I have a very special relationship with Patrick Ness’s books. They either break my heart in the smallest pieces [«A Monster Calls»] or leave me dumbfounded, wondering what the heck did I just read?! [«The Rest of Us Just Lives Here»]. «Burn» definitely falls more into the second category. While I liked the characters and the story more than in «The Rest of Us Just Lives Here», it was still a very weird book.
That’s probably why I’ve been staying away from the Chaos Walking trilogy for now. I really want to love it, but I’m scared that it might be too weird for me and I won’t be able to connect to the characters the way I want to.
In 1956 Sarah Dewhurst’s father shocks her by hiring a dragon to work the farm. The dragon is a smaller blue rather than the traditional larger reds, though even the reds are now scarce. When the blue dragon, Kazimir, unexpectedly saves Sarah and her friend Jason Inagawa from the attentions of the racist police deputy, Kelby, everything changes. Sarah is part of a prophecy and she must escape the clutches of Malcolm, an assassin from a Believer Cell, the dragon-worshiping cult. When Sarah, Malcolm, and Kazimir eventually converge, they are thrown into another universe, where dragons seem never to have existed. Can they save this world and the one they left?
Thank you Netgalley and Walker Books for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and not influenced by the company or its affiliates in any way.
If you ever wanted a contemporary book but with dragons – «Burn» is exactly what you’ve been looking for! Patrick Ness often dabs his fingers in fantasy, sci-fi, and dystopian genres, but all of his books I read feel like a contemporary because of how he puts his attention towards the character development, the relationship between the characters and various human emotions.
He is also the first author that comes to mind whenever someone asks me about a good queer recommendation. From his beautiful prose to heartbreaking relationships, Patrick Ness often writes about love, in all aspects and meanings of the word. The love between partners (no matter their gender), love between siblings, love between parents and children. And «Burn» isn’t an exception to that rule.
WHAT I LIKED:
1 – Dragons! Big. Smart. Talking. Magical. Dragons! I know I just talked about love, but DRAGONS, guys! Be aware though that these are not vicious monsters from fantasy books and they aren’t pets or companions either. Patrick Ness’ take on dragons is much more humanizing and works more as a metaphor of human emotions. The dragon magic is very real though, and I loved to explore this world where humans and dragons co-existed for centuries.
2 – After dragons and their magical abilities, I can finally talk about characters and relationships. As often happens with Patrick Ness’s books, I didn’t fully connect to any of the characters in the story, which is why I had to give this book a lower rating. His characters are very specific, and I feel like I usually lack at least one of their traits to be able to establish that connection. Nonetheless, I enjoyed getting to know all of them. Malcolm’s arc was by far my favorite though.
Every single character, every single relationship brought with them an important emotion, an important element that contributed to the story. I didn’t cry this time around, but I was very close to it and my eyes watered a couple of times.
3 – The story itself was just so weird that I’m still not sure if I liked it or not. It was definitely a good weird, and I’d love for more people to read this book just to see what they took from it. You know how in school we learn to interpret books, find a deeper meaning in those classics, and see what actually authors wanted to say with that passage or that word. And I often wondered if that was actually true or if we invented these things. «Burn» actually felt like it was a story written to tell something completely different. And I kept wondering if dragons were actually dragons and if prophecies were actually prophecies, and so on.
Would I recommend this book? If you’re already familiar with Patrick Ness’s writing, I would highly recommend reading this one as well. You might discover a new favorite or you might find hidden gems that the author seemed to bury in this story.
However, if you aren’t familiar with Patrick Ness’s books, I wouldn’t recommend starting with «Burn». So far, nothing could beat «A Monster Calls» for me.