Author: Hanna C. Howard
Publication date: August 18, 2020
Genre: young adult fantasy
My rating: 3/5 stars
Ignite the Sun is a quick, simple, straightforward YA fantasy that makes the whole light-versus-dark concept quite literal. Set in a world where the sun has been blocked from view by an enormous shield of darkness, the story follows a reluctant heroine on a quest to overthrow a corrupt leader and restore light to the world. Though certainly not a perfect book, and though it is a bit predictable (which isn’t quite my taste), this story is nevertheless a great choice for younger YA readers.
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.
Though I did have mixed feelings on the book, my overall impression was still definitely a favorable one. Howard has crafted an engaging fantasy universe full of Things We Love To See, like elemental magic, multiple varieties of magical creatures (including things that resemble dragons, mermaids, and banshees, among others), and a resistance movement against a straight-up evil queen. There is a classic light-versus-darkness battle, with the added dimension that comes from considering the impact of darkness on a population–problematic conditions for growing crops, paler skin, less-vibrant wildlife, and so on. And all of this is illuminated by Howard’s highly visual writing style, with attention to color and detail that paints a vivid picture of this universe for the reader to enjoy, from the eerie black/purple/green palette of Iyzabel’s court to the bright, shimmering colors of nymphs using their magic.
I was also pleased with the way the romance in this book played out–a classic in-love-with-my-best-friend deal, with no weird love triangle or toxic, seductive bad boy sweeping in out of nowhere. Instead, the tension between them stemmed from personal difficulties and insecurities, making for a believable relationship that is understandable even to those of us who aren’t literally trying to save the world. All the romance was very PG, nothing beyond kissing and intense feelings, if that sort of thing matters to you.
Thematically, I liked the places this book was willing to go. A lot of emphasis was placed on the concept of choice, about how your actions determine what sort of a person you are, and how fear only makes you a coward if you won’t fight it. Siria undergoes a good amount of growth as she faces her fear that what makes her different could make her a monster. Through a variety of side characters, different reactions to grief and struggle are also represented, from rage and rebellion to learned helplessness to numbing by distance, all the while pointing out that there is no “correct” way to deal with emotional damage–and the only incorrect way is to allow your actions to endanger others. That part, at least, it touched on from all sorts of angles, including when loyalty becomes conflicted between ideology and family, or between your own safety and someone else’s.
All that said, I did have some hangups with this book. For one, despite the amount of conflict and talk of war in it, it was very light on action. The main character does very little fighting and is (more than once) literally teleported away during major action scenes, so we are cut off from what could have been epic moments and instead just get “before” and “after.” Even beyond those moments, there were just a lot of “plot conveniences”–not plot holes, but just weirdly convenient things that happened to work out perfectly to keep the story going. The story as a whole, actually, was pretty predictable, no major twists, and all conflicts very quickly and neatly resolved.
I also was not a huge fan of the side characters–while Siria herself was relatively interesting, I feel like her companions all came across as one-dimensional, mostly there to fulfill specific roles for the plot but otherwise not doing anything to warrant emotional attachment to them (example: a death that probably should have been upsetting to me was instead rather “meh”). One of the most interesting characters, a banished banshee, felt painfully under-utilized (maybe we can get a spinoff about her?). And finally, the ending was just too fast–there wasn’t really any time for the story to settle down, which seemed out of place given the way the rest of the narrative had proceeded. A couple revelations were also dropped near the end, ostensibly to help give context to a certain character, but the way they were presented was rushed and confusing instead of clarifying.
All that said: though not overwhelmingly original or mind-blowing, this was still a decent read that plays nicely into some old favorite formulas of the YA fantasy genre. Given the nature of the story and the lower maturity level (in terms of profanity, violence, etc., it is very minimal), it is a great choice for younger YA fans especially.
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About the Author
Hanna C. Howard spent most of her childhood wondering how she might avoid growing up, and eventually solved the conundrum by becoming an artist and a writer. She considers tea an essential food group, has more books than shelf space, and thinks the ultimate geek triumvirate is Harry
Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Doctor Who. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with her husband and son, their Disreputable Dog, and a cat skilled in the martial arts.
Check out the other stops on this tour HERE for quotes, interviews, creative pictures, and more fun stuff!
And now, what you’ve been waiting for: a giveaway for one (1) finished copy of Ignite the Sun, along with an exclusive mug swag pack! Giveaway is US only (sorry, international friends) and runs from August 11th to August 18th, 2020.
And with that, I bid you all adieu for the day. More bookish content headed your way soon.
Huge thank you to TBR and Beyond Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this tour, and to the publisher for providing me with an eARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!