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Book Review: Burn Bright, Marianne de Pierres

What a ride! From the moment the reader opens this book, and we’re introduced to Retra, a young Seal (someone who lives in a sealed community, where education is limited and emotions oppressed), running for her life, we’re plunged into the mysterious and sometimes terrifying world of Ixion – a type of pleasure sanctuary for young refugees, discontent with their lives and seeking thrills and change. In order to reach the isle, young people (and only young people are allowed there) must break all ties with their present and hand their well-being to the strange and seemingly omniscient Ripers. Retra’s brother, Joel, fled to Ixion years before and it’s to find him that Retra enters the darkness that is the pleasure isle – where innocence is a sin, drugs are plentiful and the rules that bounded her cloistered life no longer exist. Encouraged to ‘burn bright’ before expiring, clubbing, drinking and hedonism are encouraged. Flung into her new existence, Retra is reluctant to embrace all that Ixion appears to offer – a stance that earns her enemies faster than friends and exposes her to dangers that make those of her old life seem harmless…
This is such a fast-paced, tight narrative with absolutely splendid and evocative writing. de Pierres knows how to hook the reader – her metaphors are sharp and powerful – you breathe the air of Ixion, you feel the effects of the tablets the young initiates swallow and you experience the pulsating terror that the night creatures evoke.

When I first started reading, I was reminded of other fabulous narratives such as Logan’s Run or the Hunger Games. I want to resist comparisons – but, while drawing on some similar themes, I feel Burn Bright is better than either of these. It is so original and intoxicating. The setting, vocabulary and sense of otherworldiness is powerful and real. You want to get to the source of the great mystery that is Ixion and the night creatures, and discover why Retra is such a threat and curiousity.

As the first book in a series (the second is Angel Arias – not out yet, dammit!), this is an incredible introduction. While it’s a YA novel, it’s clearly a fantastic crossover that will appeal to adults as well. Cannot recommend highly enough – Burn Bright indeed!

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