Burn by Patrick Ness
Publication Date: June 2, 2020
Summary from Goodreads:
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…
Sarah Dewhurst and her father, outcasts in their little town of Frome, Washington, are forced to hire a dragon to work their farm, something only the poorest of the poor ever have to resort to.
The dragon, Kazimir, has more to him than meets the eye, though. Sarah can’t help but be curious about him, an animal who supposedly doesn’t have a soul, but who is seemingly intent on keeping her safe.
Because the dragon knows something she doesn’t. He has arrived at the farm with a prophecy on his mind. A prophecy that involves a deadly assassin, a cult of dragon worshippers, two FBI agents in hot pursuit—and somehow, Sarah Dewhurst herself.
“He grinned, and if she hadn’t believed he was a dragon before, that grin would have eliminated all doubt. It was transfixing; it hinted at secret knowledge that would turn your stomach to jelly.”
I think this has become my favorite Patrick Ness book of all time. I don’t think he can top this one. Yes it was quirky and different and unlike anything you will ever read, which is typical of his books, but there is just something different about this one.
Let’s start by discussing the characters, there are many of them, and we get to hear from almost all of them, which could be confusing. But all of these characters are so distinctive from each other and are so well fleshed out, that you never forget whose point of view is being given. I so enjoyed hearing from all of them, even the villains. But there are three of them that stick out and really make the story what it is.
Sarah is a biracial girl living in a small Washington town in the 50’s. Even though this is an alternate world the prejudice and biases of our world are here in full force. She is the only biracial girl in her town, and feels lonely and left out. Her only friend is a Japanese-American boy who has also had hate thrown his way. But I really enjoyed Sarah, she was stronger than she knew and took everything that was thrown at her in stride. Her fascination with the dragon did not keep her from fearing him, but allowed her to understand him better. I loved her relationship with her father, which had issues but was loving.
Malcolm was the other main voice that we heard from. He was a young man that has grown up in a cult that worshipped dragons. He was trained his whole life for this one mission. At times I felt sorry for the way he was brought up, but there were some bright spots as well. He was brought up with the belief that it was ok to love who you want, boy or girl, it didn’t matter. Which was very confusing when he met up with Nelson, a boy who has been kicked out of his home because he is gay. Their relationship was a bit on the insta-love side, but given the circumstances, totally believable. This is really the only romance in the story and it was not what was driving the plot. Though it is essential to understanding Malcolm.
And then finally we have Kazimir, the dragon. I absolutely loved him. He was so philosophical and enigmatic that it drove everyone else nuts. He rarely gave a straight answer to any questions. But he protected Sarah with a fierceness that was almost scary. I don’t want to say to much else about him, as you really need to just get to know him yourself.
I don’t want to get into the plot too much, as you really need to just go into it blind and with an open mind to really get it. There is a huge twist in the middle that will blow your mind though. And poor Seattle, why does everyone always pick on you? The pacing is pretty fast and there are lots of points of view, and two storylines that eventually converge before that twist and then separates again. But the ending will leave you satisfied, although open enough to leave room for a sequel (yes, please!).
If you have enjoyed Patrick Ness’s other books, you will love this one. Loved the alternate world were dragons are part of that world. The characters are great, and it is pretty light on the romance, by that I mean the romance is not driving the plot. If you have not read anything by this author before, than you are in for a treat, as this is Patrick at his best.