Burn Red Skies by Kerstin Espinosa Rosero 

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Stage 2 of the  SPFBO competition is now well underway and the Critiquing Chemist and I have been reading the finalists.  Today we post our review for our fourth finalist Burn Red Skies by Kerstin Espinosa Rosero.  Don’t forget to stop over to the Critiquing Chemist to check out their review.

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Burn Red Skies is high fantasy, set in a world with elemental magic. It is predominantly a story of siblings, separated by cruel events and set on diverging paths.  This is a book set in an intriguing world where dragons can be summoned to wreak destruction.   I would say before starting this review that the writing was really good. I love Rosero’s style and the fact that this is a debut makes that even more impressive. 

This is a story with multiple povs.  We are introduced to Dove who survives the destruction of her village only to be enslaved by the tyrant that caused it’s destruction. Born mute Dove is a strong character and wielder of fire magic, although she is untrained and only made the discovery when she survived the fires that consumed her home. She now lives day to day at the whim of the King who seems to take perverse enjoyment in his cruelties.  Her one dream centres around finding the brother that she lost – if she can stay alive long enough to do so. Dove’s story takes an interesting turn when she is given the chance of freedom and the opportunity to join the rebellion that fights against the King.

Valerya is General to the tyrant king and the first summoner of dragons for hundreds of years.  I liked this character, well, that’s not strictly correct, I liked the way she’s written.  She’s a conflicted character, definitely morally gray, not entirely happy with her role and she has her own agenda to push.

I’m not going to elaborate too much on the other characters.  We do eventually meet Dove’s brother Gryff.  His path takes a strange turn when he also comes to the notice of the King and is given a place working for Valerya who takes an interest in pushing him – or punishing him depending on which way the wind blows.  

As is quite often the case with multiple pov fantasy stories I found myself gravitating more to certain story lines, in this case my absolute favourites were an unlikely pair known as Bard and Dancer.  I found their chapters fascinating, they brought humour to the story, I was intrigued and I found myself looking forward to their return every time the pov switched.  Personally, I found their introduction to the story a real boost.  I enjoy a good dose of realism in my fantasy as much as the next reader but I have to say that the inclusion of some kind of respite to the constant death and bloodshed is always welcome to me and these two brought that in spades.  They were refreshing to read, there was definitely a spark of chemistry (although no romance – just banter) and they felt excitingly dangerous.  

As I mentioned above.  I enjoyed the writing, I think the pacing was good for the most part and this was undoubtedly an easy read. If I was going to try and sum up the plot I would say this is essentially about the two siblings and the different character arcs that see them going in quite different directions.  It will be interesting to see how the two develop further and the impact they have on this world. 

The world itself was only briefly drawn and did leave me with some questions.  The elemental magic, fire, ice, storm, water, seem to link to location, for example, ice wielders have an aversion to the sun and seem to hail from colder climates.  Fire wielders are immune to the flames – also in rare cases (Valerya) they can summon dragons – I couldn’t help wondering if the other magical abilities will have similar exceptional talents but that remains to be seen.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, I didn’t feel that I had an absolute grip on the world and the point that we were at within this story.  I don’t have a problem with being dropped into a world where events seem to be in the middle of things but I wanted a little more clarity as the story progressed and I’m not entirely sure that was the case for me.  Of course this is a first in series so I’m sure that issue will be addressed in future instalments.  I did think the pacing stuttered a little in areas although for the most part I think this was a story with a good pace, there were just certain points where I felt things slowed down and I found myself losing concentration.  I was also not totally convinced by Gryff’s story arc which felt a little rushed and lacking in believability especially when compared to Dove’s.

The above aside, Burn Red Skies is a great start to a series, set in a fascinating world.  

My thanks to the author for a review copy.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 7 out of 10 or 3.5 of 5 for Goodreads

The Critiquing Chemist rating is 7.5 out of 10

Our average rating is 7.5