I’ve been putting this off for as long as I can. I’m not…good…with goodbyes. I’m a ghoster; a master of what in my family was called “the Irish farewell”, which was to simply leave the room innocuously when nobody was looking, so as to leave without making a huge deal of leaving. It bothers the hell out of some folks, but there’s truth to the old Lincoln saw that you can’t please all the people all the time. If you’re the sort of person who loves intensely, feverishly, and deeply, you understand – you can’t just fall in love and wave your lover away. It’s better to just quietly leave rather than being forced to say goodbye. The thing about goodbye is that despite all the adages about ‘it’s only farewell, not goodbye’, you’re acknowledging that the thing you’ve been enjoying is coming to an end. It’s a great time for new things to begin, but as humans, we need a bit of time to mourn. A bit of time to understand how this new state is going to pan out (the state of not being with someone).
The worst thing about books is that they end. As you approach the end papers of a truly good book, it’s like you’re gearing yourself up to say goodbye. There’s no way to Irish Farewell your way out of a good book, unfortunately, because leaving it unread will drive you mad. I’m pretty sure God invented book series precisely to keep us from wandering around, moping in a funk every time we finish a good book. Whether or not you believe in God, moping in a funk doesn’t solve anything and just makes everyone around you miserable too.
I’ve been anticipating Paula Weston’s Burn with a mixture of intense excitement and deep, deep despair. I know it’s the last book in the Rephaim series, and I’ve been steeling myself against the funky mopies as best I can. I thought I had until September, but when the book showed up in my post box recently, I actually ran around the house flapping my arms like Kermit the Frog and screaming like a teenage girl at a Beatles concert in the 1950s [editor’s note: 1960s].
There’s another thing.
I once read the blog tour entry I wrote for Shimmer to #TheTeen (yes, he even gets his own hashtag). He got noticeably jumpy and asked me if I’d read any of the others in the series, so I ended up reading him all the blog tour posts I’ve done for this YA series from Tundra Books. The more I read, the antsier he got until finally in his “THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS DELAYED GRATIFICATION” voice, he asked, MOM MOM MOM DO YOU HAVE THOSE BOOKS OR IF NOT CAN WE JUST GO TO THE CITY TO BUY THEM RIGHT NOW PLEASE? You know the author’s on to something when a 16-year-old loses his mind over wanting to read some books.
I ended up lending him all three of the first books in this series about a couple of half-angel, half-human warriors, which he proceeded to consume like a starving man eats …well, pretty much anything, actually. So when he saw me running around the house like Kermit the Frog and screaming like a teenage girl at a Beatles concert circa 1955 [editor’s note: 1965] while brandishing a fresh-out-of-the-box copy of Burn, HE screamed like a teenage girl at a Beatles concert and started flapping his hands like a muppet. (We are cut from the same cloth, he and I.)
Yeah, we were excited. Probably more than regular people get at having a book in their house, but there was a bittersweetness to the joy, because we knew it meant the series was over. Whatever else Rafa and Jude and Gaby got up to after this would be their business, not ours. Yet on the other hand, the downfall of so many book series is that they seem to never end. Each subsequent title in the franchise gets watered down just a little until eventually, you’re on book 84 and you’ve forgotten why you started reading the series at all. Sometimes, it’s good when things end. Especially when they end the way they started: with passion, strength and a little bit of mystery.
Jude and I are looking at each other. Watching. Sunlight streams through the window, warms my back. I can hear the surf pounding the beach a block away. A magpie somewhere outside. My room smells of stale coffee and the half-melted vanilla-bean candle in a mason jar by my bed. My chest is a storm of emotion, thunderous and insistent. …I already know I can’t outrun the thing I’m trying to avoid. The truth.
Gaby and Jude, sibling Rephaim (the children of angelic fathers and human mothers), up until about ten days ago, each thought the other was dead – their memories had been altered, and they’d forgotten everything about their lives as anything other than humans. But then everything started to change. Burn starts with those lost memories coming flooding back, at a pretty inconvenient time (just before a war between heaven and hell), and right when Gaby and Jude were starting to feel like they were finding places for themselves among their half-angelic kin.
