Finally, one of the most memorable and outstanding dystopian trilogies comes to the end that we have been waiting for none too patiently. It all began with Pure – what a highlight of 2012 it was. A world destroyed by Detonations, nothing less than an apocalyptic World War, when people were fused to whatever they were holding or embracing at the time, whether animate or inanimate, becoming Wretches. It is proving impossible to forget the Mothers – women fused to the child at their hip – or the Dusts – souls consumed by the earth itself, with no human purpose left except to kill those more fortunate who walk upon their living graves. Not all were damaged, though. A few were selected for a more golden future, sealed before the Detonations into a Dome where they could live as Pures. At one time, Wretches viewed Pures as benevolent carers. Not any more.
Julianna Baggott presents the story of Pressia, a Wretch with a doll fused to her hand, Bradwell with birds sealed in his back, turning him into a travesty of an angel, Cap and Helmud, two brothers attached and inseparable, and Partridge, a Pure who is determined to bring the truth and cure to the Wretches. Together and apart, the group undergo perilous journeys across landscapes melted and twisted by disaster, chasing the clues to the past, trying to survive against all odds.
As Burn is the final part of the trilogy, there is no reason why you should read it before first devouring Pure and Fuse. Spoilers for both of those are inevitable here so do please give yourself a treat and begin at the beginning and catch up.
Burn begins immediately as Fuse ends. Partridge is back in the Dome among the Pures while Pressia and the others return from Ireland to meet up with him, releasing the cure among Wretches while bring the rule of the Pure to an end. As a result, Burn is much more focused upon these two distinct strands. Whereas in the previous two books, where the chapters piled on the mysteries, the twists and the shocks, in Burn the story is much more targeted. Pressia and Partridge are on a course to the end and nothing will divert them from their purpose.
This means we don’t get as close to some of the elements that intrigued so much before – such as the mysterious black box, the half human soldiers, the Mothers – but instead we learn much more about life within the Dome. While there are fewer shocks surrounding Pressia, and we learn little more about her, in Burn the heart of the novel is Partridge and the intricate games that he must play to bring the story to a conclusion, learning so much about his family and the final ironies about the nature of the Pure.
Julianna Baggott writes so well. This damaged world is brought to life so strongly that this entire trilogy is an immersive reading experience. The relationships between the characters are delicate and they are teased and tormented even further in Burn. The series is also undeniably bleak and even as the story reaches its end, the bleakness does not shift. As for that ending, it can’t be easy to bring such a world to a close and readers will no doubt have their own expectations about the fates of these deeply loved characters. I think, though, that it ended in the only way it could and I was satisfied.
Pure and Fuse are both superb novels and they can’t be easy to follow. They also serve a different purpose than Burn – their aim is to explore and develop while the final novel brings those strings together. Despite my satisfaction with the story, I didn’t find Burn as enjoyable a reading experience as I’d hoped. I found it relentlessly dark and the gloom was not relieved by the glimmers of light, discovery and even romance that characterised the previous novels. My thoughts on Burn are mixed but they are tempered by my satisfaction at watching an extraordinary trilogy draw to its close.