This is the fifth book I’m reading as part of my list of 10 for the Australian Women Writers 2012 National Year of Reading Challenge.
by Marianne de Pierres
Random House, 2011, ISBN: 978 1 86471 988 8
It’s no surprise, as MdP knows how to put a story together, and this one comes in some truly cool trappings: a nocturnal, youthful party world watched over by vampire-like sentinels, and lots of secrets in the dark. Her heroine, Retra, has quite the journey too, right down to a name change, though by story’s end, one wonders if Naif is really so accurate. Clearly, she’s still got some learning to do, but she’s well on her way to adulthood. Yes, this book packs some powerful metaphors.
This first volume introduces Inoxia, a hilly realm of constant night in which the pursuit of pleasure is paramount for its young population who are runaways from other surrounding realms of various fantastic, and not so fantastic, proportions. In one, a hunter-gatherer society can trap bat-like creatures for mounts. In Retra’s, it’s Puritanism 101, right down to child abuse dressed up as moral policing.
Inoxia is a fantasy land, reached through a kind of vortex beset by pirates. If this sounds a little like Alice sliding down a rabbit hole, it’s a far updated version, and the lost boys and girls don’t so much stay young, as disappear once they reach a certain point in their early 20s. While the pirates are the nemesis of the land, the faires are also fearsome. Called Ripers, the vampire-like overlords police the young party animals, dolling out drugs, food and clothing as required. Of course there is no free lunch, and Retra discovers the true dark side of Inoxia’s society. Freedom, or at least escape, comes at a price.
Mdp has created a distinctive and believable world and her character work is a delight as Retra, through a transformative experience key to adolescent maturity, grows into a new individual. While the second half suffers from annoying, but perhaps unavoidable repetition of recent events, it charges towards its climax and the jumping off point – a new bright day – for book 2.
With Burn Bright, we’ve been given a strong starting point and an enticing look into a world where colonisation has taken some bizarre avenues. Quite the delight.