Shimmer and Burn
Title: Shimmer and Burn
Author: Mary Taranta
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: August 8, 2017
Format: ARC / Ebook
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.
“Magic leaves a mark and love is a magic all its own. As is hate or greed or lust-any feeling that requires any effort. And when left to fester, every single one of those feelings can go sour and destroy you.”
Shimmer and Burn was much much darker than I expected and I LOVED it. A locked away kingdom ruled by a ruthless king, forbidden blood magic that is both beautiful and deadly, a power hungry princess, a dying world infested with diseased cannibals–this book had it all. That is, except for the main character, Faris.
This book was almost perfect for me, but I just wish that Faris wasn’t so bland. The book is carried by an extremely strong plot and well developed side characters but.. well the story just sort of happens to Faris. She is constantly made out to be a fighter but she ends up running or needing to be saved almost every time. She has one central motivation, her sister, and some heartbreak over Thaelan, but that’s really all her character really has going for her.
Thankfully the other characters help drive the plot forward. I’ve never been one to fawn over book boyfriends but that changed with North. I really like North and Faris together, even though their romance sort of shows up out of thin air in a mild case of instalove. I would expect characters to talk and have more interaction before they go falling “in love.” It’s not the worst thing in the world, I still liked the characters and their romance so I was willing to look past that.
My favorite part of the book is the absolutely incredible magic system which is unlike any other I’ve ever read. Magic is described as being beautiful like threads that can just as easily fray and destroy the magic wielder if not handled with care. It is treated as something alien, even for the humans with a natural born ability to wield it. I can’t overstate enough how much I love this concept. The intricate political relationships in this novel is also extremely well done and I’m so excited to read the next book.
A fair warning though, this book is definitely not for the faint of heart. While the romance may be clean, the violence definitely isn’t. This book isn’t the goriest I’ve ever read but it does not shy away from the gruesome details. If you can stomach the gritty content then I highly recommend this book, it’s one of the best YA books I’ve read in a while.
Strengths: Unique magic concept, fast paced and engaging story, dreamy male lead
Weaknesses: Bland main character, details about the world and magic is mildly confusing
Warnings: Gore, violence
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A big thank you to NetGalley and Margaret K. McElderry Books for the review copy!