by Mary Taranta
Published on August 8, 2017 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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To save her sister’s life, Faris must smuggle magic into a plague-ridden neighboring kingdom in this exciting and dangerous start to a brand-new fantasy duology.
Faris grew up fighting to survive in the slums of Brindaigel while caring for her sister, Cadence. But when Cadence is caught trying to flee the kingdom and is sold into slavery, Faris reluctantly agrees to a lucrative scheme to buy her back, inadvertently binding herself to the power-hungry Princess Bryn, who wants to steal her father’s throne.
Now Faris must smuggle stolen magic into neighboring Avinea to incite its prince to alliance—magic that addicts in the war-torn country can sense in her blood and can steal with a touch. She and Bryn turn to a handsome traveling magician, North, who offers protection from Avinea’s many dangers, but he cannot save Faris from Bryn’s cruelty as she leverages Cadence’s freedom to force Faris to do anything—or kill anyone—she asks. Yet Faris is as fierce as Bryn, and even as she finds herself falling for North, she develops schemes of her own.
With the fate of kingdoms at stake, Faris, Bryn, and North maneuver through a dangerous game of magical and political machinations, where lives can be destroyed—or saved—with only a touch.
Another grand slam in YA fantasy debuts, Shimmer and Burn is the third release of the year in this genre that I absolutely adored (see also Song of the Current and Caraval). With a unique take on magic and fantasy kingdoms combined with characters you’ll love to, well love (and also hate), this book was such a fun read and I flew through it in record time.
Y’all, I need the sequel. Now please?
First, there’s Faris. Not your typical heroine. She’s tough because she has to be, she steals and lies and fights because she has to. Every action, every decision she makes, there’s a clear reason driving her forward and overall, she’s pretty selfless. Faris puts herself in danger time and again for her loved ones despite the risks. She’s chosen but she’s not the Chosen One. A bit of unlucky genes and she just happens to run into the wrong people. Faris is the kind of girl that you can’t help but root for, the underdog who could rise to greatness.
And then there’s Bryn.
FINALLY a realistic princess who isn’t good at everything, who was pampered based on her station and therefore not prepared to run across the country. Bryn was fabulously ruthless and ambitious, and I couldn’t have loved/hated her more for it. I mean, she’s absolutely a terrible person and definitely full on villain by the end, but I liked her for the role that she played. I don’t think her motivation was as fleshed out as Faris’s but you still basically knew why she was making the calls that she did.
Then there’s North. Who, okay, so his secret I guessed fairly early on BUT it was still a small shock to have it confirmed later on. It’s a fantasy thing but one trope that I happen to quite enjoy. I also liked the way his character acted as a balance between Faris and Bryn. They needed that steadiness to keep moving forward so the three of them (and his apprentice) working together made for a well-matched adventure group. Plus, swoon-worthy magician? Mmm yes.
Clearly there was a LOT of character development but the story was just as good. I’m a sucker for fantasy quests and this one was no different on that front, filled with unsavory characters and increasingly difficult obstacles along the way, complete with a big reveal and cliffhanger to lead into the next book. Except, I didn’t like that cliffhanger because this book isn’t even out yet and I would very much like the next one before the wait drives me crazy!
To be honest, I TOTALLY thought this was a standalone since no series was listed but there’s absolutely no way that it isn’t the first in a series after that ending.
Also, I do want to mention that this isn’t exactly a light fantasy. It drifts into the realm of dark fantasy fairly often and Taranta doesn’t hold back on the blood and gore. But I think that made it better for me, because I felt more immersed in the story.
Shimmer and Burn was a fantastic start to what I see as a highly promising YA fantasy series! If this book isn’t on your radar then you need to fix that ASAP! An absolute must-read!