I always find it refreshing when books try something offbeat and different, and in this case, it’s the POV/main character who’s mute. It’s not that I’ve never seen it done, but it’s difficult to do well and it’s certainly uncommon. In this world, though, being mute has a specific name, the Voiceless, and it’s considered to be a curse. Her own parents left her for dead and she’s been treated as an outsider for most of her life.
I liked a lot of the world-building for this book, particularly the Waterborne people. I used to work in elder care and when my clients would reach their late ’90s they would legitimately get lost trying to speak to their great-grandkids because the vernacular between the two would have such a wide gap. The Waterborne speak oddly since they’re so old, they have an ability to heal themselves and live significantly longer than the average person. I like that finally, a book addresses this. Lots of times ancient characters are totally up to date on the current slang and it feels odd to me whenever I encounter it. Elemental magic also just happens to be one of the magic systems I really tend to enjoy, there’s just something primal about it that works for me. I also like it when magic is upfront and center, as long as it doesn’t solve all of the problems the characters run up against. It’s just plain fun to sink into a book with airships and fire magic.
I liked the main characters, but the side characters would sometimes rub me wrong. Morian is the King, and we get his POV but he was a little much honestly. He seems exaggeratedly evil or insane, and generally speaking, I like a more nuanced antagonist. Characters were also introduced gradually, but also late into the novel, which didn’t particularly work for me, unfortunately. I tend to get thrown if there are POVs introduced really late into the plotline and it’s not enough time for me to really form an attachment.
Valerya is a super angry person. She’s pretty intense and is able to act out her violent tendencies since she’s in a position of power. She thinks about flaying people alive and things like that. Again, this POV toes the line of becoming comically evil, however, I feel she’s better written than Morian and has more believable and more compelling motivations. She is a summoner, which hasn’t happened in a long time, and she’s able to summon a dragon at a whim that burns whole villages to the ground. She’s a terror unleashed on the world.
Interesting things happen when a Waterborne and a Fireborne have a kid since the two different types of magic blend badly. They can create people called Nightwalkers who can die if they’re exposed to sunlight and are often diseased and damaged people. There are lots of different kinds of magics and whatnot, all of which I found entertaining.
I really enjoyed the writing style and prose in this one, I’m not sure how to precisely describe what I liked so much about the prose style other than it was just very easy to sink into. It was very clean and very polished, I never had to re-read something to make sure I understood what was said. However, I did have to kind of figure things out on my own for the world-building, and I mostly enjoy that in a book. I absolutely prefer it over awkward info dumps. The pacing was mostly steady, although it did drag a couple times for me, mostly when new POVs were introduced and I had to re-orient myself. I did not however struggle to finish or feel like I wanted to set the book down. There were twists and turns that caught my interest at just the right times and reinvigorated me to read more.
Overall, this is an impressive debut novel and I will be watching this author for more.
- Plot: 12/15
- Characters: 9/15
- World Building 13/15
- Writing: 13/15
- Pacing: 11/15
- Originality: 12.5/15
- Enjoyment: 7.5/10
Final score: 78/100
Burn Red Skies takes place in a world where people from different regions have different elemental powers. We see the story mostly from the point of view of Dove, a mute teenage girl with the power of fire, and Gryff, a boy with the power of ice. Other POV characters are introduced gradually throughout the book, my favorite being Bard, a rogueish character who fights alongside his partner Dancer. Their chapters were usually more humorous than the more somber chapters from Dove or Gryff’s POV, or that of Valerya, the dragon-summoning General of the fire realm’s army. I enjoyed Burn Red Skies quite a lot. It was paced pretty well, and I enjoyed the writing style. There were smugglers, airships, fighting, magic, and a villain who is very much more than the sum of her parts. I had 7/10 stars of fun with Burn Red Skies, and will definitely read the sequel in the future.