Burning Bright (The Extraordinaries #1)
Published: Aug. 15, 2016 (Curiosity Quills)
Purchase: Book Depository or Amazon
Review source: copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review
Reviewed by: Jo
Rating (out of 5): 3.5 stars
In this alternative Georgian society, titles and money are still the building blocks of the ton, but there is another: Talents. Hereditary supernatural abilities (i.e. teleportation, telepathy, flight etc.) that can be the making or breaking of a young aristocrat when it comes to their place in society.
Elinor Pembroke seems destined for the spinster shelf until, at the late age of 21, she manifest the Talent of fire. Not only can she conjure fire, but she also has the ability to control and extinguish it. In the hierarchy of Talents, this makes her an Extraordinary, and an incredibly rare one at that.
Seeing his chance to climb the social ladder, Elinor’s father gives her two choices: marry a man of his choosing or live in poverty. Not particularly taken with either of these options, Elinor decides to do an Elizabeth Swan and take to the high seas. Extraordinaries are highly sort after by the armed forces, regardless of training or social rank. Being a woman gives the Navy pause when she approaches to join, but with the war against Napoleon raging and pirates disrupting trade in the Caribbean, they cannot afford to turn away her Talent.
Burning Bright is very much a fish-out-of-water kind of story. And Elinor makes for a great character within this trope. She isn’t a rebel nor is she ‘streetwise,’ she has to leave what she knows and find an inner bravery to change her own future. She came across as sensible, as well as resourceful, and I found myself totally behind her from very early on in the book. I loved watching her stand up for herself in a very misogynistic environment, quietly eager to prove them wrong.
I liked that she didn’t expect any special treatment aboard her assigned ship, the Athena, either because of her powers or because she’s a woman, but sets her mind to winning their respect by proving herself. Being relatively new to her Talent, she has a steep learning curve. While she initially delights in exploring and expanding it, after engaging with the enemy, the reality of war, the human cost and her part in it begin to take their toll and I liked that these events had a profound effect on her.
I did like the settings, both onboard the ships, as well as in the colonial Caribbean, but after awhile I found the sea battles a little repetitive. I was still very much engaged but if there are more books in the series, I hope we spend some more time on land. Another thing I struggled with was the sheer amount of characters. I had no problem with the main ones, but after awhile all the shipmates and Naval officers began to get muddled in my mind.
The main characters, however, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know. I liked seeing them begin to open up to Elinor and real friendships based on respect being forged. I very much enjoyed the battle of wits that was Elinor vs. Captain Ramsay. It’s always fun watching two characters fall in love and have absolutely no idea. This means there isn’t much in the way on romance, although it is there, but I was actually ok with this–it kept the focus on Elinor’s self discovery and made for a great moment of realization between the two of them later on.
Burning Bright is an engaging series opener, where the addition of supernatural talents into high society works really well. Add in a brave and likeable protagonist, a motley crew of sailors and a dashing, yet somewhat standoffish captain, and you have a fun read on your hands.
Sexual content: kissing