Small-town Washington state, 1957: The Cold War with Russia is in full swing, the threat of nuclear war is omnipresent, the space race is in hyperspeed, and Sarah Dewhurst is making friends with the dragon her father begrudgingly hired to help on the family farm.
The Dewhurst farm has fallen on hard times since the death of Sarah’s mother, so Sarah’s father is paying Kazimir the dragon, a rare Russian blue, to burn and clear a few fields for them. But Kazimir, it turns out, has an ulterior motive for taking the job. He believes Sarah is at the heart of an ancient prophecy that predicts her role in preventing the end of the world.
As Sarah and Kazimir’s unlikely friendship grows, a highly trained assassin named Malcolm is sent on a divine mission by a cult of dragon worshippers to find and kill the savior mentioned in the prophecy, but he has to outrun the FBI first. When Malcolm’s and Sarah’s paths finally converge, entire worlds are literally ripped wide open.
The award-winning author of 10 previous novels, including the Chaos Walking trilogy and A Monster Calls (the basis for the feature film), Patrick Ness knows his way around highly original plots with fantastical elements. He’s a master at managing a plethora of tiny narrative threads, weaving them tightly together and then unraveling them with perfect pacing, an achievement as impressive as it is enjoyable to read.
Burn waltzes wryly through themes of implicit bias, explicit racism and religious fanaticism as it explores the power of a potentially self-fulfilling prophecy and the possibility of parallel universes. It’s a breakneck journey full of wit, sarcasm, bravery and a generous bit of magic as the fate of the world dangles delicately out the farmhouse window and a dark storm rolls in over the fields.