In the bleak landscape of post-apocalyptic literature, Julianna Baggott’s vision stands out for its intense characters and jarring images. With BURN, she completes her Pure Trilogy, which began with FUSE and was followed up by PURE. Here, she takes readers back to life both inside and outside of the Dome, a world where Pures and Wretches, the fused and the Dusts, Mothers and programmed soldiers eke out a survival, and either work toward or seek to avoid the revolution that will change the world once again.
Like the first two novels in the trilogy, BURN gives readers the perspective of young people poised to radically challenge the world order created by a mastermind named Willux. After Detonations seared the landscape, polluted the world and devastated much of the human population, Willux created a sterile and supposedly idyllic society inside an enormous dome. While the “pures” inside the Dome enjoyed food, security, health and education, the “wretches” on the outside, often deformed by the Detonations and sometimes fused to the objects or people around them, starved, hid, fought and did their best to survive in an ashy and toxic world.
"There are moments of real beauty and sensitivity as well, but they are always colored by the harsh setting and the treacherous circumstances that Baggott has created. She handles with grace what, in other hands, could be absurd."
Pressia, a young woman raised by a man she always thought was her grandfather, recently learned about her parents and their connection to Willux. She also found out that she is the half-sister of Willux’s youngest son, Partridge. Outside the Dome for the first time, Partridge came to know Pressia and her friends, Bradwell and El Capitan. Together with Lyda, another Pure raised in the Dome, the group began to uncover the uncomfortable truths about life after the Detonations, the lies told in the Dome, and the extent of Willux’s madness.
The magnitude of the situation is further complicated by the magnitude of emotions these characters feel. Bradwell and Pressia are in love, but El Capitan loves Pressia, too. Lyda and Partridge are in love, but in order to bring down the Dome, Partridge may have to go forward with his father’s plans for him to marry a beautiful and strange woman named Iralene, who was literally created for him. Pressia, Partridge, Bradwell, El Capitan and Lyda all have lost their families and their illusions about the world in which they live. All they can do now is try to change it for the better. But ideas of justice and vengeance obscure the path to their goals.
BURN is a violent and heartbreaking novel. The characters are all physically and emotionally traumatized, and Baggott never gives them (or readers) an easy way out or a neat resolution. Readers invested in this series will not be disappointed as BURN continues to reveal more about the world of the Dome and the world of the survivors, but still ends with an unflinching honesty, maintaining a relentless sense of drama and anxiety. There are moments of real beauty and sensitivity as well, but they are always colored by the harsh setting and the treacherous circumstances that Baggott has created. She handles with grace what, in other hands, could be absurd. The personal relationships explored coupled with an examination of power, guilt, choice, resistance and family come together with fine storytelling, resulting in a great book.
This is a fantastic and fun conclusion to an interesting and provocative trilogy.
Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on February 7, 2014