Monday, August 20, 2012
Retra has wanted to escape to Ixion ever since her brother abandoned her to go there. She lives in an oppressive society where she is a Seal, who upholds this society that denies human nature and things like pleasure and freedom. Ixion is the exact opposite of her home, Grave. Teens from everywhere go there to party, imbibe in various intoxicants, and revel in freedom. Retra finally escapes to Ixion, despite the extreme pain of the obedience strip on her leg, only to find that it's much darker and more dangerous than she realized. Her brother is nowhere to be found and she is drawn deeper and deeper into the disorienting and intoxicating parties. The Ripers, the leaders and guardians of Ixion, are mysterious and not as benevolent as they appear. Can Retra keep from getting sucked into this decadent world and escape with her brother?
I went into this book thinking it would be just like all the other young adult dystopian fiction out there. I was pleasantly surprised and completely blown away by the dark world and strange characters. Grave, the awful place Retra grew up in, was oppressive and horrible. There were no freedoms and obedience was obtained through pain and systematic torture. As the story unfolds, more of her past is revealed, going as far as showing that sexual abuse and abuse of power was commonplace with the officials there. Ixion was supposed to be the ultimate experience for teenagers with its constant parties, availability of intoxicants, and encouragement to give into base desires. Underneath all of that, the inhabitants were still kept ignorant of the actual workings of the place, just as in Grave. Retra essentially traded one dystopia for another possibly more dangerous one. Ixion was home to night creatures and Ripers (who I kept calling Rippers in my head, which seemed to be more appropriate). Night creatures were frightening. Any time one of the teens would veer into the darkness, they would be immediately attacked by night creatures, savage and hungry grotesqueries. Their origin proved to be so much more chilling than their attacks. The Ripers make everyone think they are guardians and just want to protect the teens, but they are split into opposing factions: one that wants to continue as it has always been and another that wants to change their ways to pursue more selfish endeavors. I was interested, yet repulsed by both the night creatures and the Rip(p)ers.
The characters were engaging for the most part and served an interesting purpose. Retra wasn't the most charismatic character, but her strength and determination were undeniable. At first, her unease with everything in Ixion kind of got on my nerves, but it was understandable looking at where she came from. She grew on my over the course of the novel because she was willing to stand up to the Ripers and protect her friends when no one else would. It was odd that she changed her name about halfway through the book, but her whole demeanor changed too and it actually made sense with the events of the novel. Suki was a friend that Retra made in Ixion who was from a completely different place where women are warriors and men are subservient, the opposite of Retra's world. She, and other characters, showed how Ixion was the culmination of many different cultures that were completely unaware of each other. I really liked Suki because she was a warrior and stuck by her friends. Lenoir, the head Riper, was a bit like the Darkling from Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone. I went through a lot of the book trying to decide which side of the evil/good spectrum he was on. I liked him even though he gave Retra the runaround a lot when she tried to ask clear questions.
The only part of the book that didn't work for me was the romance (as usual). Retra fell for a random guy on the boat to Ixion and held on to that random crush for the whole novel. I didn't like him and found him to be annoying and unworthy of Retra's affections. The only good thing about him was his ability to play the guitar. Other than this one annoying and lackluster character, Burn Bright was just about perfect. The novel went places I didn't expect and pushed my perception of young adult novels. I can't wait to read the sequel Angel Arias and anything else Marianne de Pierres writes.
My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins
Read as part of Dystopian August at Presenting Lenore.