Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 397
intriguing historical fantasy
Overall rating 
 
3.7
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
3.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
BURN imagines a world that is just like ours, except that dragons exist. Dragons have been around for longer than humans, and they have their own societies that humans cannot seem to figure out. Most humans seem to believe that they are animals without souls, who happen to be able to speak in human languages. However, there is a religious cult built around the dragons called the Believers that worships dragons and seems to recruit very young children. It is also the 1950s and the Cold War is raging.

Sarah is a teen in Frome, Washington, where she lives with her father on a farm that they are barely keeping afloat. Sarah is biracial, and she and her father face the hatred around that daily. To save the farm, her father has hired a dragon to help clear the fields. Dragons will sometimes do paid labor, but no one totally understands why and no one really trusts them (and they don't trust humans). The dragon that he has hired is a Blue, which are from Russia (except that they don't consider themselves part of any country), and that is very unusual. Reds are the more common type in North America and more willing to do labor than Blues, who usually don't ever.

There is a prophecy that involves Sarah and also Malcolm, who is a teenaged Believer on his way to kill someone to stop a war. Between the agents who are hunting Malcolm, Sarah's unknown role, and the many difficulties of the era, this was a unique historical fantasy.

What I loved: There is a lot that keeps you guessing and things are revealed just enough to pique your interest. Beyond the supernatural plots with dragons and prophecies, there is also a theme of racism that is faced by Sarah, her family, and Jason, her boyfriend who is Asian American and whose parents were forced into internment camps during WWII- and still not accepted as Americans. There are also similar views around dragons and their souls/value that reflect these racist views. These hate-filled views are also reflected by homophobia/intolerance of homosexuality, which arises in the context of Malcolm. These secondary themes of racism and intolerance are woven throughout the book in ways that are thought-provoking.

The book is told from many third person limited perspectives throughout, and they are easy to follow. This also allows for different characters to be built and for knowledge about the time and the parties involved to be imparted in ways that feel somewhat more natural.

What left me wanting more: The writing, particularly the many viewpoints, keeps the reader from getting fully immersed in the story, as we cannot connect as deeply with any characters. However, that being said, the two point-of-views used most (Malcolm and Sarah) do become the characters which we can connect with the most.

Final verdict: Unique and thought-provoking, BURN is an unusual historical fantasy of racism, intolerance, prophecy, and dragons. Would recommend for fans of the CHAOS WALKING trilogy.
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