BOOK REVIEW: Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie
Katherine Tegan Books
Hardcover, $17.99 USD
Reviewed by Aly Locatelli
I believe we decide our own fate. No one has the right to dictate who we are or what we become.
A beautiful cover, an eye-catching summary and debuting in the same season of some of the best books of 2016, Burning Glass promised to be epic beyond words. And although it delivered in many aspects, it was also a book that left me conflicted for a good month. On one side, this reader loved Sonya, her curse/gift, the alternative Russian setting (the YA world needs more fantasy novels based in Russia!) and the two royal brothers who were difficult to understand/grasp. Paradoxically, the same parts I loved were also the parts I struggled to understand and enjoy throughout the book.
Confused? Join the club.
Sonya is one of many “auraseers” — a gift that literally keeps on giving. As an auraseer, Sonya is capable of feeling and using every single emotion that surrounds her — both physically and mentally. But what sets her apart from the other auraseers, in the convent where they train to hone their skills in the hopes of one day serving the emperor, is that Sonya can feel the emotions of long-dead things: a speck of blood on a woven blanket can bring her memories of excruciating pain and longing; leather seats show her the last breathing moments of animals going to slaughter. After a terrible, fatal mistake, Sonya is taken and forced to work for the emperor as his Sovereign Auraseer — which means she is the sole person able to protect the emperor from assassins and other enemies.
My task might be monumental, but my gift-my curse-was the only means I had of making a difference in this world.
Whilst desperately trying to serve a mercurial emperor, Sonya becomes friends with Valko’s brother, Prince Anton. Together, they try to subdue Valko’s lust for war, whilst Sonya tries to wrangle her volatile abilities. But revolution is at the door, and Sonya must decide who takes precedence: Anton, the quiet, charming prince with good intentions; or Valko, the leader of an empire with many tricks up his sleeve.
There is no doubt that Burning Glass is an enjoyable book: it’s fast-paced, for the most part, with much political intrigue and many storylines stemming from the central plot. There is never a quiet moment within its pages, and I flew through most of the book in one sitting.
However, I also struggled with the same points I loved. We are given a main plot (Sonya must discover who assassinated Anton and Valko’s mother) but it is quickly abandoned in favour of working up a steamy love-triangle between the two brothers and the Sovereign Auraseer. Which is all well and good, but when the story finally kicks back into gear, the readers are then faced with a barrage of information and storylines that could not be sensed before, and it takes the story in a completely different direction. Not to mention that, although Sonya is a strong, resilient character, she made a lot of silly mistakes that caused far too much mayhem, and it surprised me that Valko could pardon her of all of them just because he was ridiculously infatuated with her. For the sort of character he is (volatile, violent, aggressive, but also incredibly charming), it didn’t quite fit with his outline. He’d throw his toys out of the pram over everything, but could forgive Sonya betraying him over and over again? Eh.
The relationship between the two brothers and Sonya is incredibly interesting to read. As a fledgling auraseer (one who is not quite dominant over their own abilities), it is difficult for Sonya to distinguish between what she is truly feeling, and what is actually a projection of someone else’s feelings. We see her hungry for success and the touch of a human being when around Valko, but then she’s subdued, shy and unsure when around Anton, so we, as readers, can’t really tell which one is the real Sonya, and what she is truly feeling at pivotal points in the book. It’s an interesting point I cannot wait to see how it is used in later books. Plus, there is Valko, who feels threatened by Anton because he is the preferred royal brother by the country, and then there is Anton’s unconditional love for Valko, and the fact that Anton would do absolutely anything for his brother — and this is tested many times throughout the book, especially in the face of political intrigue.
All in all, Burning Glass was a fantastic book, and if you want to be put through the emotional wringer, then I can guarantee that this is the book for you. Although I was left conflicted, I take it as a good thing: I don’t enjoy reading a book and knowing exactly where I stand by the time I hit the 50% mark. I like to be surprised, and Kathryn Purdie’s debut was definitely a surprise.
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About the Author: 21. A reader, a writer, a reviewer and a full-time sloth lover. I am addicted to coffee and my laptop, and love reading especially when it's rainy outside.