How does the world end? Read a review of Burn by Patrick Ness

How does the world end? Read a review of Burn by Patrick Ness

Author Patrick Ness takes us back in time to 1950’s mid-west America, exploring the real concerns of that era – the Russian/US space race, threats of nuclear apocalypse, racial discrimination and homophobia – and adding a few extra twists to this world in the shape of dragons, a trained assassin from a deity worshipping cult, a prophecy that seems to point to the central character and a test of courage and trust.

Sarah is a 16-year-old bi-racial teenager living on a remote farm with her father. They are both grieving the loss of her mother while struggling to keep the farm financially viable. A dragon is hired to clear some fields, but it soon becomes obvious that he has a greater mission, involving Sarah.

Sarah has a long-standing friendship and evolving romance with Jason, her Japanese American neighbour, and together they face the challenges of the society they live in and the curse of a prophecy that brings death and destruction to Sarah’s doorstep. Both characters show tremendous courage and resilience fighting against societal prejudice, a vengeful goddess, small-minded and power-crazy local law enforcement and the growing acceptance that they are at the forefront of a war between humans and dragons.

It’s difficult to say more about the story without revealing plot twists and surprises, so I’ll just mention that Patrick Ness has written for Dr Who and is no stranger to concepts such as multiverse, shape-shifting and portals between worlds. He has won the Carnegie Medal twice and his work is highly regarded internationally. His trilogy, Chaos Walking, continues to be a best-seller, and his novels are regarded as sophisticated fantasy, including fast-paced action imbued with heartfelt longing.

Restraint is an essential quality for sophisticated fantasy writing and in Burn we see an author delivering action and drama without overblown hyperbole and unnecessary explanation. It is very cinematic writing, and the fast pace keeps rolling right up until the final pages. It also delivers a believable world where dragons can talk and their co-existence with humans, though fraught with misunderstanding and mistrust, is readily imagined.

After I finished reading this book, I took a few days to reflect on the story as the messages are quite impactful. It would make a very good book for book club discussion. It could also be a great “thought starter” for parent/teen/grandparent discussion, especially exploring the themes of the 1950’s. I would recommend this book for all readers, 12+

 

 

 

Reviews

Dragons, prophecy and 1950’s Cold War space race:  Read an extract from Burn by Patrick Ness

Review | Extract

29 May 2020

Dragons, prophecy and 1950’s Cold War space race: Read an extract from Burn by Patrick Ness

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    Synopsis

    An all-consuming story of revenge, redemption and dragons from the twice Carnegie Medal-winner Patrick Ness.“On a cold Sunday evening in early 1957, Sarah Dewhurst waited with her father in the parking lot of the Chevron Gas Station for the dragon he’d hired to help on the farm.” This dragon, Kazimir, has more to him than meets the eye. Sarah can’t help but be curious about him, an animal who supposedly doesn’t have a soul but is seemingly intent on keeping her safe from the brutal attentions of Deputy Sheriff Emmett Kelby. Kazimir knows something she doesn’t. He has arrived at the farm because of a prophecy. A prophecy that involves a deadly assassin, a cult of dragon worshippers, two FBI agents – and somehow, Sarah Dewhurst herself. From the bestselling author of the Chaos Walking trilogy comes a heart-stopping story of fanaticism, hope, bravery and impossible second chances, set in a world on the very brink of its own destruction.
    Patrick Ness
    About the author

    Patrick Ness

    Patrick Ness was born on an army base called Fort Belvoir, near Alexandria, Virginia, in the United States where his father was a drill sergeant in the US Army. Patrick’s family soon moved to Hawaii, where he lived until he was almost six and he later lived in Washington and Los Angeles.After studying English Literature at the University of Southern California, Patrick got a job as a corporate writer at a cable company in Los Angeles, writing manuals and speeches and once even an advertisement for the Gilroy, California Garlic Festival. His writing career started with the publication of his first story in Genre magazine in 1997. Since then, Patrick moved to London and has had two adult books published and also taught creative writing at Oxford. On writing, Patrick says, "Here's a helpful hint if you want to be a writer: When I'm working on a first draft, all I write is 1000 words a day, which isn't all that much (I started out with 300, then moved up to 500, now I can do 1000 easy). And if I write my 1000 words, I'm done for the day, even if it only took an hour (it usually takes more, of course, but not always). Novels are anywhere from 60,000 words on up, so it's possible that just sixty days later you might have a whole first draft. The Knife of Never Letting Go is 112,900 words and took about seven months to get a good first draft. Lots of rewrites followed. That's the fun part, where the book really starts to come together just exactly how you see it, the part where you feel like a real writer".  Monsters of Men is the winner of the 2011 Carnegie Medal. A Monster Calls was the winner of the 2012 CILIP Carnegie Medal and the Kate Greenaway Medal. A Monster Calls was also long-listed for the 2012 Inky Awards.

    Books by Patrick Ness

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