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  • Writer's pictureTerrie

BURN by Patrick Ness is our first Buddy Read for May

Burn by Patrick Ness

Genre: YA Fantasy

Published 2020, 371 pages

My sister, Donna, and I read Burn as our Buddy Read this month - we choose 2 books a month that we get from the library and read at approximately the same time so that we can have a conversation and both be remembering the same book. Both of us getting the book and then being at a place to start it at the same time is sometimes a challenge - but we're up for it! We have one more this month to wrap up our year and in June we'll pick a new 24 books for the upcoming year.

In 2019 I read The Knife of Never Letting Go trilogy and absolutely loved it and raved about it to Donna. She tried the first one and was less thrilled - it wasn't her cup of tea. But since then I've had his other books on my TBR and one finally pushed its way to the top of the list!

"How does the world end? It ends in fire." - from the cover


The story is set in 1957 in the Pacific Northwest (home for us!). The main characters of Burn are Sarah and Jason, 14 year old kids living on adjoining farms and both are outcasts. Sarah deals with prejudice because her dad is white and her mom is black while Jason is left out because he's Asian and people still remember the role Japan played in the war (plus, he looks different from them).

"Every day in a town with people who didn't look like you, in a life that didn't look like you, it eventually just wore you out."

Secondary characters are her dad, Gareth, Malcolm a teen-aged assassin, a terrible, bigoted deputy, Kelby, and Agent Wolff, a woman with an agenda. And, of course, there's Kazimir, the blue dragon. I LOVE a good dragon story (the 5 book Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron is a great one).

Kazimir has been hired by Sarah's dad to help on their struggling farm, but has his own agenda. Malcolm has been trained from childhood to protect dragons and also to be an assassin in service of that protection. Agent Wolff and her FBI partner are tracking the assassin. All these threads pull together at the farm with disastrous consequences. Then, there's Part 2. I'm not going to spoil the story by outlining part 2, but be assured it continues with the same characters......maybe in a different form? :) The twist is very clever.


Donna admitted to a bit of trepidation when turning the page and seeing PART 2. Her thought was, "oh no, I'm going to get pulled out of the story and it will turn into something else". Well, there are changes, but the story progresses with the characters we already know, just with a twist. A creative, and interesting twist.

Blending cold war era touches of history with dragons co-existing with humans, add in a deadly assassin from a dragon-worshipping cult and a dragon following a prophesy, and you get what seems an impossible feat. Yet Ness accomplishes it with a deft touch. And, in fact, manages to keep all those threads interesting while keeping them from tangling with each other. Extraordinary.

The world building details of how dragons and humans co-exist and how dragons think/talk and function is superb. The coming of age of Sarah and Jason as they have to deal with such adult situations is handled believably. The book does wrap up in a complete way, yet leaves enough room for a follow-up book (which we hope there is!) In case you can't tell, we both thoroughly enjoyed this book.

dragon photo by Terrie Purkey, Montreal Japanese garden night lights

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