Title: Burning Bright
Author: Megan Derr
Cover Artist: London Burden
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Buy Link: Burning Bright (The Lost Gods)
Genre: M/M fantasy romance
Length: 66,000 words
Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
Summary Review: More fantasy than romance, this second book in the Lost Gods series picks up the pace with a tale of intrigue and murder.
Nine gods ruled the world until the ultimate betrayal resulted in their destruction. Now, the world is dying, and only by restoring the Lost Gods can it be saved.
In the land of Pozhar, the people fear the return of Zhar Ptitsa, the god of souls and rebirth who nearly destroyed them nine hundred years ago in a terrible rage. To prevent his rebirth, the people hunt down and sacrifice Vessels, those born with a piece of Zhar Ptitsa’s soul within them.
The Sacred Texts say that one thousand such Vessels will be born and all must be sacrificed to destroy Zhar Ptitsa once and for all. Now, only two pieces remain in the bodies of two thieves who will not go to the Flames without a fight.
Burning Bright is the second book in the Lost Gods series. It focuses on the country of Pozhar where for 900 years people have been making human sacrifices in order to ensure that their god Zhar Ptitsa will not return to destroy the country. The god was scattered into 1000 pieces and those pieces of his soul are reborn in the residents of Pozhar. Once discovered these ‘vessels’ are sacrificed to the fire. High Priest Dym has the unenviable task of tracking down the vessels and leading them to the flames. He’s relieved that there are only two more vessels to go before all thousand pieces of Zhar Ptitsa have been found and destroyed. The last vessels are a pair of street rats Pechal and Raz who are not going to go easily into the flames. Raz especially will stop at nothing to protect his friend and after enlisting the help of a band of mercenaries and two mermaids he seeks to escape the city.
What I liked in particular about this story was that there were several different elements, all cleverly combined and intertwined to make the story varied and interesting. There are a few different storylines which make up the whole and which revolve around a separate character. There’s Dym who seeks only to do his duty, even if he carries a terrible burden and guilt in doing so; there’s Raz and Pechal who once they realise their fate, strive to escape it at all costs; there’s the Princess Sonya, whose cousin the king is dying, and who is betrothed to the Minister of Magic, Zholty, a grasping ambitious man; there’s Krasny (who we met briefly in the first book in this series) whose pride prevents him from reconciling with the king; there’s Ivan, the leader of the Wolves whose personal morals and rules get stretched during the story. Each of these characters begin separated from each other and as the story gains momentum their lives and stories entwine. It was all quite cleverly done.
Another clever thing was the way that our perceptions of people change as the story progresses. Dym is a good example of this and I found my sympathies towards him fluctate. He is perhaps the most complex out of all the characters and I thought the author had done a good job in showing Dym as a man, full of doubts and yet strongly devoted to his purpose, rather than the monster he could have been seen as.
The tone of the story also shifts and changes. There are times when there is all out adventure and action; times for politics and intrigue; times of quiet and reflection; times of sadness; times of camaraderie and friendship; times of love and devotion. None of these different times and tones to the story overwhelmed the book as a whole, leading to a balanced but varied reading experience.
Those who are looking for a strong romance, similar to that found in book one will be disappointed. There are romantic aspects to the story – in fact two romantic storylines, one of which nearly brought me to tears in its sweeping beauty and tenderness – but these are low key and underplayed. The focus of the story is on the drama and action on the page and as a fantasy fan that suited me just fine, but may not suit some of the romantics out there.
I also enjoyed the way that the setting was very different to that of the previous book and yet it also fit perfectly with the overall world created in this series. The people of Pozhar are individuals with different traditions and who use phrases connected with fire such as ‘douse it’ or ‘by the flames’ or ‘fire and ash’ which I found a nice touch to the setting. They are also still part of the same world as we found in Treasure, and there are references to some of the events in that first book. The city is familiar because it is similar to many cities in fantasy books but has a couple of nice additions such as the two palaces which helped set it slightly above the generic.
Any criticisms I may have spring from some inconsistencies such as why no-one has noticed that Dym has always been High Priest or with some of the more glossed over aspects of the book where events happen but we never see the consequences of them. These were only minor issues though in what was a very enjoyable character based fantasy story.
Those who have read Treasure will certainly want to read this too. If you haven’t read the first book in this series, then it is possible to read this one as a standalone there are only minor references made to the events of that first book. As for me, I think this was a better book than Treasured, possible because the scope was larger and I look forward to seeing how the series story arc continues into book 3.