Monday, May 16, 2016

Book Review: BURNING GLASS by Kathryn Purdie

Amazon link:

Amazon description:
Red Queen meets Shadow and Bone in a debut fantasy about a girl forced to use her gift for sensing—and absorbing—other people’s feelings to protect the empire from assassins. Steeped in intrigue and betrayal, Burning Glass captivates with heartrending romance, dangerous magic, and one girl’s quest for redemption. 
In Riaznin, it’s considered an honor for Auraseers like Sonya—girls with a rare form of synesthesia—to serve as the emperor’s personal protector, constantly scanning for feelings of malice and bloodlust in the court. But Sonya would rather be free.
After the queen’s murder and a tragic accident, Sonya is hauled off to the palace to guard a charming yet volatile new ruler. But Sonya’s power is reckless and hard to control. She’s often carried away by the intense passion of others.
And when a growing rebellion forces Sonya to side with either the emperor who trusts her or his mysterious brother, the crown prince, Sonya realizes she may be the key to saving the empire—or its greatest threat.

My review:
4 out of 5 stars--I really liked it and would definitely read it again

I'm not entirely sure what I expected as I began this book, but I really enjoyed it. It is exceptionally written, and it paints a vivid picture of Sonya's world. From a purely technical aspect, it is refreshing to read a book that is written with such skill and finesse. And the story itself was different than other stories I have read in the past.

Sonya as a character is deeply sympathetic. Her constant exposure to emotion--both her own and that of others--make her more vulnerable than most characters. The fact that she is an Auraseer brings every emotion of every character to the forefront of the story, and it is almost draining to read at first. That sounds like a bad thing, but it isn't. Kathryn Purdie's ability to draw in a reader to the story and create empathy with the characters is extraordinary. I found myself feeling what Sonya felt, and there were times I had to set the book aside and settle my own emotions before continuing. As I progressed in the story, it became easier for me to process what I was reading, but it definitely caught me off guard at first.

The supporting characters are well-balanced, in that they are flawed but not overly so. Even the characters that are dislikeable have moments where you can really understand why they are acting the way that they are. The setting of the story is beautiful and raw, filled with the day-to-day details that I so enjoy in a book (such as foods and customs and quirks of culture). There are enough connections between our world and Sonya's world that it feels familiar, but nothing to make it feel out of place (such as modern slang in the dialogue, which is a pet peeve of mine). 

One of the things that I appreciated the most was Kathryn Purdie's ability to convey tense situations without dragging her story through the mud. I strongly believe that you can write a good story without the gratuitous or graphic use of sex or violence or language, and "Burning Glass" proves that point. There are parts in the story that are passionate and there are parts of the story that are dark and disturbing, but I never had the thought that something was unnecessary or in poor taste. For this reason, I feel that this book truly is YA fiction. I would have no problem recommending "Burning Glass" to the teenagers of my family, which is more than what I can say for a lot of books that call themselves YA.

All of this being said, I do have a critique. I felt the ending was rather abrupt and the resolutions a bit forced. I assumed that the conflicts of the book would be carried into the sequel, but that doesn't appear to be the case. Everything was wrapped up, so that the book could stand on its own if you didn't wish to read any more. And while I appreciate stand-alone books (even though I'm aware that this book is the first of a trilogy), it was still a bit jarring to come to the end.

All in all, I feel "Burning Glass" was an exceptional book and I look forward to more from Kathryn Purdie.