Title: Ignite the Sun by Hanna Howard
Published: August 18, 2020 by Blink
Rating: 3/5 ★★★
Notes: I received this title on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
Once upon a time, there was something called the sun… In a kingdom ruled by an evil witch, the sun is just part of a legend about light-filled days of old. Luckily for everybody in the kingdom, Siria Nightingale is headed to the heart of the darkness to try and restore the light–or she will lose everything trying.
Sixteen year-old Siria Nightingale has never seen the sun. The light is dangerous, according to Queen Iyzabel, an evil witch who has shrouded the kingdom in shadow.
Siria has always hated the darkness and revels in the stories of the light-filled old days that she hears from her best friend and his grandfather. Besides them, nobody else understands her fascination with the sun, especially not her strict and demanding parents. Siria’s need to please them is greater even than her fear of the dark. So she heads to the royal city–the very center of the darkness–for a chance at a place in Queen Iyzabel’s court.
But what Siria discovers at the Choosing Ball sends her on a quest toward the last vestiges of the sun with a ragtag group of rebels who could help her bring back the Light … or doom the kingdom to shadow forever.
“Once upon a time…there was something called the sun.”
With an opening and premise like this, I thought I was reading the next Red Queen or Shatter Me of YA Fantasy. (Maybe I did, but I’m not participating in the fanfare). The beginning was captivating, and I admit it was a struggle to put the book down.
Then I kept reading.
I’ve been an avid reader of YA Fantasy for seven years now, and in that time I’ve read and reread nearly every troupe out there. So to see the chosen one troupe and best friends to lovers troupe in here was underwhelming. While the writing was pretty strong, I didn’t vibe with the characters and
Let’s start with the characters. The story starts out in the thick of a decision by the main character Siria, on the eve of a ball she’s been preparing for for years. Pretty intense stuff and I love it, but because of that, we were introduced to everyone but the main character. By the time it was Siria’s turn to have the spotlight, I just didn’t connect with her and I wish we got more of her backstory and characteristics in the beginning of the novel, before the plot was established and she was thrown to the wolves.
I think my main problem with this book is my dislike of Siria. She was whiny and there were chapters upon chapters of her self pity. It literally says so in the book:
“‘All she has done since we left the city is whine and cry and feel sorry for herself.'”
I get that her character development is central to the story and she does make a great improvement towards the end but omg I did not need to read SEVERAL chapters of it.
After that, there really isn’t anyone I connected to or even particularly liked. I found most of the characters one dimensional except for Merrall. More on her later but she was probably the best character out of the bunch.
Now the dreaded troupes. Where do I even begin?
“My anxious sensitivity to changes in the Darkness—like an ever-tightening and loosening corset around my ribs—seemed as unique to me as my hair.”
This is Chapter 3, and already we’re getting hints of the Chosen One troupe. I was devastated. And we were doing so well.
As soon as sentences like this appeared on the screen on my Kindle, I knew this book was going to be utterly predictable. In some terms I was right and in others I was wrong. But a lot of mystery factor this book could have had was immediately stripped away when it went with a very classic YA chosen troupe.
Then we had a best friends to lovers troupe that was devoid of tension and full of fake angst. It was underdeveloped and really there wasn’t anything I liked about it except the love interest being “irritatingly handsome”. Honestly, I just, I rather not. This could have worked fine without a romance. And if it absolutely needed one, an enemies to lovers would have been great. The friends to lovers just completely took away from Siria’s journey to self acceptance.
This last one isn’t exactly a troupe but I hate how the two females (at least for a decent part of the novel) hate each other. Why is this still a thing in YA? Can we normalize girls being friends and helping each other? There was valid criticism from Merrall about Siria but there are passages in the book that are borderline bullying for no reason. Big pet peeve of mine
Now, the writing, plot, and overall story. I thought the writing flowed nicely. The discussion of privilege was weaved into the fantasy very well and gave it a lot of complexity, something I especially enjoyed among the cliches. It was a very refreshing discussion that was timely given the social events happening right now.
The setting, where they are in varying degrees of darkness, is such a unique element of the story. It really helped to uplift some of the overused troupes, and while it didn’t completely work for me, I still really enjoyed reading this very distinctive part of the story.
The magic was very entertaining to read about as well. It was all very fantastical and the descriptions were vivid enough to where I felt that I was watching the spellwork be done right before my eyes.
Overall? I think this novel delivers a good story and some good lessons about confidence and self love, but that was overshadowed by overdone troupes that harmed the story more than helped.
I would recommend for fantasy lovers looking for something different, if you can stand a few cliches.
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