Burn By Patrick Ness
I finished reading Burn by Patrick Ness a couple days ago. I usually write my reviews right away. So, I can get a gut reaction. But, I couldn’t with Burn. I know from Ness’ past work that I could expect the wonderful way he blends the fantastical with realism. This wasn’t a surprise and Ness delivered in spectacular form. Burn blended the Cold War and racial tensions of the late 1950s (depressing how damn little has changed on that front) with a race of dragons. A treaty has been established that allows the two races to live in harmony. However, those that are poor (see: minorities) often higher cheap labor (see: dragons) to work their farms. When one family hires a blue (see: Russian) dragon to work their farm, it is revealed that the daughter of said family is the target of a cult’s assassin.
This is the “tipping point” that is meant to start the end of the world. And Kazimir, the blue dragon, is meant to work with this family, to keep it from happening, if possible. Throughout the first half of the book, all the chess pieces are mostly moving into position. There are many plot twists and surprises that are well-placed and played, sir. The second half is the I can’t speak to at-all because it would be one big spoiler.
Spit It Out, Already
That’s the problem. I can’t.
So, why couldn’t I write this review right away? For the same reason I’m struggling now. I have no idea what I want to say. Did I like it? Of course, I did. Patrick Ness does what he does, and the world is better for it. Even in a market drenched with dragons, this is so out of left field that it doesn’t even belong in THAT dragon market.
But then there is another whole piece to this that I just can’t quite wrap myself around. It is mostly to do with the second half. I fell in love with the first half of the book. Those pieces remained in the second half of the book. But what I can say about the second half that isn’t spoilery and that I just can’t wrap my mind around? Is there is just this general confusion around prophecies and dimensions that is all thrown together. I don’t know if maybe this should have been a duology (which I’m all for with Ness’ talent) where the first half was the first book. That would be a fantastic cliff-hanger.
Then the second half, a second book. That would give so much more time for world-building, history of the dragons and people, and this whole idea of prophecies and dimensions that got smashed into a few pages when it really needed a few chapters. Having said that? Recently Sam @ The Bookwyrmsden recently did a different type of review that I’m going to tweak a little. But, I wanted to credit her for the idea. Plus, her blog is awesome and you should follow her.
So here it goes.
Thank You to Harper Collins and Edelweiss for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
10 Reasons To Read Burn By Patrick Ness
- Sarcastic, witty, straight shooter, caring (even if he doesn’t always show it)- this is a dragon you want on your side. And I love him with every fiber of my being.
- AH! This girl is my heart. How strong she has had to be and growing up too soon in a world that doesn’t (and still today) want a child with a black father and a white mother, and an almost Japanese boyfriend. Bless her stout heart and quick mind.
- The cult assassin. I can’t say much about his character arc, but you will feel for him. Oh, will you feel so many things for Malcolm. I dare you not to feel ALL the spectrum of feelings or Malcolm… speaking of which…
- My lips of sealed but … yeah.
- Gareth (Sarah’s father)
- “Caught between a Dragon and hard place”!
- There are many more characters I can’t mention because of the context in which you meet them, but they are all so well written and fit so perfectly in the story.
- Speaking of all the characters- and there are A LOT of characters.
- They are unique and maintain their own distinct voice. I never lost track of them or felt overwhelmed. Even the different point of views which changed within chapters, not just at the change of chapters. It was seamless.
- The blend of the Cold War and fantasy
- If you were ever curious about the idea of blending such complete opposite ends of the spectrum together? And you haven’t read Patrick Ness. Burn, Release- they are so much alike. Release clearly separated out between the fantastical and the realism. Whereas, this is intrinsically embedded in the story. And that is the only innate difference.
- Mirror Image of Today
- As odd as the above sounds? With Burn, Patrick Ness makes buy-in easy. Not just because he gives you enough to buy-in, but because so much is a mirror image of today. The racism, behaviors and state of the world is so much of what we are seeing in our lives every day, right now. He doesn’t force it into the story. He doesn’t have to. However, through his writing and an incredible narrative, he focuses the lens just enough, to weave it through.
- The things that falter aren’t enough to take away from what makes it shine.