Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie


Sonya was born with the rare gift to feel what those around her feel—both physically and emotionally—a gift she’s kept hidden from the empire for seventeen long years. After a reckless mistake wipes out all the other girls with similar abilities, Sonya is hauled off to the palace and forced to serve the emperor as his sovereign Auraseer.

Tasked with sensing the intentions of would-be assassins, Sonya is under constant pressure to protect the emperor. But Sonya’s power is untamed and reckless, and she can’t always decipher when other people’s impulses end and her own begin. In a palace full of warring emotions and looming darkness, Sonya fears that the biggest danger to the empire may be herself.

As she struggles to wrangle her abilities, Sonya seeks refuge in her tenuous alliances with the charming-yet-volatile Emperor Valko and his idealistic younger brother, Anton, the crown prince. But when threats of revolution pit the two brothers against each other, Sonya must choose which brother to trust—and which to betray.

When I heard about this book at the beginning of the year, I was excited beyond words. An empath with a dangerous gift to feel how others feel physically and emotionally – that’s one compelling premise. Unfortunately, though Burning Glass may be a story with the best of intentions, it fumbled and failed to deliver where it needed to the most.

The beginning of Burning Glass showed a promise with its heaviness of death and grief a showcase of Sonya’s terrible gift. The story, thereafter, unfortunately derails and the narrative wavers. Burning Glass may explore ideas of identity, court intrigue, and revolution, but its weak and half-hearted discourse is becomes overshadowed by the romance. The failure of this book is not that it contains a love triangle – the failure of this book is that there is nothing else beyond that.

For a book that underscores the power of empathy and engaging your emotions, Burning Glass makes a lot of undisguised emotional appeals. With the book’s premise and Sonya’s ability, to an extent this is understandable. There are instances where cacophonies of emotions are emphatically stated to convey Sonya’s struggle as an empathy, but it lacked subtlety and finesse. As a result, Sonya’s emotions are, at times, imposed on the reader leaving little to interpretation, thus curtailing the opportunity for readers to meaningfully engage with her. On the other hand, the narrative is very introspective, which is one of the book’s strengths. Though short in its execution, the reader will get a full sense of the ups and downs of Sonya’s thoughts and emotions.

I dug my hands through my hair and clawed at my arms, fighting not to lose myself to the aura of the mob. Their relentless desperation pulsed through my body. They weren’t just hungry. This famine would destroy them, body and soul. It was a pain worse than death if I didn’t feed my children, my village. No, their children, their village.

Burning Glass offers many ideas on identity and autonomy of emotions, and this was one of my favourite parts of the book. With Sonya’s gift in particular, there is an ongoing question of how we are shaped by people, their influences, their emotions, and our interactions with them. It asks where we end and others begin within ourselves, and how overempathizing may blur that line. In contrast, one of the book’s weaker themes is revolution. It may have ventured to ask why social change is difficult and perhaps even a cause of fear – which I think is a question oft overlooked – but its exploration was shallow. Not only was it out of place in a predominantly fantasy romance, it did not raise anything thought-provoking or original.

I believe we decide our own fate. No one has the right to dictate who we are or what we become.

As I said before, Burning Glass is trumpeted as a story with a love triangle, and it is the driving force of the story. Whilst I am not adverse to love triangles, I struggled to make sense of Sonya’s relationships and attractions with Vanko and Anton – the two brothers. Granted, Vanko is characterized as someone with wild and passionate emotions and his twisted ideology affects his relationship and feelings, but it never moves beyond that. Though Anton is the more ‘stable’ character, his relationship fails to move beyond what we see and expect from their first interaction. As you may have guessed, Burning Glass presents two romantic interests that are on opposite sides of the spectrum, for no reason other than the fact to create emotional conflict. For this reason, the ‘love triangle’ is predictable and fails to hold on its own as the story’s spearhead. 

Burning Glass may be full of good intentions and promising ideas, but everything about it fell short. I still love the idea of an empath with a gift, and despite the book’s lacklustre conclusion, I am extremely curious to see where Purdie will take the sequels. Ultimately, though wrought with flaws, problems, and disappointments, Burning Glass may not be wonderful, but it isn’t utterly terrible. Recommended for those who are looking for a book that may satiate your craving for a guilty pleasure – just leave your critical lens at the door.

Rating: 1.5/5

Book Information
Book Name: Burning Glass
Book Series: Burning Glass #1
Author: Kathryn Purdie
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Format: eBook

Burning Glass in:
Goodreads | Book Depository | My review on Goodreads

(Book content and trigger warnings: self-harm mentions, abuse)

I was really looking forward to this book because, as a child, I really struggled with overempathizing. It’s just such a shame that this book forwent its ambitious premise in favour of a poorly developed romance.

  • Have you read Burning Glass? What did you think?
  • Do you relate to the idea of ’empathizing too much’? Or are you the opposite and you struggle to empathize?
  • What is your opinion on love triangles? Love ’em or hate ’em?

23 thoughts on “Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie

  1. Oh no! So sad to hear that about this book! I’ve been looking forward to this one, plus the cover is gorgeous. Great review! And thanks for the heads up.

  2. Awesome review CW! I had the exact some thoughts about this book. I couldn’t really tell the difference between Vanko and Anton, and neither did I care really. I think mostly, I was indifferent about the romance.

    • Hi Valerie!

      Thank you so much! I’m glad someone else shares my thoughts on this book. I agree with you; I found it very difficult to connect with either character. They didn’t have much substance. The romance was trite, and it’s a shame it overshadowed everything else. *sigh* Oh well!

  3. CW I WANNA WRITE REVIEWS LIKE YOU. They’re so graceful but informative. And ahhh, another disappointing YA fantasy… :( I hate how all these YA fantasies have such fantastic premises and world concepts that have so much potential but they never seem to follow through for me :/

    • Carolyn!!
      I don’t know what you’re talking about; I love your reviews!

      Tell me about it. :c I completely agree. I was particularly disappointed with this one because the moment I heard it, I felt like it was WRITTEN FOR ME. But yeah, this one unfortunately really misses its mark.

  4. Haha. As soon as I saw empath I thought this was definitely going to be on the romance heavy side. Oh, YA, you amuse me.

    There’s this podcast called The Bright Sessions that is the story of all these people with various abilities. One of them, this teenage boy (he’s my favourite) is an empath, and it manifests itself in massive anger issues, which makes sense to me. He spends so much of his time feeling completely overloaded with other people’s feelings that he can’t hear himself think. It figures that that would make you pretty pissed, rather than inclined toward a 200 page celibate (I am guessing, cause YA) sexual fantasy.

    I much prefer a romance that leaves you wanting more. I’m reading Crooked Kingdom right now, and I find myself grabbing at any and all hints of romance in between all the drama. A bomb goes off and I’m like WHY NOW?!?! KAZ AND INEJ WERE ALMOST… Why, Bardugo??? Haha. When I feel like that, the author is doing something right.

    • Hi Lydia!

      Haha, that seems to be the formula now, right?

      Ooooh, that sounds so interesting! Thanks for telling me about this podcast!
      HAHA, I think it IS celibate, but there definitely are some scenes where a particular male character comes onto the protag very strongly.

      AH OH MY GOODNESS. I still need to read Crooked Kingdom. ;_; I hope it’s everything we’ve been waiting for.

    • Hi Lauren!

      I recommend getting it out at the library! I know people who love it, and I can definitely see why, but the people who criticize it have very valid reasons why too. It’s a tough one! But I do hope that if you read it, that you’ll enjoy it!

      • I don’t actually have a library card because the books they have in English aren’t really worth me getting one!! Maybe I’ll just buy it for my kindle

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