Friday 29 June 2012

Burn Mark by Laura Powell

Review by Caroline Hodges
Pages - 416 
Published by Bloomsbury in June 2012
Goodreads Summary
Glory is from a family of witches and lives beyond the law. She is desperate to develop her powers and become a witch herself. Lucas is the son of the Chief Prosecutor for the Inquisition—the witches’ mortal enemy—and his privileged life is very different to the forbidden world that he lives alongside.
And then on the same day, it hits them both. Glory and Lucas develop the Fae—the mark of the witch. In one fell stroke, their lives are inextricably bound together, whether they like it or not . . .
I was really excited about this book. Covens living in modern day council estates? The medieval inquisition still alive and well and operating as a bona fide government agency? The concept was brilliant, in actuality; the book fails to deliver on it.
I think the main problem with Burn Mark is the number of characters in it that actually have very little importance and just make getting into the book extremely difficult – at the start we are introduced to the wasters of Glory’s coven, Lucas’ school mates and people at parties. Names come and go, you worry you’re going to forget who they are if they crop up later and end up being important.
Ironically, the hero and heroine who do get the adequate attention in terms of character build up ultimately don’t have much input or control over the action at the end of the book. It’s like they’re the coach that take us to the theme park then the main attraction kicks in with a whole load of people we’ve barely met.
Having said that, I did like the book. I didn’t feel the need to read it alongside something else – I generally looked forward to picking it back up at lunchtime or in the evening. It didn’t fall in the ‘can’t put it down’ category but that doesn’t often happen to me so I wasn’t expecting this. I think the saving grace of the book is the hero Lucas. Despite the ‘well to do’ upbringing and slightly snotty attitude, he is also embedded with a fantastic moral fibre right from the start. Even as a child, he knows right from wrong and is against any form of cruelty, against witches or anyone else. He’s a true hero in every sense.
I grudgingly liked Glory by the end of the book, but until about two thirds of the way through I mostly wanted to slap her. But it was kind of refreshing to have a ‘bad-girl’ heroine and small scenes, such as those with her father, give her character more depth of feeling. I think the main disappointment for me was that the connection between the dream Glory experiences every night and the disappearance of her mother was never resolved. Perhaps there will be a follow-up, but the ending could equally point at a stand-alone novel.
The other aspect of the book which sets it apart from others in the genre is the way in which witchcraft is portrayed. The clue is in the name (‘craft’) and Burn Mark returns witchery to its roots. There is no waving of wands and instant action here. Spells take time and materials to complete, and as such, the reader knows that the witches are not guaranteed to win just by virtue of their powers.
I’ve seen a few reviews stating the change in point of view is confusing. I’m wondering if this is because so much YA fiction is written in the first person. I didn’t find the change in perspective hindered the story in any way. It is too complex a tale not to be told from the point of view of multiple main characters and I feel a young adult audience is more than capable of handling this method of storytelling. The novel does however, need a high degree of attention to keep up with, so not one for those looking for a light story they can easily dip in and out of.
All in all, a worthwhile read with some innovative themes and likable characters.


  1. Oh I do like the sound of this though you seem to have several reservations.

  2. I quite enjoyed Burn Mark - I agree about it being quite complex though and like you I liked that it returned witchcraft to its roots. I completely understand your reservations though, fab review :)


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