening at Rawley, I was immediately reminded of the show by Iolanthe and Titus’ Eton situation.

Bonus Factor: Muggles and magic

In the novel, magical people live among non-magical people and no one is the wiser. Like in Harry Potter, the magical people are aware of the non-magical ones, and they think them a bit silly while also envying their oblivion. I know that I’m a Muggle (siiiigggghhh), but it’s always been fun for me to pretend like I’m in the know and have a good laugh with the magical people at humanity’s inanities. (Humanity’s Inanities is the name of my Up With People cover band.) Also, where there are Muggles, there is often magic, and The Burning Sky’s magic is pretty dang awesome: calling down lightning from the sky, playing with fire (without getting burned) and instantaneous personal transportation to a place many miles away.

Casting Call:

Katherine Moennig as Iolanthe

As soon as I made the connection between The Burning Sky and Young Americans, Iolanthe could never be anyone else in my mind. Katherine is beautiful, and yet she can play androgynous really well.

Theo James as Titus

Titus is described as a handsome young man with a chiseled face. Theo James certainly fits all of the above. Plus: He has a bit of an exotic quality to him that works well for Titus’ dual personas—part minor prince from somewhere in Prussia, part dude from a magical Earth realm.

Relationship Status: Leave Your Rent Check On the Fridge Door

I feel like The Burning Sky makes a better roommate than a soul mate, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing (particularly when this is book one of a trilogy—#rolleyes—and I have to wait years for the sequels to be released). I appreciate the fact that it reminded me of two of old favorites, but I wanted a bit more from this relationship than the occasional meeting of the minds as we take turns at the microwave. That said, the book does have many moments of awesome, and a lot of small details that make it a fun read.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from Balzer + Bray. I received neither iced coffee nor money for this review (dammit!). The Burning Sky will be available Sept. 17.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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