Review: ‘Burn’ by Patrick Ness

“Some people are more dragon than others. Some people, you just give them a scratch, and underneath, they’re pure dragon.”


4.9/5 stars

What’s This Book About?

Genre: YA fantasy (dragons, multiverse)

Synopsis: On a cold Sunday evening in early 1957, Sarah Dewhurst waited with her father in the gas station’s parking lot for the dragon he’d hired to help on the farm…

The Dewhursts are forced to hire a dragon to work their farm, something only the most impoverished ever have to resort to.

However, the dragon, Kazimir, has more to him than meets the eye. Sarah can’t help but be curious – a dragon has no soul, yet he seems intent on protecting her.

Because Kazimir knows something she doesn’t. A prophecy is unfolding. A prophecy involving a deadly assassin, a draconic cult, two FBI agents —and somehow, Sarah Dewhurst herself.

What I Thought:

This book was near unputdownable! Aside from dragons (always a plus in my book), it also presents amazing characters with great dynamics, jaw-dropping twists, heart-wrenching emotion and plenty of laughs.

We start off with some nicely laid groundwork for worldbuilding – a reimagined 1950s Earth where dragons are as common as cats. (Though a good deal more deadly – necessitating a peace treaty!) A splash of information here, a dash of exposition there, and whoosh, I’m fully immersed. I soon fell in love with Kazimir’s character, the hired dragon – he’s so sassy, sardonic and mysterious, especially when dealing with the deeply racist, homophobic Deputy Sheriff Kelby. (His story had a twist and a half!) Kazimir had some of the best lines in the book.

“If I took a human life, my own would end, but why would I bother when my life is so much longer than yours? I win by simply outlasting you.”
“[T]he Deputy…[s]aid you’d been insubordinate.”
“As I am not his subordinate,” said the dragon, “how would it be possible to act in any other fashion?”
The other characters were excellent too; it was incredibly difficult to pick (human) favourites but perhaps Sarah and Malcolm win. I cared about everyone (not Kelby, ew) and they all felt strangely real and tangible. Several characters are also POC, with consideration of how this and queer identity would be perceived in a 1950s USA… Sarah is half-black and her best friend Jason is Japanese-American, while a secondary character, Nelson, is Guatemalan-Canadian and gay.

The myriad threads of love that run throughout this book were also wonderful to read. You have love of all kinds (I absolutely rate how Ness writes an LGBTQ+ thread into almost every one of his novels, great stuff), and my favourite love story was between Sarah and her parents. I’m tired of the ‘missing/conveniently absent parent’ trope, or stories where kids have to keep secrets from their incompetent parents – I loved how Sarah and her father are so honest with each other. Another father-daughter relationship in the story also deserves a mention, but I can’t name them for spoilery reasons!

The plot twists were also CRAZY in this book. You can seriously tell Ness wrote the ‘Chaos Walking’ trilogy (I don’t think my cardiovascular health has yet recovered from that rollercoaster of a series) and honestly, when I read a book mainly featuring teens, I don’t expect a Game of Thrones level death toll! There were entire 10-15 page segments where my face was just stuck gaping in shock.

I particularly liked the twist regarding how the prophecy played out – actually, the entire prophecy and multiverse premises were excellent – deftly executed alongside a dragon mythology that surprisingly still felt incredibly original despite the prominence of dragons in YA fantasy fiction.

All the different worlds…All the different possibilities. I told you [dragons] believe everything happens again and again. It’s called recurrence. Dragons know that what affects one world can seep into the next.

I did find the epilogue a tad feeble and open-ended for my liking, but from Ness’ ‘Chaos Walking’ trilogy I know full well how fine he is with torturing readers like this! It’s clever, keeping us wondering about what happens next makes sure I won’t forget this book…dastardly but clever. I think ‘Burn’ works well as a standalone, but if Ness writes a sequel, I honestly would have zero complaints.

Hats off to Patrick Ness for another great novel! I always expect to enjoy his work (he’s one of my autobuy authors), but it’s nice to be validated each time.

Thank you to Walker Books and Netgalley for the advance copy!

Thanks for reading! What do you think? Is ‘Burn’ on your TBR? Let me know below!

6 thoughts on “Review: ‘Burn’ by Patrick Ness

  1. I just love that you rated this 4.9 out of 5. Gives me such a kick lol 😂😂 I’ve never read anything by Patrick Ness YET! I will. Some day. I just don’t know where to start 🤷🏼‍♀️🙈😂🧡💜💚💛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 😂😂 I don’t know when I got so nitpicky but sometimes decimals are the only way to accurately express how I emotionally feel about them. Ooh I’d really recommend A Monster Calls and the Chaos Walking trilogy, think they are my favourites of his stuff. I also enjoyed Burn (obv lol) and The Rest of Us Just Live Here!

      Liked by 1 person

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