Burn Bright (Night Creatures #1)
by Marianne de Pierres
Imagine a place where there are no Elders. No rules. No punishment. Only music and laughter and freedom.
Deadly pleasures await on Ixion, an eerie island where young people are transported twice a year when they want to indulge in hedonistic pursuits. It is always night here, and every conceivable vice is available and encouraged. Retra has gone to Ixion in order to find her brother Joel, but her sheltered upbringing makes her cringe at the excess on display. She knows, however, that she cannot stand out and must give into pleasure before she can find what she most desires.
This is a wildly exciting novel filled with visual splendor. There are balloon gondolas. Sleek, stingray-shaped powerboats. Female pirates. Cloaks made of bat skins. Electro-eyes that spy on citizens. Obedience strips that control where people with pain. And deadly night creatures who pounce if anyone dares to stray off permitted paths. The island of Ixion feels cool and edgy and treacherous, and the author does a fantastic job of allowing the reader to clearly visualize the thrilling world into which Retra is thrust. I love this passage in particular, which describes the clubs on the island:
Despite her nervousness a thrill pimpled her skin as she absorbed and made sense of the view: lights of every colour, some in soaring arcs, some in clusters, others scattered–ruby, glowing cobalt and bullion gold. A streak of emerald snaked through the middle, dividing the vista in two. The light haloes bled into each other, forming a misty night rainbow.
Ret wants nothing more than to find Joel, so she’s determined to forgo the dancing and the music and the drugs and the sex. But she’s constantly thinking about Markes, an attractive musician who catches her eye, as well as Lenoir, a dangerously seductive and powerful member of the Ripers, who are the guardians of Ixion. I have to say that I’m not quite sure what Retra sees in Markes other than outward attractiveness, as he seems relatively indifferent to her attention…but it’s hard to say what’s going on with Lenoir too, since he’s holding so much back.
I was incredibly excited by the atmospheric lure of the island, and I liked many of the characters that populate it. I was surprised to find, however, that some of the dialogue was not nearly as elegant as the surroundings, and actually bordered on being a little stiff at times. I would also have liked to have seen more emotional depth with the relationships between Ret and her brother and her friends and her love interests. The author describes the sensations of pain and confusion and temptation so well that it would have been great to see that matched with equally vibrant emotional connections.
Still, the story is really fascinating, and the world is superbly immersive in a way that most dystopian YA novels are not. It’s also very daring, in that there are frankly sexual (though non-graphic) encounters in Ixion as well as startling violence. There are interesting ideas about the pursuit of pleasure and the nature of human beings surviving in a totalitarian society, and it will be exciting to see whether the whiff of rebellion fully forms in the second installment of the trilogy. There is dark, seductive beauty in the world that Marianne de Pierres has created, and I think most readers will quite enjoy their visit.
This book was part of the Aussie YA Reading Challenge, hosted by my friend Nic over on Irresistible Reads! It’s the second book I’ve read by an Australian author this year following Rebecca Lim’s Mercy, and I’m really enjoying this challenge so far. Sadly, Burn Bright is only available in Australia and New Zealand at the moment, but hopefully Random House will give it a wider international release soon. If, like me, you cannot wait and would like to order it in the meantime, it’s available for international shipping from the Australian bookseller Dymocks.
Rated 3.5 out of 4 stars
30-Second Synopsis: On the seductive island of Ixion, Retra must ignore earthly pleasures in the quest to find her missing brother. A dark and thrilling read for fans of futuristic and sci-fi fiction.