Burn by Patrick Ness

You never know what you will get with a new Patrick Ness novel, but you can guarantee it will be utterly unique and extraordinarily beautiful. In his latest story, Burn, Ness delves into an alternate 1950s universe where dragons roam the earth. Dragons speak, are extremely intelligent, and can create devastating fires with their breath, but they have agreed to a pact with humans that renders them tame and subservient – at least most of the time.

The story is set on a farm in Frome, Washington, in 1957. It begins when the father of a teenager, Sarah, hires a dragon to clear a field for them with his fiery breath, but the arrival of the dragon heralds a series of horrific events. A number of acutely drawn characters make this world authentic and fascinating. There is a bad cop whose hatred seeps throughout their small town and whose every move and word is toxic. There is Sarah herself, a teenager who lives alone with her farmer father after the death of her mother, and there’s the boy next door, Jason Inagawa, for whom Sarah has romantic feelings. There is also a cult of dragon worshippers who believe in a prophecy that predicts the end of the world.

A young man from the cult is sent on a mission to the very same farm, but is he there to halt or enact the prophecy? Following him are two FBI agents, ruthless and prepared to stop at nothing. There is romance, persecution, a goddess, alternate universes and much, much more. But at the centre of it all is Sarah, a seemingly ordinary girl who may just hold the key to preventing the end of the world.

Asking questions about free will versus destiny, exploring small-town racism and homophobia, this is an incredibly compelling narrative with strong, believable characters, really evil baddies, and baddies who maybe just turn out to be good. Burn is another tour de force by Patrick Ness with incredible storytelling that is absolutely not to be missed. Suitable for readers aged 13+.

Angela Crocombe is the manager of Readings Kids.

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Patrick Ness

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