Melissa McShane is the author of more than forty fantasy novels, including Burning Bright, first in The Extraordinaries series; The Book of Secrets, first book of The Last Oracle; and the Crown of Tremontane fantasy series, beginning with Pretender to the Crown. She lives in the shadow of the mountains of the West with her husband, children, three very needy cats, and a library that has finally overflowed its bounds, which means she needs more bookcases.

Burning Bright by Melissa McShane

In 1812, Elinor Pembroke wakes to find her bedchamber in flames—and extinguishes them with a thought. At 21, she is old to manifest magical talent, but the evidence is unmistakable: she not only has the ability to start fires, but the far more powerful ability to control and extinguish them. She is an Extraordinary, and the only one in England capable of wielding fire in over one hundred years.

As an Extraordinary, she is respected and feared, but to her father, she represents power and prestige for himself. Mr. Pembroke, having spent his life studying magic, is determined to control Elinor and her talent by forcing her to marry where he chooses, a marriage that will produce even more powerful offspring. Trapped between the choices of a loveless marriage or living penniless and dependent on her parents, Elinor takes a third path: she defies tradition and society to join the Royal Navy.

Assigned to serve under Captain Miles Ramsay aboard the frigate Athena, she turns her fiery talent on England's enemies, French privateers and vicious pirates preying on English ships in the Caribbean. At first feared by her shipmates, a growing number of victories make her truly part of Athena's crew and bring her joy in her fire. But as her power grows and changes in unexpected ways, Elinor's ability to control it is challenged. She may have the power to destroy her enemies utterly—but could it be at the cost of her own life?


Melissa McShane offers up a protagonist after my own heart in Burning Bright. Set in 1812, Elinor Pembroke finds herself trapped between the choices of a loveless marriage or living penniless and dependent on her parents, and so she takes a third path: she defies tradition and society to join the Royal Navy. And that's just the start of this series about an Extraordinary young woman. – Allyson Longueira



  • "This was one of those books that I knew from the beginning that it was just my thing. Intrepid heroine set for adventure, magic, war on the high seas, dashing Navy Captain, pirates, shipboard adventure, danger, and maybe love when she least expects it? This was history and fantasy blended together at its best."

    – Delighted Reader reviews
  • "This book is such a unique read… it will keep you on the edge of your seat quite a few times… I certainly almost fell off a time or two! The phenomenal writing style will transport you right in the middle of action and will keep you glued to the pages, because you will simply need to know what's gonna happen next. But don't worry, even though this book is just the beginning of a series, it doesn't end on a cliffhanger… but it will definitely leave you wanting more of this amazing world. Go and try it out ;)"

    – BookWorm8619
  • "Burning Bright combines shipboard adventures, wars with pirates, and an interesting magical system with just a little romance. I didn't really mean to spend an entire evening reading this book, but it was one of those books that was extremely difficult to put down once I got into it!"

    – Tadiana Jones
  • "Wow! A book that I immediately reread (the good bits!) when I finished it & one that I wished I could read for the 1st time all over again for the enthralling enjoyment it gave me. A fantasy historical romance with a wonderful plot and story that is full of action, wonderfully intelligent and witty, but more so, amazing characters and character development in especially the heroine Elinor who discovers who she is and what she is capable of, while Ramsay (Captain Miles Ramsay of the royal Navy :)) is a stalwart and solid constant throughout."

    – Linda Thum, Amazon Review




Elinor dreamed of fire, the unseen ground beneath her burning and the air white with heat, and woke to find her dream a reality. The walls of her bedroom were ablaze, the varnished floorboards slightly less so, and fire rolled across the ceiling in golden waves. Heat struck at her with an intensity that dried her nostrils and mouth and made her eyes feel roasted. She felt no fear, merely sat with her arms around her knees, her white, flannel nightgown tucked over her feet, and marveled at the fire's power and beauty. She had never seen such color. It made every memory she had of this dismal room seem even more faded and dispirited. Then the heat battered at her again, and she realized she would die if she did nothing.

So she reached out from within herself, and extinguished it.

It vanished between one heartbeat and the next, leaving behind the cold ash and charred beams of a long-dead fire. Patches of wallpaper here and there lent a leprous look to the walls. She heard screaming from somewhere nearby; that, and the void left by the fire's howl, filled her ears with a dull ringing sound. I believe this is the strangest dream I have ever had, she thought. She blinked to moisten her eyes, inhaled the dusty, acrid smell of wood smoke, and knew she was not dreaming.

"Elinor!" Her mother, her long braid of greying hair bobbing behind her, ran as far as the doorway and stopped short. Her full-lipped mouth dropped open into a perfect oval. "What foolish thing have you done now?" She held a candle at arm's length and peered into the bedroom, throwing shaky, grey shadows over the grey and black char as her hand trembled. Behind her, Elinor's younger sister Amelia hovered, her eyes sleepy.

Elinor looked around the room. The thick yellow curtains were burned at the edges and in irregular spots, but otherwise intact; the rumpled sheets of the bed where she sat were speckled with ash, and black stripes of char streaked the bedposts and the carved walnut footboard. "It was a fire," she said, boldly, unable to give her mother a truer answer either of them would understand.

"A fire? However did you manage that?" her mother exclaimed.

"Come, mama, is it not obvious? Elinor has finally developed talent," said Amelia, taller and slenderer than Elinor and impossibly beautiful even in her sleep-disheveled state. She put a delicate hand over her mouth and coughed rather dramatically. "I suppose it is to be expected she should manifest as something so dreadfully vulgar as a Scorcher."

"And your Shaping yourself to fit the current fashion in beauty is not itself vulgar?" Elinor snapped.

"For shame, Elinor. And it's nonsense. You are far too old to manifest."

"I agree," said a deeper voice, and the two women made way for Josiah Pembroke. He was magnificent even in nightcap and gown with his feet shod in slippers embroidered with purple and gold flowers. "And yet this is unmistakable. Have you been concealing things from me, daughter?" He crossed the room to stand a few feet from her, his feet kicking up puffs of ash where he trod, his hands clasped over the expanse of his belly.

Elinor met his eyes with a calm directness that concealed the discomfort and fear she always felt when her father brought his attention to bear on her. She brushed ash from her nightgown and resisted the urge to take her braid in her hand, like a child clinging to a parent for comfort. "I have not," she said. "I dreamed of fire and woke to find it real. I would not conceal such a thing even were it possible." She did not for a moment consider pretending the fire had some natural origin; she knew in her bones that it was her fire, that she had created it, and it both loved her and would have killed her had she not subdued it.

Her father examined her with those dark grey eyes that looked black in the flickering lamp light. "Then tell me, if you would be so kind," he said, "did the fire extinguish itself?"

Elinor shook her head. "It was I who did it," she said.

Her father walked toward the window, drumming his fingers on his arm, then reached out to rub a blackened fold of the curtain between his thumb and forefinger. When he turned back to regard her, he was smiling, and Elinor's calm, expressionless demeanor cracked at the edges, because it was the smile of a predator. "Not only a talent," he said, "but an Extraordinary one. Do you see the possibilities, daughter?"

Elinor shook her head, though now that he had suggested there were possibilities, she could not help but try to imagine what they might be.

Mr. Pembroke's smile broadened. "In time, I think you will," he said.