Monday, October 7, 2013

The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas (Elemental trilogy book 1)

"It all began with a ruined elixir and a bolt of lightning."

Sixteen year old Iolanthe Seabourne is an elemental Mage who can call forth fire. Over the centuries, elemental magic declined while subtle magic surged. Now, elemental mages are usually capable of nothing more than parlor tricks with their dwindling magic. Iolanthe's powers would be considered above average. Now living in a small Little Grind-on-Woe, as far away as possible from the Conservatory of Magical Arts and Sciences, she is teaching herself subtle magic in an attempt to gain entry into an academy for a better career than the circus. Her guardian, Master Haywood, is perceived in the village as an addict, even though Iolanthe tries to cover for his absences. He has fallen far from the brilliant scholar he once was to a village schoolmaster who is in danger of losing his position.

Out practicing calling forth fire for Rosie Oakbluff's wedding that afternoon, Master Haywood’s housekeeper, Mrs. Needles, spies Iolanthe. She is impressed by her abilities but when Master Haywood discovers that Iolanthe is divulging her powers, he is furious. He forbids her from performing at the wedding. He didn't know Rosie was marrying into an important family of collaborators when he agreed to let Iolanthe go. He tells her that she cannot let the agents of Atlantis see her manipulating the elements. She would be taken away. Iolanthe doesn’t understand why she would be in danger from Atlantis when lighting the wedding path is an ordinary feat. She is only doing the wedding as way to help ensure that he might keep his position since Mrs. Oakbluff, the village registrar, has a say in Master Haywood keeping his position. He only wants to keep her safe. Iolanthe refuses to stay away. He destroys her elixir so that she cannot go.

Knowing Mrs. Oakbluff cannot find someone on such short notice, Iolanthe goes to the bookcase looking for a way to repair the elixir. In a desperate attempt, she searches the last book she would ever consider. Written in languages she cannot read, Iolanthe finds a handwritten note in the margin that light elixirs can be revived by a thunderbolt, no matter how damaged. She suddenly realizes that she must summon a thunderbolt herself to fix the elixir. Iolanthe knows that she is "a fine elemental Mage by current standards" but she wasn't anything compared to the Greats. Why does she think she could "accomplish a feat unheard of except in legends?" Knowing no other way to repair the elixir, she grabs her wand in an attempt to amplify her elemental powers. Suddenly, a lightning bolt strikes down.

At the same time, Prince Titus of the Domain sees the brilliant column of lightning from a distance. Instantly, he knows "that this was the very sign for which he had waited half his life" for. Ready or not, he was unprepared for the prophecy to come true. Dismissing his servants, he quickly gathers the necessary materials for his journey to the mage responsible for the bolt of lightning. He needs to get to her before Atlantis does. He goes to Marble, his Barbary Coast peryton, a beast that is a cross between a dragon and a horse, to vault to the suspected source and find the elemental Mage from the prophecy.

Iolanthe picks herself up from the blackened ground to find the elixir fixed. She is ecstatic that her performance at the wedding will be perfect and that Master Haywood will be forgiven for trying to ruin everything. She suddenly looks up to see Prince Titus and Marble swoop by. He is floored to find out that the elemental Mage who brought down the bolt of lightning is a girl. "Archer Fairfax could not be a girl." He looks again and Iolanthe has been joined by a furious Master Haywood. A villager, Mrs. Greenfield stumbles across them and Haywood casts an illegal spell of forgetfulness on her to cover Iolanthe's actions. Confused by what he has done, she is even more confused when he tells her to come with him if she wants to live. Atlantis will be coming after her. Throwing Mrs. Needles from the house, the prince follows them. Before Master Haywood can help Iolanthe escape, Mrs. Oakbluff, who is also the village constable, has come to arrest them for the assault on Mrs. Greenfield. Master Haywood gives Iolanthe a packed satchel that he has no idea what is in it and ushers her to a large portal trunk. Mrs. Oakbluff has knocked the house down and incapicatated Master Haywood. She comes for Iolanthe.

Meanwhile, Prince Titus is looking for where the girl Mage has disappeared to. Iolanthe has been transported to a safe house through the portal. He tracks her to her hiding place where unfortunately she is attacked by the one person entrusted to keep her safe. He rescues her and takes her to his suite in London. Explaining to her the prophecy of their births; she is supposedly a great elemental Mage who The Bane (the head of Atlantis) needs to extent his power and his life and he is her protector. When their location is comprised and Atlantis draws too near, Prince Titus must fall back on his original plan; Iolanthe must masquerade as a student at Eton, an all-boys school. Her new identity is that of Archer Fairfax. It doesn’t take long before Titus begins to fall in love with Iolanthe and those feelings will threaten his part in the prophecy.

Can Titus keep Iolanthe safe from Atlantis? Will Iolanthe be able to fool everyone that she is really Archer Fairfax, a boy? Is she the Mage from the prophecy? Why does the Bane want Iolanthe? What are the great powers she supposedly wields? To what lengths will Atlantis go to find Iolanthe? Why is Prince Titus so willing to help Iolanthe? What happens to Master Haywood? What secrets does Iolanthe discover about herself? And will Iolanthe return Titus’ feelings?

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