Epic Recs: The Burning Sky

Posted May 31, 2015 by Lyn Kaye in book review, Lyn / 8 Comments

Epic Recs: The Burning SkyThe Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas
Series: The Elemental Trilogy #1
Published by Balzer + Bray on September 17th, 2013
Genres: fantasy, young adult
Pages: 464
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon

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 sixteen-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.

This was Pixie’s Epic Recs title for me for 2015. (I totally forgot the post – my pick for her was Angelfall).


When Pixie suggested the title, this book had just hit my collection the day before from a book sale. I knew that the novel had caught my attention in the past, but I couldn’t exactly remember the plot. It was just one of the three “fire” books that had landed on my wish list (along with The Fire Artist and Trial by Fire). Since I was hazy on the details, I dove in blind.

I’m not sure if anything can prepare you for this story. My final thoughts and feelings are highly conflicted. I either really loved some parts of the novel, or extremely disliked them.

Border Leaf

The book has two very polar opposite component: a very strong character base and very weak world building.

The characters were just outstanding. The most attractive feature of this novel wasn’t the plot, or the life-altering dilemma of defeating an all-powerful overlord, but the interaction and spark between the main characters. The chemistry between Iolanthe and Titus was nothing less than perfect.

Due to the circumstances of the book, the two of them spend a large portion of the time close together. For the duration of the novel, the story turns into a wonderful game of “Will they, won’t they?”. The two leading roles dance around their real feelings and secretly yearn to throw it all to the side and just give in. However, the story isn’t only riveted to the romance plot. The duo remains highly focused on their primary goal. Even though the building romance was the center of attention, the intimacy didn’t rob the main story line.  In fact, it just added to the entire plot.

The humor and the suspense added a perfect dash of personality to the story, as well. I don’t read many books that show instead of tell the romance subplot, but, Ms. Thomas, WOW. You pulled it off effortlessly. In fact, the author maintains a perfect balance of action, mystery and romance in the story. I don’t usually care for the amorous plot in books, but this wasn’t some watered-down self-fulfilling fantasy. This was a ship that I cheered for the entire time.

There was a question that popped up about Iolanthe’s “perfection”, especially from Titus’ POV. The prince constantly described her as doing no wrong, pulling off great feats and amazing magic. Most of the time, this frame of mind usually puts me off. It is too close to a Mary Sue for my taste. However, the author constructed the perfect reason for his idolization of Iolanthe. Titus’s entire life pivoted around a prophecy regarding the female mage, so I felt that this was an unreliable narration more than lazy writing. I try to point out that I don’t have issues with revered characters, but I don’t want to just accept it for the sake of the story. Also, when it was Iolanthe’s turn to do something that made her awesome-worthy, she delivered. I swear the best line of the book was “It is messy to haves princes.”

Just ALL THE LOVE for a girl who can deliver.

The secondary characters in the novel (there were quite a few, since part of the setting takes place in a boarding school) added just the perfect touch to an already stellar range of characters.

Now it is time to switch gears and discuss the world building. For everything that went right for the characters, the world building shot off in the other direct – it was a complete mess.

There was a lot happening that just didn’t make sense.  Who was Atlantis? What made mage realms different from non-mage realms? How did the two worlds connect? Where was everything located? Where did these creatures come from? Why is Titus an important prince? For a majority of the book, I was totally lost when it came to the setting.

The author adds footnotes into the story, which are located at the back of the book. If you’re reading a Kindle version of the novel, then you are very much screwed. I believe that Thomas was trying to take things deeper by adding in extra information outside the story, but flipping back and forth is cumbersome, and it tended to interrupt the flow of the story. I’m also surprised that there was no map of the land anywhere in the novel.  High fantasy is a very delicate genre, and the world building is one of the most vital components for the story to come alive. The characters were alive, but the setting was a muddled, confusing maze of descriptions and jargon that could only make sense to the author. I kept going back onto book sites, reading all of my friends’ reviews to see if I could glean some information that I must have missed for the first 100 pages of the book. I felt like I was constantly reading the story as written as a long inside joke, feeling flustered and like an outsider.


I tore apart the world building, and the entire issue of the shotty, sketchy descriptions of the setting still makes me grind my teeth when I think about it.

I’m doing it now.

However, with such a beautiful, brilliant cast of people, a touching romance that actually caught my attention and snagged my heart, a female ass-kicker that lived up to the hype, and a story that made me believe in Mary Sues again, I honestly can’t give this thing anything less than 4 stars. DESPITE the horrible, horrible descriptions of the setting, I still loved it and found myself wanting more. Even though I felt as lost as a person with a dead smart phone and an outdated map, I couldn’t wait for each chapter.

If you want to see a book with some personality, go get this. Yes, it is going to come across as a mess, but the characters caused this novel to shine and stand out.

I want the sequel ASAP.

Lyn Sig Plant

8 responses to “Epic Recs: The Burning Sky

  1. I’m so glad you liked this! I think the author did a really wonderful job of transitioning from Romance (her usual genre) to YA fantasy. You can tell what she’s experienced with, though, haha.
    looloolooweez recently posted…Summer is ComingMy Profile

    • She did. There were some major weaknesses, however, her characters were very strong, and a lot of readers are very happy with the next one in the series. I am going to go ahead with the series and get the sequel soon.
      Lyn Kaye recently posted…Epic Recs: JuneMy Profile

    • I am really excited to get the next ones in the series! A lot of readers claim that the next books get better and better, and I am willing to write off some of the issues in this novel for a great story. If nothing else, I loved to be entertained and amazed.
      Lyn Kaye recently posted…Epic Recs: JuneMy Profile

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