Julianna Baggott – Burn

juliannabaggott-burnIs the world doomed to an eternity of war and hardship?

Inside the Dome, Partridge has taken his father’s place as leader of the Pures who dwell there. His struggle has led him here, intent upon bringing down the Dome from the inside, with the help of a secret resistance force. But things are not simple from his new position of power and he finds himself tempted by his father’s words: perhaps if the world is to survive it needs the Dome – and Partridge – to rule it…

As Partridge’s resolve weakens, Pressia and Bradwell remain outside the Dome, continuing to piece together the clues left to them from the time before the Detonations. It is their hope that they will be able to heal the Wretches, and free them from their monstrous fusings and the Dome’s oppression once and for all. But everything depends, too, on Partridge. Separated by distance and history, can they still trust their friend and ally? Or is the world doomed to an eternity of war and hardship?

I loved Pure and Fuse, and I was beyond excited to get an ARC for the trilogy’s concluding volume Burn. It is a fitting conclusion to this bleak view of the future and human nature. If Pure and Fuse were bleak and bleaker, then Burn was bleakest and I found myself wondering how on earth Baggott was going to pull off a satisfactory ending, if not a happy one. But Burn provides a fitting conclusion to the tale started in Pure and while it may not be a Disney-style happy ending, it is an ending that leaves us with hope, hope for the characters we’ve become attached to and hope for a better world. Obviously as this is the last book in the series there will be spoilers for the previous books. If you haven’t read those and want to remain unspoilt: Beware, here be spoilers! 

All of the protagonists from the previous book return in Burn; the reader is reunited with Pressia, Partridge, Bradwell, Lyda, El Capitan and Helmut, and Iralene, with all but the last two having their own points of view. Even if the main characters are familiar, they’re very much changed from the people we first met in the earlier books. Where I really liked him in Pure and Fuse, in Burn Partridge came off as a little whiny and confused and he was easily manipulated by those around him. I didn’t like him as much in this last volume, mostly because I just couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t take a stand and choose– choose Lyda and their baby, choose to tell the truth and deal with the consequences without resorting to living a different lie, choose to be his own man. He became a character without agency, even if he does have clear desires and goals.

Pressia also comes across differently. Still very much driven by her desire to save those outside of the Dome and find a cure, she seems far more angsty about her relationship with Bradwell, which is rocky and pretty much non-existent after the events of the previous book, than I’d expected her to be. She’s understandably upset, but the wildly competent Pressia we’ve come to know and love, wouldn’t just have been angsty, she’d have been angry at Bradwell as well for not even wanting to talk to her. Similarly, Bradwell comes across as sulky and martyred, angry with Pressia for having caused his wings to become the way they are, yet at the same time completely resistant to the idea of working together with the Dome to find a way to undo the fusings. He becomes driven by anger and revenge, where before I saw him more as driven by truth and a need to save people from the Dome and the OSR.

My favourites in this book were Lyda and El Capitan. To me they are the ones who grow the most throughout the series. I also loved their themes in this book. Lyda has grown from a sheltered and naive girl into a strong young woman, one who takes her own destiny – and that of her child’s – into her own hands. She makes decisions not just based on personal desires, but for the good of the people, even if that breaks her heart. She also decides her place isn’t inside any more, but she longs for the outside even if life there is harsh, at least it’s real. Cap’s arc is far more about redemption, repentance, and penance. Cap isn’t the angry young man we met in Pure; he’s come to terms with being fused with his brother, Helmut, and his friendship with Bradwell and Partridge and his love for Pressia has made him re-evaluate his past. I really loved the relationship between Cap and Helmut and the way the latter gains identity throughout the series. He becomes more than just a lump on Cap’s back; he becomes Cap’s conscience and a person with his own opinions. Cap’s unrequited love for Pressia and the way he handles it, broke my heart and I kept rooting for him to have his happy ending.

The development of the world is more political and Dome-focused this time around. The freaky nature of Dome society is revealed in full and we learn more about those Domers we’ve met before, such as Arvin Weed and Iralene. There were some revelations about characters both inside and outside the Dome, which didn’t truly affect the narrative but did provide some cool moments of recognition and going ‘OH!’ such as the true identity of Our Good Mother. I also enjoyed the glimpse we had of the Irish settlement our intrepid quartet visit at the start of the book and it made me wonder what the other settlements around the globe would look like and what kind of things they’d developed to keep themselves safe.

Burn is a killer conclusion to a wonderful trilogy. However it’s not a series for the faint of heart as it truly is a very dark and bleak series and Baggott spares neither her characters nor her readers from the painful realities of the world as she’s created it in the narrative. There are beloved characters who won’t make it to the end of the series, just as there are awful ones who do survive. But we end on hope and a glimpse of the possibility of a better future. It’s a story complete, but this ending is the beginning of a new story and I wonder whether Baggott will return to this world and tell that story. Part of me hopes she will, the other part wants to take that ray of hope and run with it and not imagine all the awful things the characters will have to live through rebuilding their world. Whatever Baggott decides to write next though, I’ll be reading, because with this awesome series she’s certainly convinced me of her talent as a story teller.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.


1 thought on “Julianna Baggott – Burn”

  1. I somehow managed to miss the second book of this series, and so I have to track down a copy before I can review the ARC I got of the third book. The first one was impressive enough to make me want to do this, though, and considering I’ve been getting extremely picky about my YA dystopian and post-apoc fiction, that’s saying something.

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