Title: Burning Glass
Author: Kathryn Purdie
Synopsis: 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.
Huge thank you to Harper Collins for sending me a copy for review!
I seem to be not getting along well with all of the super hyped fantasy titles this year. I struggled with this book and there were a lot of things that made me cringe.
First though I did like the concept. I feel like if the characters had all been aged up about 5 years (because let’s be real, this wasn’t YA. There was NO reason why these characters HAD TO BE teens. They didn’t.) and some of the issues were fixed then I probably would have enjoyed this. I LIKE dark fantasy. I grew up reading some of the darkest adult high fantasy the late 90’s had to offer.
I also really liked the idea of Sonya’s power. I really liked how easily she was overwhelmed by the emotions of those around her. I know that I can be a VERY emotional person that that the moods of people around myself can greatly affect me, and the extent that they affected Sonya was rather terrifying.
The writing in this was very intense and probably what kept me going. I didn’t DNF because I WANTED to see what was going to happen and the writing kept me turning the pages to find out.
Sadly I had issues with the characters, the abuse, and the lack of proper world building.
First off I thought Sonya was quite brainless. At the beginning of the book I actually thought it was told from her POV as a child! I was shocked when I found out that it wasn’t a prologue, but just the first chapter!
I understand that her gift overwhelmed her, but she didn’t really try to do anything about it. In the beginning when she’s living at the covenant she apparently spends all of her time being all “woe is me” because the other girls don’t like her. She also apparently spent all of her time NOT training. It drive me MAD later on when she was always like “what training, I didn’t get any training… because I was too busy not paying attention”. Like duh. You didn’t get training because YOU CHOSE NOT TO WORK FOR IT. She also was so blind at times to what was going on around her. And her impulsiveness was absurd. I get that she’s young but she had literally NO instinct for self preservation. Even when she was alone. Ugh, she didn’t really grow much either, like she finally tried to train herself, but again it wasn’t like she was disciplined about it or anything.
I hated both of the brothers. I did like the darkness in Valko and how he was so manipulative but the abuse that he inflicted on Sonya and how she JUST TOOK IT was disgusting. I felt dirty reading those parts… I also hated the way that he would fondle her under the table during important meetings with his advisers. Some of that was just too much for YA I felt. Too dark and twisted and too much for a character of that age and experience. Anton was also a weird one because he just had no personality and I didn’t understand at all how the two of them developed feelings for each other. Valko was crazy so I just chalked his crazy passion up to that. Anton though… it just never felt real to me.
So yes, Sonya is caught between two brothers… is it a love triangle? Some would argue no because Sonya’s feelings for Valko are really just his emotions taking over her. Either way she’s torn between the two brothers and there’s a lot of ~moments~ between her and the brothers. And I couldn’t get behind either pairing.
Another thing that greatly bothered me was the way that Sonya’s gift worked… because it’s never really explained. We know for sure that she can feel other people’s emotions. But it’s more than just feeling them, their emotions get inside of her and take over. I thought THAT was cool. But then there are times when she can practically read people’s minds? And other times when she feels things but doesn’t realize that it’s someone else’s emotion? And then other times when she can’t feel ANYTHING? And then even other times when she can take over other people THROUGH their emotions? And at the very end I don’t even know what happened. It’s all very vague. Oh and apparently she has a super “special” gift because she can sense the emotions of dead people and animals. It seemed a bit far fetched to me that she could sense the anguish of a clam having it’s pearl ripped from it’s body or the death of a cow through the leather of a boot but whatever?
And the politics and world building was all very bleh. Again, I’m coming from a fantasy background where books spend hundreds of pages describing the intricate politics and schemes and lands, but this was just teens playing at politics. Making rash choices for POWER and GLORY. And not really understanding how an economy works. None of it really made sense and it was all very lame.
So yeah. Nice writing, nice tension, interesting ideas, but a lot of poor execution that could have been fixed up and fleshed out with older characters and possibly a longer, “adult fantasy” length novel.