A Twisty New YA Fantasy Debut: Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta

A Twisty New YA Fantasy Debut: Shimmer and Burn by Mary TarantaShimmer and Burn
by Mary Taranta
Release Date: August 8th 2017
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, YA
Format: eARC
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four-stars
Source: ARC received for review purposes

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.

ARC received for review purposes in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


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YA fantasy used to be one of my favorite genres in the past, but lately, I haven’t been meshing well with it. But still every time that I hear about a new fantasy book releasing, my interests piques. Shimmer and Burn was one of those books that tickled my fancy. Then I took a closer look at the book summary, and the minute I found out the plot was centered around the relationship between two sisters, I was more than in. I’m thrilled that my gut feelings about this book was right.

The main element that kept me glued to Shimmer and Burn was the impressive world building. Mary Taranta builds up the world, foundation by foundation, in a spellbinding fashion. The Kingdom, riddled with corrupt dark magic that was literally killing people, was written so intricately, I was able to picture every aspect of it. I was equally fascinated by the background here, which much like the world building, builds up piece by piece, as the author reveals more and more information throughout the book. I loved learning about the different regions within the Kingdom, the past war and how the decimation of certain cities came about. Even more interesting were the politics in Shimmer and Burn. They are twisted, with corruption, betrayals and secrets in the midst of it all, which isn’t all that unique when you think of it, but Taranta makes it her own with the way she weaves the political figures into the story. The book had the unlikely quality of being able to surprise me basically in every chapter – I swear my mind and heart were racing all over the place while I was reading Shimmer and Burn.

As for the characters in this book, I will say that I didn’t form an immediate connection to them. Instead, it took for me learning more about their personalities to become interested in them. Faris, the protagonist here, was a dependable young woman who has one main goal throughout the book : save her sister. At the beginning of the book, while attempting to escape the city of Brindaigel, her boyfriend is brutally murdered and made an example of to anyone else wanting to escape. Despite the obvious grief that she was feeling, she doesn’t falter in her absolute desire to save her sister, and her pure love for her sibling. Along the way, she learns more about the world that she lives in, becoming stronger, more confident, and more knowledgeable about the darkness within the magic infesting her world. She had her vulnerabilities that came out a few times during Shimmer and Burn, which made for an even more interesting heroine. For me, she was a character that grew considerably, which ultimately made her a heroine I enjoyed. She turned pretty ruthless by the end, and I’m excited to see where her character goes to next.

Shimmer and Burn has an equally compelling secondary cast. I especially enjoyed Bryn’s character here. She was truly manipulative, often times having zero qualms for using the people around her for her own gains, and I was never quite sure what her intentions were. That made for such an intriguing and oddly interesting character for me – what can I say I love those characters you just love to hate. There was also North, and his tiger pet, who I enjoyed as a protagonist. He was also full of surprises, but underneath everything, he was a genuinely sweet guy with good intentions to save the people he cared for. He and Faris grow a bud of romance here, that I’m hoping to see will blossom into something a bit stronger. For now though, I was satisfied with what we got here because it wouldn’t have made sense for Faris to jump into a relationship so soon after the death of her boyfriend, and in the middle of all the magical and political shenanigans.

Mary Taranta has a way with words and I can’t believe this is just her debut novel. Shimmer and Burn was terrific, and ended on a very gripping note. It’s going to be an excruciating wait for the sequel to be out. In the mean time though, you should certainly check out this fantastic YA fantasy read!

What are some of your recent favorite YA fantasy reads?
Let me know in the comments below!

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