The betrayal of one of their own that runs so deep it falls strongly into the category of “conspiracy theory proven conspiracy fact” has burst open a schism that had only just begun to heal. One of the Rephaim themselves is involved in hunting others of their kind; there is a spy among them, a discovery which uncovers decades, even centuries of betrayal. Traversing the breadth of this betrayal takes time and resources the Rephaim just don’t have – a prophet has come to them and warned them of the coming war that has something – although nobody knows exactly what – to do with the factions that have emerged among the Rephaim themselves.
We gather around, no longer in formation…I’m shoulder-to-shoulder with Jude and Rafa. I think about the past – real and fabricated – all the moments that make me who I am. What it means to have lived as a half-angel warrior and a human. The value of my friends…
Something’s coming. Something big. If the Rephaim have any hope of surviving, they have to figure out the prophecies that have been suppressed and manipulated for ages. They have to figure out who altered Gaby and Jude’s memories and why. They have to figure out whether they can work together, or whether trying to do so will make everything worse. Running through the entire story is the question of whether Gaby can trust Rafa – whether she can trust herself. There is history there, and Rafa has always known what it is. Can Gaby live with her newly remembered knowledge of it?
Paula Weston has crafted a series of novels that seamlessly weave together mystery, romance, and action, within a captivating supernatural setting. Without the heavy religious overtones that sometimes accompany stories of angels and demons, the Rephaim series is a damned fine adventure, propelled by a strong and inquisitive lead character (Gaby) and a supporting cast of gripping, believable characters you’ll recognise from your own group of friends (or your D&D party): The devilishly handsome ex who likes being in charge (Daniel); the action-oriented fighter who’s always scrappy (Taya); the true anarchist (Mya); the ridiculously smart person who would prefer to get all the information before they do anything (Magda); the person who always has time to listen but who doesn’t take any crap (Micah); the keeper of secrets (Jason); and that couple who complement each other so perfectly you suspect they’ve been together since before they could walk (Ez and Zak).
With a fairly large cast of characters, there’s always a fear that you’ll need a flow chart and a sherpa to muddle your way through each book (I’m looking at you, George R. R. Martin), but Weston is a true artist. Each of her characters is brilliantly individual (and here’s kudos also to Weston’s editor, making sure every cast member is in the right place at the right time); it’s rather like you’re at a party and you know everyone well enough to recognise each voice. Even with some of the new characters introduced in Burn (and I don’t want to give you any spoilers), you don’t lose your sense of who’s who.
I desperately wanted to savour this book, and I tried. I mean, I *really* tried. But it’s pretty tough to savour a book when there’s an Australian beach full of demons descending on innocent people, and an ancient mystery to solve, and treason within the ranks and perfidy without. It’s pretty tough to just take it easy when the glass is flying and hearts are breaking and being healed and breaking again. You can’t just saunter your way through mystical binding rights and long-forgotten summoning rituals and a decade of repressed memories that answer the questions you had from book one.
Nobody speaks. Nobody moves. In the stillness, a wave breaks on the shore. Our world is being up-ended and shaken out but the tide keeps rolling in, oblivious.
If you have the option of reading the entire series (Shadows, Haze, Shimmer, and Burn) this summer, do it. The entire story actually only occupies about a two-week period. Work it so you read along with the actual timeframe of the narrative, you’ll have a good idea of just how intense the story truly is. Like many serialised stories, a bit of wandering happens somewhere in the middle, and I’d say the first and last books (Shimmer and Burn) are the strongest and most tightly paced. Yet Weston has a way of tying her characters up in to pretzelly knots you’re going to want to watch untangle.
It’s been a great deal of fun reading the Rephaim series, and a huge thank you to Tundra Books for inviting me along on the blog tour for each of these four titles. Both #TheTeen and I have had a wonderful time talking about each of these books, and I know we’ll have more fun with them in the future – my current goal is to re-read the entire series in under two weeks, to get a closer glimpse of Gaby’s transformation. Keep your eyes peeled for Paula Weston’s next books. I have a sneaking suspicion you won’t be disappointed.
You can find these books at your local indie bookseller, or from Tundra Books.
Paula Weston lives in Brisbane with her husband, Murray and their pets, a retired greyhound and a moody cockatiel. She reads widely. Shadows, book one of the Rephaim series, was her first novel. Visit her website at paula-weston.com for more information.
Follow the Talking with Tundra site or any of these book tour blogs for more takes on Burn: