Shimmer and Burn By Mary Taranta

January 3, 2018



This book was…..sort of forgettable. The writing was absolutely fantastic but the story was a little meh for me. There was so much about the world/magic system that was never properly explained that it made it hard to follow what was going on. Even after finishing the book I couldn’t really tell you how the magic system exactly works. I liked this book enough to read the next one but it’s not one I’ll be running out to get immediately.  


Essentially the story is about our heroine, Faris, who lives in the magical city of Brindaigel. The king has basically hidden the city from the outside world trapping all the inhabitants in and cutting them off from outside resources. This is an issue as over the years the city has outgrown itself and soon they will either need to expand out or find other ways to bring down the population which usually means disposing of the criminals and poor. Faris is desperate to escape but when she finally decides to try with her little sister in tow her sister is captured and is made a slave to the king. In order to save her sister she teams up with a clever princess and the kingdoms executioner to sneak out of Brindaigel and find the prince of the next kingdom over to negotiate a possible alliance, only things don’t go as planned.


I really loved the writing in this book. There is some beautiful prose that I thoroughly enjoyed and even some great characters but the world building was, frankly, a mess. There were so many subplots going on and none of them were properly explained/explored.


The biggest downfall of this book though was the magic system. Obviously the author did not spend enough time figuring this out before turning in her final draft, or if she did, did not do a good job with executing it in a way that readers could understand. She kept referring to magic as threads that could fray or be tied/unraveled but what does that mean? It’s all very pretty prose but it didn’t make any sense. Then she would say that magic could be kept in bottles and/or injected into someone’s skin or transferred/stolen through someone’s touch. You could be infected by magic and it could get into your blood stream and essentially turn you into a junkie or you could carry “clean” magic and be perfectly fine. Also, apparently magic runs out and you have to dose yourself to use it but once you’re infected with bad magic you are always infected. Are you as confused as I am? Oh, don’t let me forget that there’s a magical “burn” that’s infected the other kingdom and people do it by disposing their unclean magic into the ground. I don’t know. It’s totally fine if you want to make up your own magic system but please do it in a way that has clear rules and confines that are consistent. I got so distracted trying to figure out this bazaar magic system that I couldn’t really enjoy the story that much.


On that same note, suddenly at the end she threw in mythology about some hero/god in the sky I really am just so confused. Again, if you are going to have a belief system alongside your magic system please figure it out prior to writing otherwise we’re all just left scratching our heads.


Finally, the love interest. One of the things I loved most about Faris was the fact that she was tough. She’s a fighter and she doesn’t trust anyone and the author did a great job with keeping her true to her character until all of a sudden she was in love with North. I think that writers now days are so afraid of insta love that their characters spend three quarters of the book with no real connection and then in the last quarter they’re suddenly madly in love. Am I the only one noticing this trend? Here’s the thing writers, you need to find something that your characters CONNECT on. What draws them together? And hey, it can be more than one thing, just because both your character's mother’s died does not guarantee that they’ll fall in love with each other. But, if they connect on the fact that both their mothers died plus they both share a love of music and poetry and also experience some life altering adventure together then maybe. Oh, and don’t forget that they should be physically attracted to one another, that’s a given. Have them discover these similarities throughout the book so when they do finally fall in love in the last quarter your reader is going “YES FINALLY!” instead of “wait, what?” Maybe I’ll do a full post on love relationships since this obviously is a subject I have a lot to say on. Ha.


Anywho, Shimmer and Burn, overall I liked it. I loved the beginning, the whole middle was meh, and the ending was okay but I was really hoping for more out of this one.


Until next time here’s a quote from the book: “What if after all this time, it wasn't the beast in the dungeon I needed to fear, but the beauty who lived in the castle above him?” 
― Mary Taranta, Shimmer and Burn

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