Shimmer and Burn (Untitled #1) by Mary Taranta (2017)
YA Fiction | Fantasy
“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.”
Expected Publication Date: August 08, 2017
pooled ink Review:
Oh. My. Word.
Don’t take this the wrong way but I was honestly surprised at how much I loved this book. I mean, the story sounded interesting but more often than not the idea surpasses the execution. Except not this time. This time I began a book I couldn’t put down, shoveling it down greedily until I read that final page and clenched my jaw unhappy to know I will have to wait ages before I find out what happens next.
This book took me by surprise. I almost passed on this book because I personally wasn’t drawn in by the cover (after reading it I still feel that it doesn’t quite match the darkness and heroics of this story). I was expecting something subpar that I’d end up skimming until the end but that’s not at all what happened. I started with lukewarm expectations and found myself transfixed. I couldn’t stop reading.
I pictured everything, felt everything, wanted everything. Twist after twist, betrayal after betrayal, they just kept coming, knotting the plot into something tougher and more intricate and much harder to unravel. I need a happy ending. This is one of those books that has managed to instill a need in me. I finished reading and was left so on edge, my skin tingling and my blood buzzing as my mind whirs over everything that has happened and all that still might. There are too many possibilities with most of them bleak and unsatisfying. I need a happy ending.
I have been waiting for weeks and weeks to share this review with you all and I find myself frustrated that eARCs expire and that I cannot read through it again and again. I was trying to wait until it was closer to the book’s publication date to publish my review but I found I simply couldn’t wait any longer. I don’t know what to say, this book just had that special something that clicked with me.
Faris Locke is a fantastic character. She leads the story with her strength and defiance even when reduced to a slave. No matter what others shackle her with she still managed to remain strong and unbroken. A captivating character I enjoyed following throughout the story and ugh that final heart-wrenching choice she makes still stings.
North is the perfect stranger to balance Faris. While Faris is about truth and determination, with her only goal to save her sister, North is mystery, magic, danger, and half-truths. Faris storms the world, full of life and fire. North hides, warring with duty and desire. He really captured my attention from the first moment he appeared on the page and every moment since then.
Bryn, a princess lusting for a crown, is an interesting player. She’s clever and quick, which I can’t help but admire, but she’s also arrogant, selfish, and poisonous. I need her not to get a happy ending. I’d rather her and her ilk get the slow painful death they deserve. While there are moments you reluctantly agree with her there are more seeds of hatred that grow and this makes her an utterly infuriating character. Always holding the power. Always playing games. Always getting in the way of Faris’ happily ever after.
Alistair is interesting in that he’s a scientist amongst magicians, in a sense. He finds loopholes and conducts experiments to manipulate magic despite his lack of magical ability. From the first moment we meet him it’s impossible to tell if he is a villain or a hero. Neither, I’d guess. I think he wants freedom, and to avoid death, just like any normal human. But he’s got tricks up his sleeves and I’m very interested to see what they might be and how he will choose to wield them.
The world-building in this book is fantastic. No heavy info-dumps, no intricate and convoluted explanations. It all unfolds before your eyes. It changes as information is shared, riddled, stolen, or guessed. But it’s easy to picture the kingdom, the rot, the Burn, the wagon, and the people. It’s easy to smell the death and feel the soullessness. It’s easy to be attracted to the flame of North’s hope and Faris’ strength.
The plot circles and twists and even when its secrets are bared you find yourself pinned down by impossible knots. It’s so frustrating!! In the best way though. Ugh, as you travel through this story there are so many moments when plans are shattered, truths are unraveled, promises are broken, and death is holding their hearts. It managed to make me actually fear for the characters’ lives. And I have no idea how their nightmarish predicament will be absolved. No idea at all. But I’m left with a very strong need to know.
Shimmer and Burn is not just another fantasy tale. It’s a story both dark and alluring that will sink its claws into you, dragging addiction into your veins until you’ve devoured the book whole and cling to the edge needing to know more. Absolutely captivating, thrilling, hellish, and delightful, this is a fantasy fresh with creativity and magic just waiting to be read.
Purchase here: Shimmer and Burn
Meet Mary Taranta!
I write stories about bloodshed and tears, and in some cases, kissing.
Born and raised in rural Ohio, I now live in the sprawling suburbs of Central Florida wherein I complain about the heat, pay homage to the air conditioner, and prefer to drink my iced tea sweet.