Series: Burning Glass #1
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Published by HarperCollins on March 1, 2016
Amazon, Book Depository
Sonya was born with the rare gift to feel what those around her feel—both physically and emotionally—a gift she’s kept hidden from the empire for seventeen long years. After a reckless mistake wipes out all the other girls with similar abilities, Sonya is hauled off to the palace and forced to serve the emperor as his sovereign Auraseer.
Tasked with sensing the intentions of would-be assassins, Sonya is under constant pressure to protect the emperor. One mistake, one small failure, will cost her own life and the lives of the few people left in the world who still trust her.
But Sonya’s power is untamed and reckless, her feelings easily usurped, and she sometimes can’t decipher when other people’s impulses end and her own begin. In a palace full of warring emotions and looming darkness, Sonya fears that the biggest danger to the empire may be herself.
As she struggles to wrangle her abilities, Sonya seeks refuge in her tenuous alliances with the volatile Emperor Valko and his idealistic younger brother, Anton, the crown prince. But when threats of revolution pit the two brothers against each other, Sonya must choose which brother to trust—and which to betray.
“As his coldness slowly subsided, heated rage began to twist and coil inside him and churned a pit of dark and molten energy, building pressure to erupt. My nerve endings flared with it. My muscles spasmed and cramped. I fought not to panic as I imagined all the ways he could torture me.”
Even now, months after I read this book, I’m still conflicted when it comes to my feelings for this particular story. I had such high hopes because of the five star reviews that littered Burning Glass’s Goodreads page. The moment I cracked open the book however, my heart just kind of sunk.
From the get-go, I was almost entirely sure that I would hate the story–honestly, I’m not entirely sure as to how I managed to persevere to the very end. I loathed Sonya. Straight up, from the very beginning, I loathed her. Naive and irritating, she somehow gives off an air of arrogance while being whiny and woefully weak. Sonya continuously acts as though she’s greater than she is–as though she’s entitled to the better things in life. As though she isn’t just a girl with wild magic who can’t control herself, much less hold any semblance of power. She was a child playing pretend in a court filled with monsters.
So much of the plot is derived from her blunders that I’m rather unsure as to whether or not I can truly say I love this story or not. I’m still wondering how someone can fuck up that much in 28 pages, and then spend 90% of the novel acting like it never happened.
But the plot is, admittedly, rather brilliant. It’s intense and heart wrenching, steeped in both politics and the push and pull between a mad emperor and his revolutionist brother. With every turn of the page, Sonya discovers more and more about Anton’s hidden personality and about the monster that Valko is. She’s catapulted headfirst into the war between the two brothers and forced to play both sides before deciding who she is. And there’s something to be said for Purdie’s ability to evoke a dark and gritty atmosphere amidst the otherwise stereotypical glitzy court life. There’s an undertone of hope and determination among the darker notes of suffering and relentless pain throughout the story, especially in the scenes with Valko. Desperation runs rampant through the halls of the palace and leaves only chaos in its wake, something we see all too often in Burning Glass.
Despite it’s atmosphere though, I do have something to say about the world. While it’s somewhat complex and well written, it’s very….illogical. There are three kingdoms mentioned–our setting which is based on Russia, another based on China, and yet another based on France. Their cultures are completely and utterly different, and frankly it bothered me. After discovering my love for history, I’m a stickler for well-researched worldbuilding because–yes, it’s fantasy. But the logistics of economics still apply. Trade should’ve forced all three of separate cultures to diffuse across borders and there’s absolutely no reason for such distinct and completely separate cultures in bordering countries.
But I digress.
The plot builds up to a climax that left me breathless and wary with anticipation. Determined to despise this book from the moment Sonya irritated me, I have to admit that this book clawed it’s way into my heart with the rawness and hurt that Purdie writes into Anton and Valkos’ characters and the pure unaltered reality of Valko’s actions. Despite every horrible action and unsanctioned rulings, it isn’t hard to draw connections between him and emperors or kings of the past. It’s humanity at its worst before humanity at its best.
Beautiful and haunting in the writing and story, Burning Glass is one that I would recommend, even despite it’s rather unfavorable character. Though she never truly learns (and still remains somewhat arrogant, thinking she knows how to rule a country after only a couple weeks at court), Sonya’s naivete is easier to swallow once the rebellion starts to churn and the action begins to develop into the intense ride that it is.