cover image Burn


Patrick Ness. Quill Tree, $18.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-286949-4

Too deeply in debt to engage human farmhands, 15-year-old Sarah Dewhurst’s father is forced to hire a dragon to clear their farm’s fields for planting. With Cold War tensions running high in an alternate 1957 America, employing a dragon, especially a rare Russian blue, is sure to be an unpopular move, but Sarah, who is biracial (black and white), already experiences daily racism in small-town Frome, Wash. Kazimir, the dragon, soon shows a mysterious interest in Sarah, offering protection from an unknown killer and indicating she may be the prophesied key to averting an apocalypse. In Canada, meanwhile, a teen called Malcolm, trained by a dragon-worshipping cult from childhood as an assassin, makes his way toward Frome on what he considers a “blessed” mission to save dragonkind. The relationship between Ness’s (And the Ocean Was Our Sky) inclusive human cast, which encompasses characters of various ethnicities, belief systems, and sexual orientations, and his dragons—feared as immeasurably powerful and philosophical, yet derided as rustic and used as sharecroppers—makes for an interesting Cold War analog. The densely layered, expertly paced plot builds and twists while revealing an alternate universe that cunningly echoes our world and its history. Ages 14–up. [em](June) [/em]