A Review of Burn by T. J.Klune

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This review was written for  and posted on JoyfullyJay on February 20, 2012:

Rating: 3.75 stars

Burn is the highly anticipated second book by author TJ Klune, whose debut novel, Bear, Otter And The Kid was a wonderful and well received story of a young man coming to term with his sexuality within the confines of family neglect and maternal abuse.

“My name is Felix Paracel, and when I was nine, I became angry at my mother and killed her with fire that shot from my hands.”

With those words, T J Klune again takes us  into the mind of another young man seeking out both his identity and his destiny, Felix Paracel.

Burn takes place in an alternate Universe where Elementals, those people who can control the elements of fire, earth, wind, and water, are a minority race on Earth.  There are many of the same historical markers (i.e, WWII but with Elementals having helped win the war against Germany), but just alien enough to throw off familiarity.  Felix and his father have fled underground after Felix killed his mother. They took new identities and lost themselves in the metropolis of Terra City.  But the darkness is rising with intolerance and bigotry are now the ruling forces within the Government.  Much like Nazi Germany, the rights of Elementals are being taken away, and they are being rounded up for experimentation and incarceration.   As in any epic tale, it is time for the One to appear to save his people and that is Felix.

Burn is the first volume  in the Elementally Evolved Trilogy.  Here TJ Klune is striving for epic storytelling. He has created an ambitious Creation saga, complete with a huge cast of characters, a Tree God, and, of course, the Savior figure, the One…known here as the Findo Unum—the Split One—whose  “coming has been foretold for generations”.  Along with Felix, there is Seven, his Iuratum Cor, or Felix’ heart/mate, and a group of people who make up Findo Unum’s guard of warriors.

I was really looking forward to this book after reading Bear, Otter And The Kid because of its warm, funny, and sometimes heartbreaking characters.  T.J. Klune had warned everyone that this was different in scope than BOATK which would have been fine if the quality of storytelling remained the same.  Unfortunately for me, it did not.

In reaching to create such a large vision in Burn, the story became weighed down with too many timelines (Felix is narrating the tale from the future, then Felix is relating the story in the present, back to the future tense, then Seven is telling Felix the story of the past, then to the present and so on).   At one point, Felix (future) tells us about a betrayal that will happen soon (present), but then loses any emotional buildup as it takes another chapter to happen while they all train.  Sigh.

T. J. Klune has a wonderful way letting dialog paint a picture of a character, and that is true here. Tick and Tock the Clock Twins to Otis, a brain damaged gentle giant, come instantly to life through their words.  Seven too seems realistic, driven and obsessed with finding Felix and keeping him safe . It is the character of Felix himself, age 24 when the first chapter starts, that seems in so uncertain.   His “voice” seems to vary between that of a rebellious teen to one of indeterminate age, sometimes on the same page.  Can you care about someone when you can’t get a grip on who they are?  I don’t think so.

Repetition in the narrative is another killer here.  I think the author did it on purpose, trying for a certain greek chorus effect, but it merely becomes irritating and bogs the story down further. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I read about Seven’s “ocean eyes”.  This becomes a problem when you start anticipating that phrase instead of paying attention to the story.

There are several riddles figured into Burn that are supposed to shock you at the end as they are revealed.  I won’t give anything away but while one is well concealed the main  secret is easily guessed at from the very beginning so the shock value is lost. Again I blame overly dense, repetitive storytelling and wonder where his editor was.

It is not until the last two chapters, that T. J. Klune’s talent starts to shine.  It is here at the end that the promise of real storytelling that flickered throughout the majority of the book roars into life.  The writing is crisp, the action dynamic, and the story comes alive with all the fire and wind that Felix commands.

And it is that promise at the end that will make me continue with the series.  I can hope that with this volume out of the way and the exposition done, that the story of Felix Paracel will become more concise, more linear, and of course, elementally evolved.

My rating:  3.75

Cover:  I love the cover for this book.  Nice imagery and perfect for the story within.