The Burning Sky is one of those books with layers of goodness. There were so many things I loved about it that I'm not really sure where to start! I guess I can't really complain about this kind of dilemma, can I?
Although, knowing me...I could definitely try.
I guess I'll tackle the characters first.
Iolanthe is an awesome female lead. And what I mean by that is that she isn't so perfect and wonderful that you don't believe she's real. She has flaws, but she also has a lot of oomph, too. She stands up to Titus and meets his challenges with spunk. She also calls him out every time he deserves it, and isn't so overwhelmed by her growing attraction to him that it clouds her judgment of what he does. In other words, I didn't want to roll my eyes at her every other minute.
Titus is equally real in the way he behaves. Even when you want to smack him for being such an ass, you can't help but understand his reasons. When he lies and manipulates Iolanthe, you know he feels bad, but you also kind of agree with him. Or at least I did. So much has been resting on his shoulders that there is no way for him to just let her walk away from her destiny. Maybe I just like characters that are willing to do bad stuff for a good cause?
The secondary characters are also well written, so you don't feel like anyone is really unnecessary or a throw-away.
It's set in the 1800's, but (again with the layers) it's setting is twofold. Part of it is taking place in Eton, but there is another magical world crisscrossing with it called the Domain. The Domain is where Titus and Iolanthe were raised, but they are hiding out in the non-magical boy's school. Well, Iolanthe is, Titus is supposed to be there. He's kind of in exile, retaining his title as a figurehead only. Of course this means, Iolanthe has to pretend to be a boy, which brings yet another layer to the story. She's never visited the non-magical world, so she has no idea what these guys are talking about half of the time. Not to mention she's definitely not a guy.
See, Titus' mother was a seer, and she left him with her diary that reveals her dreams and ultimately his destiny. That destiny included Titus being the one to find and train the prophesied savior of The Realm. Except he justassumed this savior would be a guy, so his preparation included bringing him to Eton. Hmmm. Unfortunately, with the evil villains hot on her trail, Iolanthe doesn't have much of a choice in the matter. Due to a spell placed on her guardian, she's lived her entire life unaware of the extent of her powers. So it's either follow Titus and attempt to turn herself into a dude, or die at the hands of a spooky Inquisitor.
Titus isn't exactly hiding Iolanthe because he wants to keep her safe. Nope. In return for his services, he expects her to use her powers to fight against their oppressors. Whether she wants to or not. Oh yeah, he's no knight in shining armor. He uses every underhanded trick in the book to force her to do what he wants, and she, quite frankly, hates him for it. Sort of. Every now and then, she catches a glimpse of what Titus could have been if he hadn't been born into this role. And once she finds out that Titus' destiny includes...well, that's a spoiler, so you'll just have to find out on your own. Anyway, she starts to understand him a little better, and respect him a lot more. The fact that he's still desperately trying to save his people, even though his mother's diary said that...um, yeah. Can't tell you that either.
Well, let's just say it inspires her to do the same.
And somewhere between the blackmail and the threat of impending doom, these two start to develop a tentative friendship. Maybe even something more?
Oh yeah. Definitely something more...
There's also this cool book that has been passed down to Titus. It's the magical version of a virtual reality world, and inside are lots of different fairytales that come to life.
It's a battle training simulator...with fairytales!
That was my giant Nerd-Head exploding, by the way.
There are other uses for it, but the fairlytale thing was too awesome not to give it a special mention!
There are a lot of great things about this book that I've failed to mention, but if you like magical worlds then The Burning Sky is something you definitely don't want to miss.
Or don't listen to me. Miss out on an awesome story.
The choice is yours...