Published by Walker Books on June 2nd 2020
Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult
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?
I know people adore Patrick Ness but I’ve had some mixed results with his books so far – I really liked Release but I didn’t like The Knife of Never Letting Go half as much as I expected to. I wasn’t quite sure whether Burn would be a hit or a miss, but I’m basically incapable of resisting dragons, so I decided to give it a go.
On the whole, one should worry less about prophecies and more about the lunatics who believe them.
I’m pleased to say, I loved it – this is definitely my favourite Ness book so far. The premise is unlike anything I’ve read, and Burn is an amazing mix of urban fantasy & sci-fi – think maybe Dragonriders of Pern, Temeraire or in the vein of Mortal Engines. I actually preferred Burn over any of those but it gives you a sense for the kind of epic alternate-history, sci-fi and fantasy blend Ness delivers here. I wasn’t sure whether the historical fiction element would work for me but it makes total sense for the story – it’s not a setting that’s there just for the sake of being different, it’s absolutely crucial for the plot. I don’t want to say too much because I think this is one of those stories you want to really discover as you go, as it’ll keep you guessing the whole time.
“I’m just a girl.”
“It is tragic how well you have been taught to say that with sadness rather than triumph.”
The characters were one of the elements I felt were strongest in Release and here again, Ness has delivered characters I couldn’t help but care about. We get a big cast of completely different people which I really liked – I love a good multiple POV and this certainly is that – there are quite a lot of different POVs to keep track of, but I really enjoyed that. From religious fanatics to teenagers facing small-town 1950s racism and homophobia to FBI agents to a dragon, this is a wonderful cast. Despite the fantasy genre, Ness doesn’t shy away from real world issues – there are plenty of hard-hitting issues like racism, homophobia and sexism mentioned in some way, but in a way that feels natural, not heavy handed or preachy.
Buy it? Absolutely.
In a nutshell: A totally unique premise with a great diverse cast of characters you can’t help but care about – read it, read it, read it.