Review of Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta
***I received this ARC via netgalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review***
Mary Taranta’s Fantasy debut, Shimmer and Burn is not without its faults, but its page-turning plot, interesting characters, and superb villain kept me itching to find out what would happen next!
While in some ways, the novel falls into some YA Fantasy traps of insta-love and muddled world/magic building, I am really excited about this series and the characters I’ve met so far, and look forward to the next book!
First of all, this cover is GORGEOUS. I am not usually a fan of photograph covers, but this is insanely pretty.
Faris and Cadence live in the slums of Brindaigel, fighting to survive after their mother’s death and their father’s lapse into alcoholism. When Cadence is caught and made a slave after they attempt to flee to the mysterious world beyond their small kingdom, Faris is forced to an uneasy and lopsided partnership with Bryn, the power-hungry Princess who will stop at nothing to secure the throne for herself, in order to free her sister.
The two travel outside the safety of Brindaigel and into the dystopian Avinea in an attempt to smuggle magic to Avinea’s Prince and create an alliance that will secure Brynn’s claim to her father’s throne. Along the way, they meet the mysterious magician North, who, while hyper focused on his own self-imposed mission, offer’s them protection help them find the prince. In the face of Brynn’s growing cruelty, her confusing feelings for North, and her struggle to save her sister in the middle of an intense political battle, Faris must attempt to find the right path through the murkiness of the world she is entering.
Faris, our main character, is full of anger, doubt, and regret. She begins the story as a physically fierce and fearless fighter, but seems to lose much of this throughout the novel. While her bumbling, and the lack of consistency in her character, can at times be frustrating, overall her strength and growth are compelling as she is faced with difficult truths about what is best for the larger world. In facing more complex questions of right and wrong, Faris begins to find strength from other sources within herself.
And then there is North: the noble, self-sacrificing, hot tempered “magician” who is full of swoon worthy angst and righteous anger. I love me a grumpy love interest, for sure and I quite like both of these characters. However, the romance that develops between the two is somehow slow yet too fast at the same time? Considering how the novel opens, and North’s attitude at the beginning of the novel, it seems sudden and very intense, for the minimal actual conversations the two have had.
My favorite thing about this novel was the wonderfully horrible villain we get in Bryn . She is just vicious and completely in charge of everything around her! I’m hoping she grows even more complicated in the next book and I’m looking forward to seeing how she attempts to achieve her goals.
That this novel is afraid to go dark is another real strength. Magic is a tool, but one that can leave one’s body weak, and is tainted by a mysterious drug-like addictive property that complicates its use. Unfortunately, these two interesting aspects of the story are a bit confusing. The magic system especially is convoluted, though it is quite unique. I am always interested in magic that takes a significant physical toll and is not limitless, but it’s not totally clear how this magic works or where it comes from.
Overall, I had a lot of fun reading this book even with the issues I had, it’s definitely a page turner and I’m really glad this is a series, because I think the story is set up well for an exciting sequel! I can’t wait to see what happens to Faris and North, and learn more about Brynn and the mysterious Alstair!