Today I am excited to bring you my review on the blog tour for Notes from the Burning Age by Claire North. Big thanks to the author, Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers for organising the tour and Orbit Books for providing a copy.
From one of the most imaginative writers of her generation comes an extraordinary vision of the future…
Ven was once a holy man, a keeper of ancient archives. It was his duty to interpret archaic texts, sorting useful knowledge from the heretical ideas of the Burning Age—a time of excess and climate disaster. For in Ven’s world, such material must be closely guarded so that the ills that led to that cataclysmic era can never be repeated.
But when the revolutionary Brotherhood approaches Ven, pressuring him to translate stolen writings that threaten everything he once held dear, his life will be turned upside down. Torn between friendship and faith, Ven must decide how far he’s willing to go to save this new world—and how much he is willing to lose.
Notes from the Burning Age is the remarkable new novel from the award-winning Claire North that puts dystopian fiction in a whole new light.
Claire North is actually a pen name of Catherine Webb. From the author’s website:
Catherine’s first novel, Mirror Dreams, was completed when she was 14 years old. The book was published in 2002 and garnered comparisons with Terry Pratchett and Philip Pullman. She went on to publish a further seven young adult novels under her own name, earning her extensive critical acclaim and two Carnegie nominations for her novels Timekeepers and The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle.
While studying International History at the London School of Economics, she wrote an urban fantasy series for adults, writing as Kate Griffin. On graduating LSE she went to the Royal Academy for Dramatic Arts to study Technical Theatre and Stage Management.
Throughout her training she continued to write, and while working as a lighting technician at the Royal National Theatre wrote her first Claire North novel, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, which became a word-of-mouth bestseller and was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. The follow-up Touch was described by the Independent as ‘little short of a masterpiece’, and her next novel The Sudden Appearance of Hope won the 2017 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. Her novel The End of the Day was shortlisted for the 2017 Sunday Times/PFD Young Writer of the Year Award, and 84K was awarded the Special Citation by the Philip K. Dick Awards. Her latest book is The Pursuit of William Abbey.
Catherine currently works as a live music lighting designer, teaches women’s self-defense, and is a fan of big cities, long walks, Thai food and graffiti-spotting. She lives in London.
First of all, can we all just take a moment to appreciate this BEAUTIFUL cover.
I’m a fan of Claire North’s books, having read a few of them and with several more on the old TBR. So I jumped at the chance to read and review this on the blog.
The last thing I read by the author was a short story called Sweet Harmony which was just brilliant (and highly recommended if you haven’t read it and are a fan of things like Black Mirror) so I had fairly high expectations of this one going in.
It didn’t disappoint! This is a primarily spy story, with our main character Ven, being recruited by the ambitious and ruthless Brotherhood to interpret “heretical” texts that one of their agents is stealing from the other side. But it’s also more than that; it deals with the devastating path that humanity finds itself on as we try and seemingly fail to preserve the planet which we call home, it deals with faith, it deals with politics, it deal with friendship.
The setting and world building are fabulous. The “Burning Age” referred to in the title is now, present day. We have been our own worst enemies and the life as we know it has been destroyed. Humanity survives to live on and adapt but the events of the novel hint at our inability to learn from our mistakes and just repeat history all over again in pursuit of more, of better and of power. We never quite learn *exactly* what happened but we don’t need to.
I enjoyed the references to objects and information from the Burning Age, things like text messages, tweets etc. have clearly been saved along with information on humanity’s scientific and technological advances and it was fun to see them pop up. The reference to the “reconstructed ballads of Mozert, Beatless and Beyondsee” made me smile!
I liked the main character Ven, who leads us through the story and we see him struggle with the actions he has to take in his part of the impending conflict. The back and forth and overall relationship between him and Georg, the driver behind the Brotherhood’s progress, were great too.
Things got tense at times and I found myself desperate to find out what going to unfold and how the power plays were going to turn out. It did take me a little while to get to grips with all the difference organisations at play here, how they interacted and who was working for who but I got there.
The author has a wonderful imagination and the ingenuity of each of the books I read of hers is really striking and is, I think, what makes me pick them up. Sometimes, an author can have a good idea but fail to execute it well, but I have yet to see that with North.
I’d recommend this to existing fans of North’s work but also fans of dystopian fiction who would enjoy the espionage twist to this book.