Burn, by Patrick Ness
There’s no doubt that Patrick Ness is a masterful writer. I read his latest book, Burn, today, and there are many dog-eared pages marking passages that I’ll be coming back to and want to savour. I love the premise, too – small-town America, post-WW2 and in the grip of the Soviet suspicion that is a familiar part of our history, but with one (not-so) small difference – thar be dragons. Dragons living peacefully alongside humans, if not always trusted, and occasionally hired for labour.
This is a world in which racism and bigotry still exists. Where homosexuality is considered a sin by some, and kids are kicked out of home because of it. A world in which fanaticism, in the form of a cult of Believers dedicated to dragons, will let nothing get in the way of fulfilling an ancient prophecy. It’s also a world of (slightly spoilery!) multiverses, which ALWAYS appeals to me. I liked the diversity of the characters, and the way they handled being different in a world that sometimes wanted to punish them for that.
But – and it’s a big but – I found the ending kind of rushed and unsatisfying. Whilst I appreciated the narrative, I don’t think there was a whole lot of meaningful character development – at least, none I connected with on any emotional level. And I feel like the final chapters relief a little too much on exposition to wrap things up.
Having said all that, I still rate this book a solid 4/5. Malcolm and Nelson – sigh. I hope things are going well for them, and that they’re old men now, sitting on their porch holding hands and drinking tea. I know a friend read this and was mad that there isn’t going to be a book 2 – I’m ok with that. It’s a solid standalone for me. I don’t need to revisit this world, but I’m quite happy to have spent a Saturday here.