Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta: Too much exposition, too little action

October 19, 2018 by Aila J. | 3 stars, ARC Reviews, Books, Reviews

Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta: Too much exposition, too little actionShimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on August 8, 2017
Source: Borrowed
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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To save her sister’s life, Faris must smuggle magic into a plague-ridden neighboring kingdom in this exciting and dangerous start to a brand-new fantasy duology.

Faris grew up fighting to survive in the slums of Brindaigel while caring for her sister, Cadence. But when Cadence is caught trying to flee the kingdom and is sold into slavery, Faris reluctantly agrees to a lucrative scheme to buy her back, inadvertently binding herself to the power-hungry Princess Bryn, who wants to steal her father’s throne.

Now Faris must smuggle stolen magic into neighboring Avinea to incite its prince to alliance—magic that addicts in the war-torn country can sense in her blood and can steal with a touch. She and Bryn turn to a handsome traveling magician, North, who offers protection from Avinea’s many dangers, but he cannot save Faris from Bryn’s cruelty as she leverages Cadence’s freedom to force Faris to do anything—or kill anyone—she asks. Yet Faris is as fierce as Bryn, and even as she finds herself falling for North, she develops schemes of her own.

With the fate of kingdoms at stake, Faris, Bryn, and North maneuver through a dangerous game of magical and political machinations, where lives can be destroyed—or saved—with only a touch.

What happens when you get a fantasy story that’s bogged down with lore and plot elements and explanations? Well… Shimmer and Burn happens.

And honestly, it’s a decent book. The world-building is quite descriptive, and the plot twists will keep readers on their toes. But maybe it’s the writing and me that just didn’t agree (or perhaps even my mood when I first started? I was traveling at the time). It’s a rare moment when I can’t point towards why I didn’t enjoy a book as much as I expected to, but here I am. My best explanation is that all the information dumps of the world and Faris’s background just bogged down everything else for me – including the action scenes. I really enjoyed the twists though, so I’ll still be looking out for the sequel.

What Worked For Me:

  • The whole world is a pretty generic YA fantasy setting, but the politics and twists really brought it to life. The final twist regarding some map aspects really sealed the deal for me.
  • The magic system was pretty unique and complex, with a basis on injection and infection. Pretty cool!
  • The whole fantasy formula, including characters that rise up despite all odds, hella magical elements, and mysterious love interests. It’s a formula that may be general, but never misses for me.
  • Morally gray characters who’ll stop at nothing to get what they want. (Yes, I’m looking at you Princess Byrn. She’s scary, but super cool.)

What Didn’t Work:

  • The way the information about the world and background was presented really made me tired in the beginning of the book. Like I said, this might have been a mood issue because usually I gobble these tidbits of info, but for this book just dragged it on and on and one, to the point of affecting my enjoyment of the actual action going on.
  • Love interest North is kind of meh. He’s mysterious and has powers and ‘knowssss stuff’ so you know he’s important to both plot and character relationships. The twist about him was predictable. He’s a solid enough character, BUT the romance itself was slow burn and I just never got onboard.
  • How passive Faris could be at times. I understand the girl has a mission but I got frustrated with the situation she found herself in manyyy times. Faris, get your head in the GAME! (Which she does towards the end, yeet.)


Overall SHIMMER AND BURN was enjoyable but not a stand-out. I’m super curious about where the story will go though, so I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel!

Content/Trigger Warnings: smoking, self-harm, drugs, mild violence

Rating: 3 out of 5



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Aila is a young adult reader who loves to transport herself to new dimensions through reading. She's currently an undergraduate student at university in the US. Let's talk about our obsessions on Twitter @aila_1woaa!

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