Author: Marianne de Pierres
Genre: Dystopian YA
Publisher: Random House Australia
Publication date: March 1st 2011
Paperback: 316 pages
In Ixion music and party are our only beliefs. Darkness is our comfort. We have few rules but they are absolute . . .
Retra doesn’t want to go to Ixion, the island of ever-night, ever-youth and never-sleep. Retra is a Seal – sealed minds, sealed community. She doesn’t crave parties and pleasure, experience and freedom.
But her brother Joel left for Ixion two years ago, and Retra is determined to find him. Braving the intense pain of her obedience strip to escape the only home she’s ever known, Retra stows away on the barge that will take her to her brother.
When she can’t find Joel, Retra finds herself drawn deeper into the intoxicating world of Ixion. Come to me, whispers a voice in her head. Who are the Ripers, the mysterious guardians of Ixion? What are the Night Creatures Retra can see in the shadows? And what happens to those who grow too old for Ixion?
Retra will find that Ixion has its pleasures, but its secrets are deadly. Will friendship, and the creation of an eternal bond with a Riper, be enough to save her from the darkness?
Stand alone or series: First in the Night Creatures series
How did I get this book: This book has only been published in Australia and New Zealand and I was on Twitter one day, moaning about how hard it was to get a copy and WHY, WHY is there geographic restrictions and the author saw this and offered to send me a copy. Here is hoping this book is picked up by an American or UK publisher. It deserves a wider audience.
Why did I read this book: I read Glitter Rose last year , a collection of short stories by this author and fell in love with it so much. PLUS, THIS COVER IS AWESOME.
Retra is a Seal, a member of a community sealed apart from the world, whose inhabitants’ minds are sealed in observance of their strict guidelines. Two years ago, her beloved brother Joel could not cope anymore with their lifestyle and fled to infamous Ixion, the island of ever-night, ever-youth and never-sleep. Alone, deprived of her one companion and ally, Retra has endured the physical and emotional consequences of her brother’s departure with the stoicism that is expected from her. But unable to endure any longer, Retra too, breaks away from her community and flees to Ixion – but not to find pleasure and enjoy parties. Her mission is to find her brother so they can go away together.
Getting to the island of Ixion is not easy but there she gets and is greeted by the Ripers, the guardians of the place, who introduce the newcomers to the rules – who are few but absolute. In Ixion you are expected to party to your heart’s desire, any way you want to, and rest only when absolutely necessary at any of the welcoming Churches. In Ixion, Retra is exposed to an entire new way of life, makes cool new friends (I loved her friends) and finds her brother but also discovers that there are dark secrets behind the curtain.
The first thing that needs to be said about Burn Bright is: WOW, that was different.
It is completely unique, unlike anything I have read lately and certainly totally different from the recent batch of “Dystopian” YA. It is a book that is on a level of its own, and is hard to define it: it is a dystopian novel, with a few science-fiction elements (for example upon arriving at Ixion, everybody’s biology gets “changed” by a machine into becoming beings that do not need sleep or sunlight) but it also has elements of Fantasy. The description of the worldbuilding is vague but since it follows Retra into a new world, it makes sense that it is so and yes, it means that there is very little exposition which is always a good thing.
It is very clear to everybody that is reading about Ixion, that there is something utterly wrong about the place – it disguises as paradise and a Utopian place of ever-youth but the first and foremost question is: why? Where do people go when they get older? What happen to them? This is the best type of Dystopian story – the one that hides behind a Utopia mask, in which not everybody KNOWS that there is a dystopia thing going on, although a few characters have their suspicions. And of course this makes the entire background believable not only because of that, but also because of the type of idea behind this utopian society – ever-youth, partying all day, no responsibility. It is easy to understand why youngsters would be attracted to the place, right?
I also liked how the author explored certain ideas in this novel. In that sense, Burn Bright is very think-y. Take for example, this question posed to Retra:
Is it the rules and restrainsts in your life that have made you self-sacrificing? Is guilt the foundation of your kindness?
The fact that this question comes from one of the most disturbing characters in the book, the leader of the Ripers, makes it all the more interesting.
There is also a great dichotomy between pleasure and repression, clear in the difference between the Seal community where Retra comes from and Ixion with its pursuit of never-ending pleasure-seeking adventures. At one point, Retra goes through a very sexual experience and reaches Enlightenment – which is pursued on the island as the ultimate goal. This is at heart, a Coming of Age novel when it comes to Retra, and I found very interesting that the divide between the girl she was and the woman she comes to be comes via pleasure – or one can say, once she is finally free of all imposed restraints, including sexual. I would like to see more of that explored in the sequel especially how that happened and with whom. Although I can’t say that the book is romantic in any way, there is a subplot in which Retra develops a relationship with someone I do not trust one iota.
The fact that Retra basically becomes a new person with a new name (Naif) does not mean that her journey is over – it is not like she sheds her Seal skin in one go. Plus she has a new goal: to understand what the hell is going on in Ixion. Because let me tell you: the twist in the end is creepy and it is scary and it also opens up the whole thing for the sequel Angel Arias, and I can’t wait to read it.
Notable Quotes/ Parts:
Listen well, baby bats. Burn bright, but do not stray from the paths. Remember, when you live in a place of darkness you also live with creatures of the dark.
Rating: 7 – Very Good
Reading Next: The Demon’s Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan